On January 28-31, X Games celebrated its 15th year in Aspen, Colorado. Over 200 world-class athletes competed for medals & prizes, while spectators gathered for one of the world’s best action sports, music and festival experience. As the event went down, we kept these three athletes on our radar.

1. On the Rebound: David Wise

Gold Medalist at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games at Freestyle Skiing Half-Pipe

3 Athlete Stories from X Games Aspen 2016: David Wise

David Wise at the 2012 Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain. PHOTO CREDIT: USSA

Hailing from Reno, Nevada and at a ripe, young age of 25, David Wise has already etched his name into some of Freestyle Skiing’s most lucrative metal. The 2014 Sochi Olympic Ski Halfpipe Gold Medal stands as the pinnacle career achievement for Wise, but his accomplishments have extended far beyond the Olympic Arena. A three-peat Gold Medalist in the Aspen Winter X Games SKI SuperPipe (2012, 2013, & 2014), Wise has the talent to win any competition, on any night. In addition, Wise was nominated for two ESPY’s in 2014 (Best Male Actions Sports Athlete & Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete).

However, Wise has struggled to hold the spotlight he held in 2014, after placing 4th in the 2015 Winter X Games SKI SuperPipe. For any other competitor, 4th place may be an accomplishment, but with a record like Wise’s record, we expect much bigger things. This is a big year for David Wise as he is now in turning point in his career.

We had big questions of David heading into X Games. Would 4th place become normal for him – his place on the podium taken by younger, more daring athletes chomping at the bit for a taste of that podium? Or, had last year’s competition breathed new life into the reigning Olympic champion, propelling him to take back that top spot at the podium?

Unfortunately, Wise fell short in this year’s X Games. His first and third runs ended in falls that skewed his scores for those runs at 12 and 13.66 (out of 100). He finished in 8th place, an anomaly for Wise.

His placement can be attributed to two things: 1) trying to go big and keep up with the rapidly evolving field of contestants; and 2) everyone else having unbelievable nights. Make no mistake, David did not have a good night, but it did not help that the rest of the field simply went OFF at this year’s competition.

Hopefully Wise can bounce back on the rebound, right onto the podium.

2. Up and Coming: Ayumu Hirano

Silver Medalist at 2014 Sochi Olympic Games at Snowboard SuperPipe

3 Athlete Stories from X Games Aspen 2016: Ayumu Hirano

Ayumu Hirano at X Games. PHOTO CREDIT: Joshua Duplechian/ESPN

Not enough can be said about Ayumu Hirano, 17-year-old snowboarding prodigy from Murakami, Niigata Japan. He goes bigger than anybody else in the field, often causing us to call all that is known about gravity into question.

He spins so fast, goes so high, and flips so often that it takes even judges an extra moment to process what they just saw. The potential for Hirano is huge, but do not let his age fool you – this was third Aspen X Games. Though he has only medaled once, silver last year, this youngster has already won Silver at the Olympics, in Sochi in 2014.

This young man is already drawing comparisons to the man who put snowboarding on the front page time and time again, Shaun White. This is not a comparison to be taken lightly, and Hirano is not to disappoint.

However, Hirano did not have a chance to showcase his infamous airs at this year’s SuperPipe. Unfortunately (for Hirano and us), this year’s SuperPipe was cut short after just one heat of competition, due to a blizzard that came in and dropped three feet of snow in three days in the Aspen Valley. Hirano got one run in, scoring a 40.33 (out of 100). His score can be largely attributed to poor conditions due to snowfall by the time it was his turn in the pipe. For some context, Hirano tied at 10th place with the infamous Danny Davis (Two-Time reigning SuperPipe Gold Mealist). This competition should not be taken as an adequate judgment of Hirano’s talent.

Hirano has the status of Up and Coming, but that will not last long. Look for him to be standing at the top of that podium for years to come, racking up Gold medals along the way. The era of Hirano has begun.

3. A Decade of Dominance: Jamie Anderson

Gold Medalist at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Women’s Snowboard Slopestlye

3 Athlete Stories from X Games Aspen 2016: Jaime Anderson

Jaime Anderson at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. PHOTO: teamusa.org

What is there left to say about the most medaled female athlete in X Games Slopestyle history, Jamie Anderson? Well, it has been a decade since this 2014 ESPN Body Issue Cover photo, 2014 Olympic gold medalist, 2014 Best Female Olympian ESPY winning absolutely badass of a human won her first X Games medal (a bronze in SBD Slopestyle). Since then, Anderson has won 9 medals in X Games (4 golds, 4 silvers, and one bronze) and built arguably one of the biggest names in the sport. So it really begs the question: What is next?

Perhaps the only thing more outstanding than Anderson’s trophy shelf is that she has amassed all of these accomplishments all before her 25th birthday (she turned 25 in June). Plenty of athletes have competed for years after their 30th birthday, and put in perspective with Anderson’s past and it becomes evident that we may only be in the midway point through the career of one of the most talented snowboarders ever to grace this planet. Period.

A decade of dominance? Pff, one decade down and a second on the way, this rider is only just getting started… Though Anderson ONLY took Silver at this year’s X Games (she was beat out by two points by Spencer O’Brien, who had a career night to win her first Gold medal), we still believe the best from Anderson is yet to come.

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