Turn on ESPN to watch the Winter X Games this week and you’ll notice something different: no snowboardcross.
The sport that Maine’s Seth Wescott pushed into the national spotlight with back-to-back Olympic gold medals was cut from the X Games this year, along with skicross and mono skier cross.
And that’s probably just as well.
Wescott and most of the worlds top snowboardcross racers are in Stoneham, Quebec, this week for the FIS World Snowboarding championships. Wescott, a silver medalist in the world championships two years ago, tied for the 13th-best qualifying time Thursday afternoon and will race in the finals Saturday. His time of 1:04.14 was about two seconds behind leader Alex Pullin of Australia.
Wescott, aiming to go for his third Olympic gold medal in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, said he’s feeling good about his chances this week.
“I had a slight setback eight days ago,” he said, noting that he pulled an abdominal muscle while snowboarding in Maine. “But I had an easy week on the couch and feel good.”
The 36-year-old Wescott, who lives in Carrabassett Valley, said it was disappointing that snowboardcross — one of the original X Games sports — was cut but expects it to return next year, when the X Games are scheduled to begin about 10 days before the Olympics.
And that’s good news for younger snowboardcross racers, such as 22-year-old Alex Tuttle, of Stratton.
Tuttle, recovering from a knee injury suffered in the final race of the 2011-12 season, said he would have raced at the X Games this year.
“It’s definitely a big hit to the exposure for a lot of riders,” said Tuttle. “The X Games are one of the most watched events in the world. Not being in it makes it harder to sell yourself to sponsors. It’s our sport’s biggest event other than the Olympics.
“But I’m confident it will be back. It has a lot of support out there.”
Both Wescott and Tuttle said they had heard that snowboardcross was supposed to be held at the Global X Games in Tignes, France, in March, but that a scheduling mix-up left it out there as well. That’s why they are confident it will be back in Aspen next year.
If it is, Wescott said he will likely compete, even though it is close to the Olympics.
“I did it before Turino and before Vancouver,” Wescott said. “There’s no reason I wouldn’t go again.
“In general it’s usually a good race and it’s nice to us as a warm-up (for the Olympics) if nothing else. I know a lot of other nations have withdeld their riders in the past, but even if you go and race only our guys, we have the most depth and talent of any nation in the world.”
Tuttle, who did not qualify for the world championships this year, hopes to be on that Olympic team in 2014. Wescott said Tuttle was “riding well and is strong and healthy.”
“I’m starting to feel good again, comfortable and confident with my knee,” Tuttle said. “It’s just a matter of time working the rust out, lots of laps, lots of mileage, and getting back on the course.”
Tuttle said he’s looking forward to the resumption of the World Cup circuit after the world championships. “There’s no reason I can’t go to the next round and get a good ride in,” he said.