LOS ANGELES -- Three years after he last won gold, and two years after he dropped to seventh place in the same event, Scotty Cranmer is back on top of the BMX Park world.
Cranmer, 25, won his third career X Games gold medal in Park on Saturday by holding off fellow veteran Ryan Nyquist and earning a measure of redemption after Daniel Dhers had won four of the past five golds. Dhers pulled out of his qualifying heat after a brutal crash, leaving Cranmer and Nyquist to battle hungry teenagers Pat Casey and Brett Banasiewicz in the final.
"It's the best day of my life," Cranmer said. "I was one of these kids at one point. I started this in 2003 and here we are almost 10 years later, but I'm still not the oldest guy in the deck. It's one of those things where I don't feel like I'm old yet, but I feel like I'm getting there. It's an honor to be able to compete and hang with these guys."
Cranmer's two-run score of 79 points edged two-time gold medalist Nyquist (77) and bronze medalist Casey (76). Cranmer landed arguably the day's most technical trick, a double tailwhip backflip, which is particularly dangerous on a concrete course.
Dhers, the two-time defending champion, wasn't as lucky. He bailed from his bike in midair during a can-can 720 attempt and slammed his face into the concrete -- surely one of the hardest crashes of his career.
Dhers' girlfriend and the X Games medical staff rushed to his side as he lay on the deck, but he soon got up and walked away on his own. Dhers suffered a laceration in his bottom gum and was being evaluated for a headache. He was ultimately cleared by the medical staff, diagnosed with a swollen knee but no concussion.
For Nyquist, a 33-year-old father of two, his silver medal was his first Park medal since earning bronze seven years earlier. He missed most of last year with a hand injury, but now has 14 career X Games medals.
"I'm so happy," he said. "It's been a while since I was in the finals, and to be able to get on the podium is unbelievable. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of concrete just because it scares me. The crashes are that much harder, but this felt a little more like what the courses used to be like."
Casey, 18, claimed bronze after finishing 13th in his X Games debut last year. "The dudes that I'm on the podium with, I've looked up to them my whole life," he said. "It's such an honor to be a part of this."
Fourth-place finisher Banasiewicz, 17, landed some big tricks, including a triple tailwhip and 900, but he failed to use the entire course and was scored accordingly. In the end, no one could match Cranmer's all-around prowess, which was due partly to a new backyard mini-ramp he built this spring at his New Jersey home.