Winter Park’s Birk Irving celebrates his first medal in ESPN X Games Aspen
Winter Park native Birk Irving didn’t know whether the X Games Aspen were going to happen at all — let alone if he’d make the podium.
But the 21-year-old knew his run for the men’s ski superpipe final last week. In the training leading up to the competition, he worked hard to master it.
“Every day I was trying to at least get down another piece of that run or get closer to having all of those tricks super locked down, so when the rest came, then I could put it all together,” Irving said.
He landed the run and won bronze, making the X Games podium for the first time, with the competition’s gold going to Olympic medalist Nico Poretous. Irving’s US Ski teammate Aaron Blunck was second.
Even having the competition was fortunate for Irving, who hadn’t competed since February 2020.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking, you know, having X Games be the first and only event of the year,” Irving said. “Leading up to it, it was definitely like a big, really scary, gnarly build up to the event.”
The X Games didn’t allow crowds this year due to the pandemic, making for a different environment than he’d ever competed in before. With the added pressure of the special circumstances of the game, Irving said not having a crowd was somewhat of a relief.
“Obviously the fans are amazing,” Irving said. “It’s always nice to do that because they fire you up, but at the same time it adds so much extra pressure.”
Irving said he didn’t expect to medal. While he felt like he’d worked hard, he faced the superpipe with limited expectations.
“I went in really hoping the run I had trained and the run I wanted to do — if I landed that — I thought it would put me on the podium, but there’s never any guarantee,” Irving said. “I really wanted to do everything I could do to try and get on there, and it ended up working out.”
Irving’s bronze is his first medal in four Aspen appearances after finishing fifth the past two years and fourth in 2017. He thought it was “crazy” that it finally happened.
“It honestly didn’t really feel real until like the day after or two days after,” he said. “In the moment there’s just so much other stuff going on, it’s hard to get your head around that.”
He said he is grateful for his coaches, sponsors and parents for all their help, along with Winter Park Resort where he got his start skiing.
With COVID limiting competitions, Irving said he’s going to focus on his personal plans, which include traveling the country to film a ski movie.
“Probably just gonna have some fun the rest of the season,” he said.
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