Josh Sheehan has already missed three stops on the X-Fighters tour with neck damage but in a desperate effort to return in time for Munich next month the 26-year-old will undergo emergency surgery to resurrect his 2012 season.
Sheehan injured his neck during what he calls a “routine practice session”. Or in the terms or a mere mortal, performing some kind of backflip manoeuvre into his personal foam pit at his West Australian home.
“I was still cutting up the foam so I think it was kind of compressed and a little stiff,” Sheehan says. “And it was a sort of awkward landing and I collapsed into my bike a bit and just tweaked my neck. It felt like whiplash and I fractured it. That was about eight weeks ago.
“Since then I’ve just been taking it easy. Once the fracture was found I had to wait six weeks for the bone to mend and now they can determine how to fix it.”
He will fly to Los Angeles next week to undergo bone graft surgery, which will determine whether or not he makes it to Munich or even competes in the Australian finale in October.
“Red Bull has hooked me up with a disc centre in LA for an operation to shave some bone that’s putting pressure on a nerve in my neck,” he says. “And a couple of weeks after that I should be back riding and hopefully back to 100 per cent pretty quickly and get myself to Munich on August 12.
“It’s getting too close now and I’m getting worried.”
But it seems, it’s not all bad for Sheehan. There are a few perks to being injured when you’re an international FMX star.
“Well, I’ve been told I’ve got to hang around a few days in California to let it settle before I fly home so I’m gonna catch up with Dusty Wygle at Santa Montica and hang at the beach for a couple days,” he says. “It’s brutal, hey. There’s always a plus side to everything, but the down side in this case is far worse.”
Sheehan is currently in Queensland playing foreman for yet another Red Bull Futures Camp. This one, a five-day camp for the country’s rising FMX stars. From teenagers to twenty-somethings, Sheehan and his band of moto men are nurturing and fine-tuning the skills of Australia’s best new talent.
“We’re doing a bit of everything from basic bike skills all the way – anything that will help them take Australian FMX into the future,” Sheehan says. “There’s racing and jumping, fitness, health and everything in between.
“We’ve got an ex-racer Chris Urquhart who teaches the boys all about braking, clutch and throttle control. And everything from small dunes to jumping. While a lot of these kids don’t race, those skills you learn in racing will help them a lot in FMX comps.
“And then we’ve got another guy who is teaching them all about nutrition and the importance of core strength and fitness. I’m pretty much there to help out and tell them how all this helps for FMX.”
And where exactly is the camp?
“Ah, we’re in… something-vale,” he says with laugh. “It’s like two hours west of Brisbane. Oh… Fernvale! That’s where we are and it is awesome. Well, the track is. Haha.”
The good news is, Sheehan says the future of Australians in FMX looks well secured after a scary few years which has seen the sport fade somewhat.
“There are some pretty high expectations these days. I mean, the sport is still progressing but I think a few years ago there was a massive progression with all these flip tricks coming out and it’s almost like, where to now? People used to think a backflip, let alone a double backflip would be impossible.
“But it seems to be getting better. There’s not a helluva lot in Australia in terms of comps but now there is an RSD underground tour going around the East Coast which is starting to provide some big competition and more prize money to give guys something to aspire to.”