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Marquee Matchup:
'Old School' meets 'New School'

By Ron Buck, ESPN.com

The Matchup: Chris Edwards vs. Cesar Mora and Matt Salerno

The Event: In-line vert

The Time: Thursday, July 1 at 8 p.m. PT

The Question: Can Chris Edwards keep up with the Aussies?

Aggressive in-line pioneer Chris Edwards, left, is back at the X Games to take on the new wave of skaters lead by Matt Salerno and Cesar Mora.

SAN FRANCISCO -- "Old School" met "New School" on Wednesday night as the marquee in-line event boasted an all-star field in X Games V.

Chris Edwards returned to X Games competition after a one-year absence. The creator of nearly every trick his competitors were doing in the preliminary round was in the halfpipe to challenge the new wave of in-line high-fliers led by last year's gold and silver medalists in vert -- Cesar Mora and Matt Salerno.

And judging by the first two runs, Edwards has some catching up to do. While Mora was the top qualifier for the finals and Salerno was a solid third, Edwards just slipped into the finals as the 10th and final qualifier.

The elder statesman at 25 in a sport dominated by teen-agers, Edwards didn't seem to concerned about his place in order. He was having too much fun back on his skates.

"It's not a real X Games without Chris here."
    -- Matt Salerno
    in-line skater

And as for Mora and Salerno, they were just as glad to see Edwards back in the X Games. "It's not a real X Games without Chris here," said Salerno, who was voted the best in-line skater of 1998 by ASA.

"It's just fun skating with Chris because he was our reason for skating," Mora added. "And then to skate with him, every now and then you'll see an old trademark trick, which no one can still do, and that'll get me excited. It's just a good vibe skating with him.

A year ago, Edwards broke his left elbow and right arm and missed his first X Games. He served as an ESPN analyst during the Games and had to watch Mora and Salerno dominate the vert competition in San Diego.

But at the X Games in Louisville, Ky., Edwards returned to competition after a 14-month layoff and won the vert competition to qualify for the X Games. Neither Mora or Salerno were in the competition. Wednesday night was in fact the first time the three have been in the same halfpipe in nearly two years.

"Well he's lucky we weren't there, I'll tell you that much, because we would have kicked his ass," Mora said with his tongue firmly pressed into his cheek. "Seriously no, when I was in Australia and heard he'd won, I was so happy for him. It was just a really good feeling for me, regardless of whether we were there or not. "

"I like to watch Chris skate, I don't go out and try to defeat Chris."

Edwards expressed the same lack of competitiveness in his approach to skating, but did say he was confident he could win the contest if he made the finals.

Edwards actually is more into promoting the sport of aggressive in-line skating, rather than winning contests. He organizes an in-line skating tour called Diversity with ASA, setting up skate parks for kids across the country.

"I've been able to do a little vert, but not every (Diversity) park has a vert ramp. I'm really relying on all my years of experience in skating," said Edwards, who started riding in-line skates in 1986 and won the sport's first world championship in 1994. "I've been skating for 13 years and I'm bringing back a lot of my old-school tricks. Just having fun again on the vert ramp.

"Winning is really not that important to me. I'm just really stoked to be skating again. I don't like getting overly-competitive with everyone. I just like to get out and skate. I really love the sport of in-line. I do whatever I can to promote it in a positive way."

Edwards is also pleased at the way his good friends Mora and Salerno have grown into ambassadors of the sport themselves. He met both Aussies in Australia on one of his tours when Mora and Salerno were just reaching their teens. Edwards is confident each will progress the sport like he has for so many years.

"Cesar is awesome. He pushes the limits constantly," Edwards said. "He's one of the guys that really pushes vert the way we pushed it back in the day.

"Salerno is the same thing. I was able to meet Salerno when he was like 12 or 13 years old. I signed an autograph for him and now I've got to go ask him for an autograph because he goes and kicks everyone's butt."

Mora served noticed Wednesday night that he may be kicking the butt in this contest. He's already doing 1080s and said prior to the event that he expects to land a fakie 1260 in the final.

Edwards can't match the Aussies' spinning tricks, but may still have a few tricks in his bag. He was doing tricks in the preliminary that even the announcers had forgotten the names to.

Both Mora and Salerno enjoyed the show Edwards put on -- even if it wasn't vintage stuff.

"Chris Edwards is not dead yet," said Salerno. "Some people have said he's finished, but he skates for himself and from the heart. That's all you need to watch.

"All we are doing is enhancing what he invented. We're just adding our own little different effects. That's why he deserves the credit.

"If you watch my runs, I do the 'New School' stuff like he would skate. I try to go big. I'll never go as big as he went."

Mora agreed with his friend from down under.

"We don't judge Chris. A lot of people judge him because he's Chris Edwards and say, 'That wasn't so good, or he isn't skating so good now,'" Mora said. "Me and Matt have never been that way. We've been like, 'That's Chris. Chris does what he does.

"Chris will always be what he is, the pioneer of our sport. I'm just trying to get the sport as perfect as possible. As clean, as nice, as good-looking, as big, everything that's possible. Just push limits a little bit I guess." Don't worry Chris, in-line skating is in good hands.

 
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