Longtime freestyle stalwart Heath Frisby of Bellevue, Idaho, broke through Friday night with an incredible Tsunami Back Flip to earn the ESPN Winter X Game gold medal in the Next Trick competition.

Frisby, 25, has been an innovator in the sport, developing tricks and generally being a leader in freestyle circles. But he’s never had a very good X Games showing, settling for bronze medals that last three years in a row.

On Friday night, in front of a huge crowd at X Games 14, the competition started out with a huge trick referred to as a heart attack back flip by Sweden’s Daniel Bodin in round one, earning a 89.33 score from the judges. The other eight competitors all took their best shots in round one, but when it was over Bodin held the lead with one round left.

One highlights of the first round was an attempt by the incomparable Paul Thacker at a no hand back, using a remote control to handle throttle duties on his snowmobile. It didn’t turn out great – he did a woodpecker on the dash while in the air, then landed very hard and snapped his head and neck backwards. It looked like mega-whiplash, but he rode away.

Joe Parsons, a silver metalist last year, momentarily moved into second place with a score of 85 on a trick he calls a Parsby – a backflip that resulted in him sitting backwards on the sled on the landing. Frisby followed with his first tsunami back flip that was beautiful but the landing was a bit uneven, earning him a 88.33. He was immediately followed by X Games darling Levi Lavallee, who did a very similar trick but looked better doing it and scored an 89.00

Round two was a little bit rougher around the edges. Bodin had a decent second jump but didn’t get full extension, thus not beating his previous high score. He was followed by 20-year-old Texan Colton Moore of Texas – an ATV freestyle convert he got on his first snowmobile about weeks ago. He tried a trick referred to as a Colt 45 that included a superman seat grab, followed by a two-handed grab on the rear bumper before returning to the driver’s seat. He landed very hard, busting his visor and then slamming his head into the bars.

His brother, Caleb Moore, followed with a “varial” where he does a full twist in the air, while the sled stays flat. He bumped into the seat and rear bumper on his way around and landed very hard.

Justin Hoyer was next, and he tried an underflip – a sort of backflip with a twist – but he bailed off his sled on the landing when it looked like he was going to hit a big knuckle of snow at the top of the landing area. Thacker followed with another remote control backflip but he had to grab the handlebars when he started to over-rotate. None were a threat to medal.

Parsons was next. His superman backflip with a backwards landing gig looked good, but his landing was a tiny bit short of perfect – he was elated after landing the trick, but scored an 87.66 and stayed in fourth.

So, based entirely on first-round jumps, Bodin was still in first, and the guys in second and third – Frisby and Lavallee – were the only two left to jump. So, the medal winners were set, it was just a matter of who would earn which color.

Frisby was next, and he threw out a tsunami Indian air back flip-sorta deal, which had him doing a running pose beneath the upside-down sled in mid air and then rotating around to smooth landing. It was beautiful and the judges gave him first place with a 90.66.

Lavallee was last, and he threw out his best superflip – it was truly impressive, with full extension, but it wasn’t as cool as Frisby’s trick. Levi was given a score of 89.00 – the same score he earned in the first round – and he had to settle for third.

After the win, Frisby was elated. On ESPN, he said, “Ever since I was a kid I watched X Games on TV…it’s all I ever wanted, I’m so, so excited right now.”

Snocross comes on Sunday, along with the Knockout competition.

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