Letterman Fall Adds to Dakides' Star Power
ASPEN, Colo. - Tara Dakides is one of the most decorated and influential athletes at the Winter X Games, someone who can't walk through a ski resort without being recognized. She can thank David Letterman for that. What would have been just another appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" last February turned into a media frenzy when Dakides went flying off a makeshift snowboarding ramp outside the studio and fell onto the street below.
"It was great, considering it didn't quite go how I wanted it to go," Dakides said. "But the whirlwind after with the media was something I hadn't really experienced on such a large scale."
Dakides, 29, has certainly earned her share of fame within the action sports world.
Nicknamed the "Terrorizer" for her go-for-broke style, Dakides also has been an innovator, becoming the first woman to land a backside rodeo 540 — 1 1/2 flips with a full twist landed backward — and is constantly pushing the boundaries of her sport.
She's won seven Winter X Games medals, including five golds and a silver in slopestyle last year in her first major event since wrecking her knee nearly two years earlier.
But none of it prepared her for the flurry her visit to the Letterman show created.
Dakides' appearance stemmed from an earlier visit with friend Casey Hart, a Moto X rider who rode his bike along the streets of New York as part of a skit for the show. Dakides got to know some of the crew members and they asked if she'd be interested in doing some tricks on a ramp outside the studio.
Sure, why not, she said. If she only knew.
As Dakides started her run, she noticed the snow at the top had started melting away, forcing her to turn on wood. She also was doing a trick, a backside 360, that required her to come off at an angle, but the ramp was too steep and she had to try it from straight on.
The combination turned disastrous.
Unable to complete the trick, Dakides went flying off the ramp and landed with a thud on the street 20 feet below. The crash knocked her out, left her with a broken vertebrae and a cut on her head that needed eight stitches.
"It was a bit scary," Dakides said.
But while Dakides lay in a hospital bed, the frenzy of her accident was swirling outside.
Everyone seemed to want a piece of her and once she got out of the hospital she went on a seemingly nonstop media tour, from visits to Howard Stern and Carson Daly, interviews with morning television shows and plenty of phone interviews with newspapers and magazines. Dakides even was recognized at a fashion show, where photographers took her picture along with the runway models.
"I've never experienced anything like that before," Dakides said.
It couldn't have too traumatic — Dakides is going back on Letterman after this year's Winter X Games.
"And I'm going to jump again," she said.