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X-Games Championships draws top skiers and boarders to Whistler

When the first X Games debuted in 1995, it was billed as the extreme Olympics. Ron Semiao, the director for ESPN who came up with the idea, wanted to take the action sports and athletes that had previously existed on the fringes into the mainstream.

The X Games were an instant success on national cable television, and shortly afterwards Semiao expanded the focus to include a Winter X Games, starting in 1997.

Because of the prize money, the crowd-friendly competition formats, and the television exposure – a television audience of 110 million tuned into the Winter X Games in Aspen in February – the X Games have always attracted the top talents in action sports, who in turn have used the opportunity to push their sports to new levels.

The X Games Global Championships, a new element in the X Games universe, were created by Semiao to create a level playing field for regions and countries to compete. Essentially, the X Games Global Championships are a scaled down version of the X Games that pits region against region, with just four athletes – two men and two women – representing each region in each discipline. The regions are Canada, the U.S., South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Whistler will be hosting a superpipe event for skiers and boarders, with a total of 24 riders and 18 skiers (one woman per region) taking part.

The athletes were selected based on their results, reputation and availability – a lot of film crews are working at this time of year, and not everybody could make it.

In snowboarding, the women compete today, Friday, May 16, with the practice session running from noon to 1:30 p.m., and the final taking place from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The men compete on Saturday, with the practice from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the competition running from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Skiing is on Sunday. The women go first, with a practice from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the final from 11 a.m. to noon. The men will practice from noon to 2:30 p.m. and the final will take place between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The athletes will be given two runs, with only the best run counting towards the final standings. A first place finish is worth 12 points towards their overall team score, including the summer events taking place simultaneously in San Antonio, Texas. The last place finisher receives one point.

The organizers are expecting huge crowds at the events, as well as a large television audience for the events.

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