Levi Sherwood had to wait over a year to claim a second Red Bull X-Fighters win but, after his victory in Moscow last month, the New Zealander now has reason to celebrate.
The 18-year-old, who heads to the X Games in L.A. at the end of next week, believes he is benefiting from a more relaxed approach to riding since becoming the youngest athlete ever to win Red Bull X-Fighters. We'll let him explain...
It’s been a long time between your first win in Mexico in 2009 and the most recent one in Moscow; what do you think you’ve learned in that year?
What I’ve noticed most is not so much my riding, which I think is as good if not a little better, but just how I feel at these competitions. I’m just a lot more relaxed in the sport. Now I’m having fun, whereas last year I was too worried about performing well. I still am worried, but now I think I can leave all that until the event. Last year I’d waste the whole week before a competition worrying. I’d worry about the course and how it would be set up and whether I’d be able to compete well. Now it’s different. Once I’ve done the qualifier, I’m pretty happy. You’ve got your first run out of the way and you can move forward.
Does the fact that you’re now an old hand at Red Bull X-Fighters help you enjoy it?
Yeah. You get used to how the competition works. The first day’s a lot of media, you build your bike, second day is practice and working the course out, third day is qualifying and the next day is the event. It’s like any sport, there’s a rhythm to it and that takes time to get into. It’s a pretty tight-knit little bunch, though, so that helps. Most of the riders are at all the events and we hang out and try to have a little fun.
So it’s not all Tsunamis and Kisses of Death then?
No! Away from the course, these events are pretty much like a working holiday for me. It’s cool. We get to hang out, see a bit of the countries we visit. You don’t get to do the normal tourist stuff but you get to see a few things. I really like going to places like Moscow and Egypt because if I wasn’t doing this and I wanted to come on holiday, I don’t think those two would have been high on my list but they’re both amazing.
One of the bonuses for you this year is that, unlike last year, you’ve managed to avoid injury.
So far! Last year was pretty messy for me. I managed to finish the year on a good note in London, so I was pretty happy with that, but before that if I wasn’t missing events through injury I was going to them and picking up injuries. This year is much, much better. Staying injury free just means you get to spend that much more time on the bike and that’s really important. You miss that when you’re injured and then when you do ride you’re not as sharp so you’re much more likely to get injured again.
You’ve changed your bike this year too, going from a four-stroke to a two-stroke. Did the lack of power last year contribute to you getting injured in some way?
The bike for me, last year, sucked. It didn’t contribute to my injuries, they were all my own stupid fault, but as far as this year goes I’m much more comfortable with the bike I have now. For example, in Moscow, if I’d had my four-stroke I would definitely have had a hard time getting over some of the jumps. A short corner, going up to a steep jump – there’s just not enough power. Being on the KTM this year is just so much more fun.
Has training this year resulted in any new tricks?
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about new tricks a lot. When you ride you get bored with doing the same old stuff. I’m always trying to come up with new things. So, yeah, I have got one idea, which I’ve seen a lot of BMX riders do but I’m really not sure if it’s possible on a motorcycle. It’s just an idea. I’m 90 percent sure I can do it but 10 percent thinks it’s impossible. I’ll get back to you on it…