Australia’s Josh Sheehan
beat Taka Higashino
of Japan in another action-packed Red Bull X-Fighters
final in Munich on Saturday under blue skies and roasting hot temperatures. Sheehan's win took place in front of 18,000 (fresh off a World Cup victory) German spectators on a first-of-its-kind freestyle motocross track built on 260 floating pontoons on a lake next to Olympic Stadium. Yeah, it was pretty damn big deal.
Sheehan powered his way to his second career win and first victory since 2011 with three perfectly executed Double Backflips that had the enormous German crowd on its feet demanding more. His victory, worth 100 points, also closed the gap in the overall championship battle as it cut the lead of World Tour leader Levi Sherwood
(NZL) to just five points ahead of the season finale in Pretoria, South Africa on August 23. Sherwood, who leads the World Tour with 265 points to Sheehan’s 260 points, had to settle for his second straight third place while local hero Luc Ackermann
, just 16 years old, delighted his home crowd with a miraculous fourth place in his first Red Bull X-Fighters competition.
“Doing that Double Backflip was really scary,” said Sheehan, who celebrated the victory with an impressive backflip dive without his bike off a dirt ramp into Olympia Lake. “It’s amazing to win in front of a great crowd like this,” added Sheehan, the only rider in the field who has mastered the mind-boggling Double Backflip – which he nailed in Qualifying on Friday as well as in Saturday’s quarter-final, and in his semi-final victory over Sherwood before doing it again in the final. We'd say he's got it down pat at this point. “It’s a bummer that Sheehan beat me in the semis,” said Sherwood. “I think I rode as well as I could. We’ll see what happens now in South Africa.”
It was a bittersweet day for defending champion Thomas Pages of France, who had moved into third place overall in the championship battle with his brilliant victory over Sheehan in the final in Madrid last month. But Pages, who won Friday’s Qualifying, saw his title hopes evaporate after he had to abandon his bike in mid-air while attempting the treacherous Bike Flip that he did for the first time in Madrid. The Frenchman crashed hard to the ground, suffering a shoulder injury, and was lucky that his bike just missed landing on top of him.
The season finale of the Red Bull X-Fighters and the battle for the championship takes place August 23 in Pretoria, South Africa. Hopefully the month long break will give Pages a chance to heal and the two leaders, Sheehan and Sherwood some time to hone in their signature tricks. South Africa is already setting the stage for one of the most exciting seasons of X-Fighters the world has ever seen.