People love to joke that “they breed ’em tougher in the west”, but in the case of 27-year-old West Aus FMX rider, Josh Sheehan, it’s anything but a joke. You see, anyone who can pull multiple double backflips in a single day is undoubtedly a hard man, but to break your neck and still come back to international competition, all in the same year, now that’s tough!
Looking back on 2012, that’s exactly how things went for Josh or “Sheeny” as he’s more affectionately known. Coming off a 2011 that included an X Games medal and a Red Bull X-Fighters round win, Sheeny was looking to do damage in 2012, just in the results department, not the body - but after an early season training accident, that unfortunately how things played out for the Donnybrook local.
“I knew I’d done something,” says Josh. “I thought it was something to do with the nerve as I could feel it was a bit tingly, but never thought my neck was broken.” The fact that he was able to go through an operation and five-month recovery period, only to return back to the world circuit within the same year is a testament to Sheeny’s work ethic and determination.
Mind you, Sheeny has never been a stranger to hard work; his riding career has been built on it. Rather than being gifted his first bike from his parents, he borrowed his big brother’s and then after becoming obsessed with it, got a job picking oranges on his parents farm until he could afford a bike of his own - all this at the ripe old age of 13!
This drive set the tone for what was always destined to be a successful career path for Sheeny. He dominated the domestic competition scene with wins in the Australian FMX Championships and Narrogin Revheads, (what was Australia’s longest running FMX competition) before eventually landing a position on the world’s leading action sports tour Nitro Circus Live.
Touring Australia to sold-out crowds Sheeny soon formed a friendship with the shows main attraction and world’s greatest FMX star, Travis Pastrana. This friendship would prove to be a key one for the kid from Donnybrook, as after the first tour, Travis invited him to spend some time at his US compound and work on a couple of new tricks, one of which was the double flip.
With a double rotation in his hat, Sheeny launched himself into the international competition scene in similar sort of dominance that he laid down in Australia. He went on a win streak of six overalls in the IFMX series, grabbed third in his first Red Bull X-Fighters appearance, bronze medal in X Games Best Trick category and then to top it off, took a convincing win in front of his home country fans at Red Bull X-Fighters Sydney - with two double flips in the one day!
With a year like that, you can imagine Sheeny’s injury riddled 2012 would have been a tough pill to swallow, but the country lad takes it all in his stride and admits it’s just something you have to deal with when riding FMX for a living. Still, it wasn’t a complete write-off year as Josh was able to make a return at his favourite event, Red Bull X-Fighters in Sydney. A weak arm, some heavy crashes and trying conditions weren’t enough to hold Sheeny down, as he stormed through for a solid third place finish in front of his home country fans.
“There’s nothing like riding in front your home-country crowd,” smiles Sheeny. “You just can’t beat it. With your family and friends all there, it just makes for an awesome atmosphere.”
Hopefully 2013 is luckier for Sheeny than the number might suggest and with a full calendar already on the books, things are kicking off with a bang.
“I’ve got a big year planned with Nitro,” says Sheeny. “We’ve already toured NZ and we still have Australia and Europe to complete, plus whatever else they come up with! NZ was six stops and then we have 15 through regional Australia and another 12 or 13 in Europe towards the end of the year. I’ll have to miss a couple for Red Bull X-Fighters rounds, but it’s going to be a busy year.”
With show after show it can be incredibly difficult for a rider to stay at a peak competition level. They get little time to work on their riding other than the shows, which are scripted and generally repeated week to week, but Sheeny thinks it will be a matter of consistency rather than just game-changing tricks.
“My main goal is to complete the year, to compete in every round of Red Bull X-Fighters and be safe. I’ll do my best to try and win some, but I think mainly I need to be consistent. If I can do that and finish near the top of the order at each round, then hopefully I’ll be in a position to challenge for the championship.”
One thing he gets plenty of practice with though is the double flip and he’s now become the most consistent rider in the world to do them and one of only three who are still doing them.
“Without making it sound easy, I’ve been feeling really confident with them at the Nitro Circus shows. After doing multiple ones on the same ramp set-up I feel a lot more at home with it. Things may change in competition when the set-up will be different, with a change in ramps etc, but I just need to be careful and the conditions need to be right. I am feeling more comfortable with them now than ever though.”
After 30-odd shows of Nitro Circus and six stops around the globe for Red Bull X-Fighters in exotic locations including Japan, South Africa and Mexico City, you’d forgive Sheeny for wanting some time off the bike and to relax, but not him. Just like his early days, he’s happy to work and if the time allows, he’ll do his best to make events like X Games new World Tour this year.
“Nothing is locked in yet, but I’d love to try and do the Speed and Style component at X Games. I’ve always loved riding supercross and it’s a good mix of that and FMX. So hopefully I can get a place at the Summer X Games in LA and then I’d like to do FMX in the Munich X Games. I’m still yet to complete a full FMX run at X Games, so I need to get that monkey off my back,” laughs Sheeny.
With a workload that would make others whimper, Sheeny is on a mission to tackle the FMX world head-on in 2013. Watch out for this mad-man from the west as he sets the world on fire this year… one double back flip at a time.