Fresh out of the 2018 X Games in Minnesota, we caught up with Jarryd McNeil at the 2019 Thor MX launch in San Diego. McNeil earned two more gold medals, bringing his total medals up to eleven and his gold collection up to six. Naturally, we had to find out more about this year’s successful X Games runs. Additionally, McNeil had thoughts to share on the sport of freestyle motocross and it’s future, as well as what he has planned next.
You’ve just gotten back from X Games and man, two gold medals! Take me through the event and how you’re feeling today.
I’m feeling great, I’m feeling on top of the world! It’s pretty great to go to X Games and come home with two golds. It’s the second time I’ve done that now. I think 2016 was the last time I got two golds and then to come back in 2018 and back it up with two more golds is a pretty sick feeling. X Games is awesome and there’s a lot of great competition. Everyone was riding great and it was a solid weekend. I’m glad to be home now and to get through it safely.
It seems like X Games has had a little bit of a resurgence in the last few years and it’s come back around to being one of the most popular events of the year. Does it seem like that from a rider’s perspective?
I think from a rider’s point of view, we’re stepping it up and we’re going further ahead in action sports. The riders themselves are doing bigger and better things. As far as X Games goes, I think they’re trying to make it better and work with us a little more and see that we have more of an influence on action sports than they thought. They kind of needed to get with the times and they’re starting to do that and get behind us to make a better event. They’re working with us. Action sports as a whole is on the way up and there are a lot more positive attitudes these days. This next generation of athletes in action sports were watching in the early 2000’s when the guys then are the veterans now. Action sports really needed those veterans like that to step up and I guess there are a couple of different categories of those guys. There are like three eras of action sports now. There are a lot more up and coming kids now and it’s cool to see the influence that the older generation has had. The veterans are starting to give back too and do announcing and commentating and getting back to the sport. It’s what we really needed for a long time.
The progression of the sport seems like it has been really gnarly in the past few years and every time it seems like there’s nothing new left, someone does something that seemed impossible. Where do you see the progression going from here?
I don’t know! Just in the last five years, I feel like everyone has gotten way more aerial awareness overnight and it’s kind of scary with the new kids. I’m in that middle era where I looked up to guys who pioneered the sport and showed us new tricks, and then we kind of evolved those tricks. The guys in the new era are creating tricks and evolving the tricks we created, so things are always changing. The big thing is that people seem to have more awareness of where they’re at with their tricks in every action sport from BMX to moto to scooters. Whatever it is, kids are watching these videos and have more awareness and they’re picking things up really quickly and learning fast. That’s the real progression of the sport. People are watching something and then making it happen instantly.
Fifteen years ago, the sport was being introduced to things like backflips and foam pits and it seemed like that was a really high bar for someone to reach if they wanted to make it in freestyle. Now for a kid that wants to get into the sport, there’s quarter pipes and wild jumps that allow for new variations. What would be the most important thing that a kid could do to get into it?
From a motocross side – I mean with skateboards and BMX and things like that there’s progression – but freestyle motocross is pretty expensive and you’ve got to have your motocross stuff. I would suggest most kids start at the track learning their bike skills and technique that they need to ride. There are a lot of kids that are what we call ramp kids because they spend their whole life learning to how to ride a bike on a ramp. Yeah, there are a lot of guys that have impressed me that grew up that way, but a lot of us grew up racing motocross and I would suggest that most kids go that route. Go ride motocross and get involved in the industry first because in freestyle you need the bike skills and you need the awareness. I mean, getting into freestyle is pretty hard and there are some facilities out there, but for most of us grow up having property. You need to have ramps in your backyard and things like that. Depending on the family situation, that can limit their access to these things. Freestyle is definitely not the easiest sport to get into and nowadays we need airbags and airbag landings and foam pits and special ramps. It’s evolving and it’ll probably keep getting harder to get into freestyle motocross, to be honest, but there are avenues. Going to the local track, meeting people, and getting involved in the industry is the way you make the connections you need and learn. That’s how you get ahead and get opportunities to ride freestyle. Get out there and meet people. You know, with places like Pala you can get with the right people and get access to the ramps there and learn how to do it. There are definitely avenues, but my best advice is to start at the motocross tracks. That’s where I learned tricks on dirt jumps before I went to ramps. That’s the biggest thing you’ll get out of riding.
As a guy with two more gold medals under his belt and X Games checked off the calendar for 2018, what’s next for you and how do you keep the momentum rolling?
It’s pretty amazing. I’ve got eleven X Games medals now and six golds. I’m on a high. It’s amazing to come home with two more on that list. I’m really looking forward to going to Sidney, Australia, on my home soil and competing in X Games there in the same three events. That’s the thing I’m looking forward to most and I’m excited to be competing and hopefully bringing home all three medals. I got the monkey off my back in 2018 and we’re getting through quarterpipe after having another successful year after last year with my dislocated hip. I’m excited to go back there and I know where I stand with my fifth place finish. I know what I need to do now and I’m excited to go back and do better there. Obviously, I’ll be looking to back up my medals in Best Whip and Step Up. Obviously, being home in Australia will be amazing. Then we’ve got the Nitro Circus tour so I’ve got the United States tour and then a European tour and also the World Games. There are a lot of events coming up with freestyle which is really good to see for the second half of the year and now I’ll try to stay safe and healthy and finish 2018 off.