Ryan Sheckler and Paul Rodriguez celebrate at the X Games Christian Pondella/Red Bull Media House

Last week at Summer X Games 18 in downtown Los Angeles, three-time gold medalist Ryan Sheckler took silver in the Skateboard Street competition. It was, perhaps, a shortcoming that didn’t seem to bother the hyper-competitive, hyper-talented prodigy who won his first gold at 13, considering he was beat by his Plan B teammate and favorite skater, Paul Rodriguez.

“Everything Paul does is technically perfect and super smooth,” Sheckler once told me in Las Vegas. “And when I started skating he was nice to me.”

Rodriguez, or P-Rod to skaters (or sometimes just Paul) knocked out Sheckler and 2011 gold medalist Nyjah Huston with a run well illustrative of the style so admired by fans and teammates: an incongruous mix of hard and often switch-stance tech tricks with big drops at high speeds, executed with a liquefied smoothness that’s pretty much unique to him.

His run, the second-to-last of the day, began switch stance. Pushing off out of the low overhanging roof’s shade, Paul rolled to a long green handrail, executed a perfect switch kickflip with his tail just missing the rail, and landed on the steep cement incline, quickly picking up speed to cross the course, ride up the cement roll-in, and come down in his natural stance, goofy-footed. He then backside tailslid the box at the course’s edge, returned to his starting point, and pushed off again, switch. This time he flipped into a frontside board slide on another rail, rolled up the quarterpipe, and crossed the course to his start point again.

“He’s so comfortable skating switch,” said Tony Hawk, the afternoon’s color commentator. “It’s really hard to tell sometimes.”

Rodriguez returned to his starting point just as Sheckler was rolling out. He would take the silver, despite a colorful demonstration of both his newly-cultivated technical chops and the powerhouse skateboarding he pioneered as an adolescent. Sheckler flipped over the gap in the roof shading his fellow skaters, pulled a huge tweaked air over the hip, and backside 360’d off a cement dinosaur’s tail in seeming slow motion. Everyone at the X Games and watching at home knew the scores would be close.

And it was. Sheckler was awarded an 85.33 -- just shy of Rodriguez's 86.00. The difference was a mere .67. Sheckler was watching the scoreboard from the course’s flat when Rodriguez was declared the winner, with himself in second and Huston in third. Paul rolled down to mid-course where Sheckler bearhugged him in front of a waiting camera. Huston and fourth place Chaz Ortiz soon followed.

It was a lovely for skateboarding. 

Cole Louison is the author of "The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler, and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding."

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