For those who were there, none will soon forget. Because even within his sport-transcending career as a child prodigy, celebrity, entrepreneur, and professional athlete — 2003 was a volcanic year for Ryan Alan Sheckler.
He was 13 and newly pro for a tiny company called Almost Skateboards, run by his mentor Rodney Mullen. He’d already won the Dew Tour in March and the Vans Slam City Jam in April (and would win the Maloof Money Cup in October) when he flew to Los Angeles to compete He was 5-foot-1 and 97 pounds, with braces and a big-belled head of sunkissed brown hair, and he beat the shit out of the best pros in the world.
“What are we seeing here?” asked a bewildered commentator watching Sheckler tear the park apart. “What we’re seeing here is a 13-year-old dominating the street course.”
Sheckler, who’d recently became the youngest pro skater in history, became the youngest gold metalist in X Games history. He took gold again in 2008. In 2009, back in L.A. for the X Games 15, he was allowed to advance directly to the final round, where he got hurt.
Sheckler fell while landing a backside flip on the course’s 12 stair. He rolled his ankle and burst two metatarsals — pencil-sized ligaments you can see in your feet when you flex your toes. His foot was screwed together and for six months he was off his board, on crutches, doing daily regiments of physical therapy with cold-laser treatment.
He was back for X Games 16 in 2010, and in the final round of the street course landed a full-cab to back lipslide down the seven-stair to pull ahead of Nyjah Houston and win the gold metal. Again.
“I wanted to go out and do my best, then hopefully come home with a win,” Sheckler told me the next day, crusing in his car. “And it worked out.”
Sheckler took third last year. This year, wish him well.
Cole Louison is the author of "The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler, and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding."
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