Winter X Games 16: Kazuhiro Kokubo and Athletes to Keep Your Eye On

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2012

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 17:  Kazuhiro Kokubo of Japan competes in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe on day six of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Cypress Snowboard & Ski-Cross Stadium on February 17, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Winter X Games are headed to Aspen, Colorado for the 11th time running, with as star-studded a field as the event has yet seen in its 16 years of existence.

Everyone knows Shaun White will be up to his typical, jaw-dropping antics, but who else should extreme sports fans look out for starting on Thursday?


Kazuhiro Kokubo

Joining Shaun White in the field at the Men's SuperPipe will be Kazuhiro Kokubo.

Long known for his rebellious spirit, the 23-year-old Japanese snowboarding sensation was withheld from the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for wearing his uniform a bit too loosely for the liking of the powers-that-be.

Kazu has claimed victory on the half-pipe at the US Open of Snowboarding in each of the last two years and will look to improve upon his bronze medal performance at the 2010 Winter X Games, while continuing to represent his disaster-stricken home nation with pride and panache, when he peruses the pipes on Sunday.


Torin Yater-Wallace

If skiing is more your beat and you're keen to scope out the next big thing, then Torin Yater-Wallace should be your main attraction. The 16-year-old wunderkind will be on hand for the Men's SuperPipe, an event in which he took silver at last year's X Games at the tender age of 15.

That made Yater-Wallace, a native of Aspen, the youngest medalist in the history of the Winter X Games. He'll be back to put on a show for the hometown crowd after killing it at the Winter Dew Tour in Killington, Vermont this past weekend.


Kelly Clark

As for the women's field, Kelly Clark isn't exactly new or up-and-coming, though she's well worth watching, nonetheless.

The Vermont native has earned a medal in the Women's Snowboard SuperPipe in six of the last eight years, including golds in 2006 and 2011.

Clark was named the Female Athlete of the Year at the 2011 ESPY awards and, at 28 years of age, will be out to prove that she can fend off the rising stars and maintain her spot atop the world of women's extreme sports.