Levi Sherwood double-backflipped his way into Red Bull X-Fighters' record books with a pair of the gravity-defying jumps and a powerful performance to win the 16th edition of Las Ventas in front of nearly 20,000 spectators on Friday.
The New Zealander became the first FMX rider to perfectly execute two double backflip combos in a single run, capping a flawless final to win the sport's most prestigious competition. On a memorable night of freestyle motocross at the Madrid bullring, Australia's Josh Sheehan took second and Japan's Taka Higashino was third while Adam Jones of the United States was fourth.
It was Sherwood's second victory at the iconic Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas after he took top honors in 2012 -- before Frenchman Tom Pages launched into his winning streak that lasted four years in a row. "You have no idea how nice this is," said Sherwood, 25, who now has nine Red Bull X-Fighter career wins even though the last triumph was some three years ago back in 2014 in Osaka, Japan. "It's been a long time coming. The wins are fewer and farther between. It's been such a long time since I've won a Red Bull X-Fighters event. This feels really good."
Sherwood stylishly nailed the pair of double backflips, including one with a no-hands segment aloft and managed to make the once-so-fearful jump appear almost easy in front of the delighted crowd at the spiritual home of freestyle motocross. Pages was forced to watch this year's event from the sidelines due to a shoulder injury.
Clearly on a mission to win the Madrid title, Sherwood also performed an unforgettable 360 nac-nac that left a deep impression on the five judges as he won four of the five helmets. The world's top 12 FMX riders executed their tricks on, off and near their bikes while jumping some 15 meters high and 30 meters in distance. By nailing his twin double backflips in a 75-second run, Sherwood has taken FMX to a new level and made it abundantly clear that he believes there is more potential to take the sport even further. Toward that aim, Sherwood managed to cut the weight of his bike by 16 kilograms to 91 kg and took his own body weight down 10 kg to 63 kg as part of his overall efforts to make bigger, better jumps.
"I'm fascinated with making stuff better and seeing the sport progress," said Sherwood, who sipped his victory champagne from his boot. "Up to now, our abilities nearly exceeded what our bikes can do. Now, I'm riding my bike and can't keep up with what my bike an do. It's opened up a whole new ballgame of what I'm able to achieve on the bike."
Spain's Christian Meyer, one of two Novilleros in the field who was picked by the Red Bull X-Fighters sports committee, surprised the field earlier on Friday with an impressive sixth place in Qualifying on the strength of his double backflip. But the 20-year-old wild child from Alicante crashed hard in the first round of the finals in front of the big home crowd and was forced out.
Red Bull X-Fighters Madrid - Final Result
1. Levi Sherwood (NZL)
2. Josh Sheehan (AUS)
3. Taka Higashino (JPN)
4. Adam Jones (USA)
5. Luc Ackermann (GER)
6. Dany Torres (ESP)
7. Clinton Moore (AUS)
8. Maikel Melero (ESP)
9. Christian Meyer (ESP)
10. Rob Adelberg (AUS)
11. Harry Bink (AUS)
12. Fred Kyrillos (BRA)
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