One year after brother's death, Colten Moore wins gold in his honor at Winter X Games
ASPEN — Colton Moore twisted the throttle of his snowmobile and motored to the top of one of the steep ramps.
He parked the sled, dropped to his knees, gave a single fist pump and pointed to the sky.
It was time to ride for Caleb and ride for gold.
From sorrow to jubilation, Moore has experienced it all at the Winter X Games.
After a pair of emotional and thrilling rides, Moore won the gold medal in the Snowmobile Freestyle competition Thursday night.
He was wearing X Games gold nearly one year after one of the toughest days of his life: Colten’s older brother, Caleb, died while competing in the event at last year’s X Games.
“I feel unbelievable. I know Caleb’s been riding with me every day,” Colten said after winning the gold medal. “He’s been riding with me all year long, just pushing me to do better. I wanted to come out here and dominate for him.”
It’s the kind of story that makes sports great.
It’s the kind of story where the good guy won. The right guy won.
“(I wanted to) not only ride for him, but ride with him, because I know he was with me all night,” Colten Moore said. “Just help me be smooth and push hard.
“So, to come here and win gold for him, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Colten Moore, 24, came to the X Games to win gold, but he also came to honor Caleb, a four-time X Games medalist.
Early Thursday morning, Colten clicked on his computer and typed in a message to his Twitter followers.
“Winter X Freestyle event tonight ... Ready to do this for Caleb.” The hashtag was #rideforcaleb.
Last year, on Jan. 31, Caleb Moore became the first competitor to die in the 20-year history of the X Games. He was 25.
The tragedy shocked the X Games community.
It happened on one of the ramps. Caleb came up a little short on a backflip in the finals, and the 450-pound sled landed on him.
He walked away from the crash, but seven days later he died at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction from bleeding around his heart.
Like he has for the past 357 days, Colten Moore thought about his older brother as he prepared for the same event that killed Caleb.
After the tragedy, ESPN evaluated whether to continue the freestyle event. There wasn’t much debate. It’s a dangerous sport, but it belongs in the X Games. The X stands for extreme. That’s why the sport needs to stay.
The Moore brothers grew up in Krum, Texas, near Dallas, riding and racing all-terrain vehicles. They eventually moved to snowmobiles.
“That’s what we grew up doing is pushing each other to do better,” Colten said. “I mean, it was always me and him pushing each other to do better no matter what. We didn’t care about anyone else. It was like who could beat each other, just us brothers.”
Colten Moore is quite possibly the most recognizable snowmobiler at the X Games. He has more of a snowboarder look than a snowmobiler.
After his first practice round Thursday morning, tucked inside his shiny, metallic helmet and behind reflective goggles, Moore surveyed the course where 10 hours later he would win gold.
His long, dark, bushy hair was flowing out the back of his helmet. It is kind of his trademark. It definitely makes him recognizable, even with a helmet on.
Earlier in the day, Colten’s tone turned serious when he talked about what the last year has been like.
“It’s definitely been difficult,” he said, pausing for a moment. “I just go out there and ride, knowing he’s with me.”
He wears a keepsake that was his brother’s.
“I wear a necklace that was his, I wear it all the time,” he said, touching the cross that hangs around his neck.
Thursday night’s performance helped the Moore family and the freestyle snowmobile family heal a little more.
Sometimes it’s obvious that Colten has grown tired of the questions about Caleb and the tragedy. But Colten remains cordial and gracious as he talks about his brother. It’s just another way he honors and remembers him.
It’s when he’s on the sled that he heals the most.
“I feel at peace when I ride. That’s the closest I get to him is when I ride,” Colten said after winning the gold.
During the finals, all eight competitors pulled out every trick in their bag.
The crowd let out gasps and awestruck screams while watching these athletes do backflips and other tricks on massive machines.
These competitors embrace the word crazy. They have to. It’s part of their swagger.
These aren’t trash talkers or chest pounders. These are crazy dudes who launch sleds hundreds of feet into the air and hope they stick the landing.
On Jan. 24, 2013, Caleb Moore just missed his landing and died one week later.
On Thursday, Colten Moore came back to Aspen on a mission. He wanted to ride for his brother, and he wanted to win gold.
Colten Moore did his brother proud. Gold medal proud.