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Record jump has local link

Nearly a week ago, X Games gold medalist Mike Metzger secured his spot in the record books after becoming the first rider to successfully perform a backflip over the fountains at Caesars Palace Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. His 125-foot jump was also a new world record.

And who was the mastermind behind the whole breath-taking experience? None other than Grass Valley’s own Jesse Olson.

This was no ordinary stunt. In 1967, Evil Knievel attempted the jump – without the backflip – and ended up in the hospital in a 29-day coma. Gary Wells tried in 1980 and crashed as well.



It wasn’t until 1989 that Robbie Knievel, Evil’s son, was successful in clearing the fountain in one piece.

But three months ago, the planning was put in motion to top Robbie’s jump and create the most spectacular stunt ever at Caesars Palace. ESPN agreed to air the event promoting the release of the movie, “Mission: Impossible III,” along with celebrating the 40th anniversary of Caesars Palace coming this August.




The powers that be immediately sought out Olson’s help. After being the chief course designer and builder for the most recent Summer and Winter X Games, the choice was a no-brainer.

“I was there from the very beginning of the idea,” Olson said. “First they brought me in to see if a jump was still possible after all the construction at the hotel.”

Olson thought it was and began working on a plan. Soon his ideas became drawings and from them a model of the jump was built. Finally, the actual jump was constructed in Irwindale, which is located in the Los Angeles area.

Meanwhile, the creation team had to find a rider who could do the stunt.

“Some names were tossed around, but Caesars Palace was insistent on finding someone who could do the jump – they did not want another crash,” Olson said. “We narrowed the list down to three and decided Mike fit the bill for what we wanted.

“He was really excited about the whole thing. He loves being an innovator. Any freestyle motocross rider would want to give it a try.”

Two weeks before the jump, which took place on May 4, Metzger traveled to Irwindale to practice. According to Olson, he made four attempts and was solid on every single one.

The jump was then taken down and transported to Las Vegas, where it was re-assembled at Caesars Palace.

The build-up for the stunt began to gather intensity throughout Las Vegas hours before the jump was to take place. During the actual jump, Las Vegas Boulevard was closed as thousands gathered to witness the event.

Much of the cast and crew from Mission Impossible III, minus Tom Cruise, were also present.

As stunt time inched closer and closer, the only person possibly as nervous as Metzger – was Olson.

“I felt like the pressure was on me and if it didn’t work out it would have been my fault,” Olson said.

“I just kept putting myself in Mike’s shoes and getting all worked up. I was nervous he might second-guess himself in the air.”

But to Olson’s delight – and probably to the relief of the insurance company for Caesars as well – the jump went off without a hitch and traveled straight into the Guinness Book of World Records. Representatives for the book were present to acknowledge the event.

But before the ensuing celebration of the event was even over, Olson reports numerous new stunt ideas have been proposed. Some of them too crazy to mention at this point.

He has, however, talked to a few TV channels about creating some stunt shows.

But for now, Olson’s next project will be the 2006 Summer X Games.

Sports writer Stacy Hicklin’s column appears Wednesdays. To contact her e-mail stacyh@theunion.com or call 477-4244.


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