Jackson "Jacko" Strong's week leading up to X Games hasn't gone quite the way he'd intended.
The defending Moto X Best Trick gold medalist had originally planned to fly to the U.S. from Australia last week to train with his Metal Mulisha teammates and prepare to unveil "The Bulletproof Tiger," a new trick that he has managed to keep shrouded in mystery since he first mentioned it in March, before the [canceled] Crusty Demons Cup. But last Wednesday, the day before his scheduled departure, Strong's close friend Luke "Stono" Stojanovic missed a seat grab at Strong's training compound in Lockhart, Australia, and was rushed to Waga Waga Hospital with severe trauma to the head and neck. Stojanovic has been in a coma ever since.
"This last week has been pretty much hell," Strong told ESPN.com on Thursday, after finally arriving in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. "Myself and my best mate were going to come over for X together and get ready over here, but he went down hard and hit his head and all plans were out the window. He's still in a coma but he's showing signs of waking up at the moment, which is good, but it's a bad situation for sure."
To make matters worse, Strong says issues with the U.S. Consulate further delayed his travel in a mix-up he still doesn't fully understand.
"The U.S. Consulate lost my passport for a couple weeks there and I've only just made it out here. I got in last night. I very nearly missed the event altogether because of the passport SNAFU," Strong said.
Now that he's here, he said he's ready to go for it and will be dedicating his Moto X Best Trick performance as a tribute to Stojanovic. But Strong, who last year won Best Trick gold with the first front flip landed in competition, still won't say exactly what he has planned this time around.
"I'm going to try to keep it under wraps until Friday's event and keep a bit of a surprise for everyone," he said. "It's not the hardest trick I've ever done -- I don't think it's quite as difficult as my front flip -- but it's something new and it's pushing the sport forwards. I think it's a trick that's going to be able to be done in freestyle runs in the future."
His competitors have been more open about their tricks -- Clinton Moore is going for a 720, Kyle Loza is bringing a bike flip, and Mark Monea has a new "Carry-On" variation, among others -- but Strong says he's not spending much energy thinking about what everyone else is up to.
"I have a bit of a sense of what I'm up against, but when it comes down to it I don't really care," he said. "I'm just going there to land my new trick and I'll be stoked if I can do that, win or lose. And rather than talk about what I'm going to do, I'd prefer to do it and then talk about it. But I'll say this: I'm definitely a big fan of the Best Trick contest and I'm pumped to be a part of it. It's like a look at the future of FMX, and it's always crazy to see what happens."
Moto X Best Trick will air from 9 p.m. to midnight ET Friday on ESPN and ESPN3D. Strong, previously listed as a third alternate for the Moto X Freestyle event on Thursday, will not be competing in that event; Mat Rebeaud is now listed as third alternate in his place.