Best-ever Sheehan gives title favorites a scare

Australia’s Josh Sheehan has mastered one of the most daunting jumps Red Bull X-Fighters has ever seen and used the Double Backflip to put himself into championship contention.

MUNICH, Germany – Josh Sheehan, riding high in second place overall of the 2014 World Tour with the best year of his Red Bull X-Fighters career, has become a force to be reckoned with in title hunt of the world’s most prestigious FMX series. The friendly Australian is the master of the Double Backflip and aced four of the most awe-inspiring jumps in the sport at the last stop in Madrid to take second place – with one of the best FMX runs ever seen. But Sheehan believes there is another and more simple reason for his sudden success this year.

“I’ve just been feeling comfortable with everything I’m doing and feel I’m better prepared this year,” Sheehan said ahead of Saturday’s fourth stop in 2014 in Munich. “I’m feeling less stress after putting a fair bit of pressure on myself last year to do the Double Backflip. The weather off season was better this year in Australia and I had more time to just ride, train and have fun. It’s easier when you’re comfortable and having fun.”

Sheehan, whose one victory so far was at the 2011 finale in Sydney, got second in Mexico City and second in Madrid this year for a total of 160 points, just 40 points behind leader Levi Sherwood of New Zealand and 15 points ahead of defending champion Thomas Pagès in third. His consistently strong performances this year stand in contrast to previous seasons, when he was often plagued by injuries.

“So far this year has been going great,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of second places and that’s been awesome. I can almost taste that victory. Hopefully I can get one of those this year. Maybe I’m just a little older now and more mature. I’ve had some injuries and try to be a bit smarter about how I do things.”

Sheehan, who was raised on a farm in the western Australian town of Donnybrook, made his Red Bull X-Fighters debut in Rome in 2010 and got eighth place in his first international competition. He got his first podium for third place a year later in Rome and got his first – and so far only – victory in the season finale in Sydney with the first-ever Double Backflip. His 2012 and 2013 seasons were marred by injury. He hasn’t done the Volt after breaking vertebra in his neck but might like to add that to his repertoire one day but he is the only rider in the tour with the spectacular Double Backflip in his bag of tricks – a jump he is more confident than ever with this year.

“I’ve been able to do it consistently this year but it’s still scary every time,” said Sheehan, one of the most muscular riders in the sport’s history. “I try not to think about it too much. It’s stressful to think about it and it always scares the shit out of me. I just have to stay focused and buckle it down. It’s always better when I can do at least one in Qualifying. Last year, I was too nervous to do it in qualifying. Getting one done in Qualifying this year helps take the pressure off for the next day. It’s a mental thing that I then know it can be done.”

Sheehan was nevertheless flawless in Madrid and had one of the best runs ever that had the crowd on its feet with a 360, a 540 Flair, and a Double Grab Flip. The only trouble was that Pagès had his best run ever as well in a magnificent final.

“It just so happened that two people brought their best runs ever that day to Madrid,” said Sheehan. “Tom had an insane super ride. I just picked an unlucky day to have my best. My final was by far the best ever run for me. The final was perfect and I landed all my tricks.”

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