The site of Japan's last great samurai battle, Osaka Castle, hosted Red Bull X-Fighters Qualification today. New Zealand's Levi Sherwood took the top score going into Sunday's battle of freestyle motocross warriors, while France's Thomas Pagès played it safe, saving the debut of his new Bike Flip maneuver for the Finals.
To the cheers of packed grandstands, the Qualifying round of Red Bull X-Fighters Osaka continued the battle of styles that's defining this season's World Tour. New Zealand's Levi Sherwood, a purist in the classic freestyle motocross style, finished the day in top position. Meanwhile, French master of all-or-nothing innovation Thomas Pagès turned in solid but uncharacteristically safe runs to end up in sixth. The 2011 overall champion, Spain's Dany Torres, gave Sherwood a run for his money to end the day with the second highest score, while Pagès' countryman Rémi Bizouard packed his runs with huge tricks for third. Switzerland's Mat Rebeaud pulled off a 540 Nac in a stellar performance that earned him fourth. But everything could go topsy-turvy when they start fresh tomorrow. The 2012 Osaka winner and hometown hero Taka Higashino sat out the Qualifying runs today to rest up after a crash incurred in training. If he can pull off the new trick he's been promising, and if Pagès can land the world's first Bike Flip in competition, the judges will have their work cut out for them.
Sherwood, the 2012 overall champion who is coming off a win at the season opener in Mexico City, looked as solid as the massive stone walls that protect Osaka Castle. And while Higashino watched from the sidelines, his countrymen represented Japan in high-flying style, with Kota Kugimura of Kyoto, who made it into Qualifying with a stellar performance in the Wild Card competition, earning a ninth-place score and Daisuke Suzuki of Fukushima taking tenth.
"I like to work on my extension and the flow and style of my tricks. It's just what I focus on. If I can't do it right, then I won't do it at all," said Sherwood after the event. "Osaka is special to everyone here, and we're all having a great time. But while Qualifying is always good, you still have to pull it off tomorrow. I just want to make sure I put in some good runs."
The competition will reach its climax on Sunday afternoon with Finals competition that will crown a victor in Osaka in front of a crowd that will be closer to the action than at any other stop in the 2014 season.
Qualifying Results: 1. Levi Sherwood (NZL) 83,2 points, 2. Dany Torres (ESP) 81,7, 3. Rémi Bizouard (FRA) 80,9, 4. Mat Rebeaud (SUI) 80,0, 5. Rob Adelberg (AUS) 79,5, 6. Thomas Pagès (FRA) 79,3, 7. Wes Agee (USA) 78,7, 8. David Rinaldo (FRA) 78,4, 9. Kota Kugimura (JPN) 77,2, 10. Daisuke Suzuki (JPN) 76,5, 11. Libor Podmol (CZE) 76.0
Watch Red Bull X-Fighters Osaka LIVE!
Catch all the action from Red Bull X-Fighters in Japan:
Webcast: We will stream the entire competition live right here on redbullxfighters.com/osaka-live, Red Bull TV, Xbox 360 and Apple TV.
Please note that the live webcast is geo-blocked in the US, but will be available as a Video on Demand from 8:30pm (ET) on Monday, May 26.
May 25: Japan: 03:00pm (JST) | Australia: 04:00pm (AEST) | New Zealand: 06.00pm (NZST) | Mexico: 01:00am (CST) | Brasil: 03:00am (BRT) | Europe: 08:00am (CET)
May 24: Canada: 11:00pm (PST)
TV: The main event will also broadcast live on several TV stations around the globe. Please check local listings for details. The event will broadcast for the US fans on Fox Sports 1 on Monday, May 26, at 6.30pm (ET) / 3.30pm (PT).
Live Results: To get results and standings in real-time, hit redbullxfighters.com/results