Hang Time with Josh Sheehan

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"Expect the worst, but hope for the best," says Moto X Freestyle and Best Trick competitor Josh Sheehan.

You know you've done something right when you pull a trick so outlandish and straight-up mind boggling that none of your competitors, adversaries, rivals -- call them what you will -- never even mention it, let alone attempt it. That's what Donnybrook, Western Australia's Josh Sheehan did back in 2015 when he executed the triple backflip. So gnarly was the stunt that saw Sheehan scream in blue for nearly four seconds of elapsed time that no one, not even the man himself, has even thought about repeating the feat. The trick firmly established Sheehan as one of the world's greatest freestyle motocross riders, a fact he hammered home at X Games Austin 2016. With one of the world's most opulent Formula 1 circuits serving as a backdrop, Sheehan held sway at X Games Austin 2016, winning the gold medal in Moto X Freestyle and snagging silver medals in both Moto X Best Trick and Moto X Quarterpipe. One year later and precisely 1,136 miles to the north, the Australian will unload his Honda CRF450 motocross bike at U.S. Bank Stadium, site of X Games Minneapolis 2017. With a host of Double Flip combinations up his sleeve and fine-tuned from performing at countless Nitro Circus gigs around the world in the past 365 days, the 26 year-old is looking for major hang time inside the Twin City's U.S. Bank Stadium.

XGames.com: Josh, I know your competition and performance schedule has been cluttered the last few months. To that end, what are you up to this first week of July?
Sheehan: We're actually back in Maryland near Travis Pastrana's place doing that slip and slide thing. We're just enjoying some sun and having a bit of a light afternoon. It's pretty fun. I'll be staying here until we head for Spain in a few days.

What's going on in Spain?
We've got X-Fighters next Friday.

That's right.
Yeah, it's all coming around pretty quick. And after X-Fighters, we're back to Travis' place to grab our bikes again and then drive up to Minneapolis.

Last year, I talked with you the day after the X Games in Austin and you were about to head to the airport to fly across the Atlantic to perform in Nitro Circus shows in Ireland and England. Just how much traveling and competing have you done throughout the past year?
Yeah, the travel has been unreal over the last three years. This last year, I had surgery last August, so I had about six or seven months at home. Otherwise I would have been traveling or doing other events. In the 2015 and 2016 year, I had to add up all the days that I spent out of the country. I had spent 186 days out of the country, so it was more than half of the year out of the country, and that wasn't even including a 13-week tour I did in Australia. It was a lot of travel. It was pretty draining, and when I did have that six months off, as bad as injuries are, and as much as surgeries suck, that was a really good time at home just to refresh and just have a bit of time off and do nothing for a bit.

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The double backflip is a standard part of Sheehan's runs in competition.

What did you do with your time off?
Well, I had total reconstruction as well as tendon repair on my shoulder, so I had one day off where I just sat down at home with a little bit of pain. The rest of the time I just sat around in the shed. I hate sitting still and doing nothing and I've got a workshop at home that I've been building up and a new bike to set up, so I had just been playing with that. I was just keeping busy. There were a lot of things I had to get through, I was just trying to establish some simple things while I only had one arm.

When did you finally get back on the bike and back on the road?
There was Nitro Circus Japan which was in February.

Something of a broad stroke question here, but during the past six months to a year, what's your take on the evolution of the sport of Freestyle Motocross? A sport that is, well, constantly evolving, a year can be a long time. Where's it all at right now? Where's it going?
That's a tough one. I feel like the previous six months, things kind of jumped up quite a bit. It all kind of scared everyone and just kind of blew everyone away, and in the last six months, it's been a lot of catchup. I know a lot of guys have been using their front flip ramp and trying to work on front flip tricks and front flip combos. A couple of guys have worked on double backflips over the last year. With the subject of progression, it's hard to say where it is going. What people ARE learning, they're holding back. They're just not telling everyone because you don't want to talk it up if you haven't even landed it. There is a lot of catchup and a lot of catching up going on. I was the only one doing a double for years, and then all of a sudden, Jacko Strong had done one on the Quarterpipe. Levi [Sherwood] did his first in competition last weekend. There are bunch of different people doing tricks on the front flip ramp. It was a bit of a shock at the start, but pretty soon, a lot people are already trying them. I feel like we're in a stage of catchup at the moment. Everyone is just trying to learn all the new tricks that have come out.

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"It was always so dry and just so windy out there in Texas. That makes it tough when we're doing some of the tricks that were doing these days," says Sheehan.

Highly evolved stuff, huh?
It's always hard to tell. I feel like there is not too much more that can be done over the regular ramps, but you start getting some steeper ramps and some resi landings and you can start trying more and you can try more combinations.

The X Games are upon us and I know you're a very big fan of them. Are they still, in your opinion, and as far as Freestyle Motocross is concerned, the most prestigious FMX competition in the world?
I feel it is. That last couple years have been a little tough, just because of the venue. It was always so dry and just so windy out there in Texas. That makes it tough when we're doing some of the tricks that we're doing these days, you have to be so fine and precise with everything. When there is a bit of breeze, or when something is not quite right, it sucks. It's really risky when you're doing these tricks in a windy or really slippery and dry environment. I feel like the venue was hindering the sport a little bit the last two years. It wasn't a good environment. I feel like with the new venue, just because of the fact that there will be no wind and no weather, that they're can be no complaining. We can all basically go there with the best and expect to ride our best.

If I have it right, you're signed-up to compete in Moto X Freestyle and Moto X Best Trick. Anything else?
No, that's it. Just Freestyle and the Best Trick.

I'm certain the X Games will have a very good Freestyle course for you guys to show the world what you can do. Are you looking forward to that part of it? I mean, I used to talk with Travis Pastrana about traditional FMX and he was always of the opinion that FMX wasn't about just the jumps, but about stringing an entire run together.
Yeah, that's right. It's a complete run. We have a minute and half or two minutes, and if you do one trick and you stop and you fumble around and stuff, it can really ruin the run. Yes, there's the tricks, but then there is the flow and the continuity between the jumps. So yeah, there is a lot more than just big tricks. Although, big tricks are bloody important these days.

And in speaking of big tricks, how are you feeling about the Best Trick showdown come Minneapolis?
Well, it's always dangerous when I get there, but like last year, I did have a new trick that I wanted to do, and I just didn't. I didn't feel good on that set-up. I'm just hoping this year I'll get a last bit of practice before driving up there to the X Games. I'm hoping that if I feel comfortable, I can get there and hopefully land this new trick. It's not massive or extreme, but it's something that I haven't landed yet. Hopefully things are good and I can land that one.

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"I hate losing, but I accept it. We all have to," says Sheehan.

In other words, you've got something up your sleeve that you're going to pull out when the time comes?
Yeah.

Right on. So what's going to make you happy when you go to leave Minneapolis, Minnesota after all is said and done?
I hope for the best. I expect the worst, but I hope for the best. A successful or competitive person cannot go to a competition or race and then not try. You can go there with a relaxed attitude, but as soon you're riding, it's like, 'Damn, I don't want to lose!' I hate losing, but I accept it. We all have to. I had some time off earlier and I know I'm a little bit behind with some of the training that I have had, but I just want to be able to land all of my tricks and have a perfect run and hopefully it's enough. Obviously, to win and to take another gold, but I'll do my best and hope for the best and just take what I can get.

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