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Doubleflip master Sheehan wins Pretoria qualifier

Josh Sheehan - KOD Flip © B. Gardi -

Adrenaline was pumping and the red dirt was flying today at Qualifying for the final round of Red Bull X-Fighters 2014. The season is on the line at the first-ever World Tour final in Africa, and Australia's Josh Sheehan declared his intention to claim the championship with two unshakable runs, including one supremely confident double backflip.

Josh Sheehan knew what he had to do – and he executed perfectly. The Australian made the most of his two 90-second runs today at Qualifying for Saturday's Red Bull X-Fighters Final, delivering his spectacular double backflip to put himself squarely in the frontrunner's position not only for a win at history's 50th Red Bull X-Fighters event, but for what would be his career-first World Tour Championship.

The importance of the final of the world's most prestigious freestyle motocross event series – and the wide range of options on the biggest track of the year – seemed to inspire the riders. While still getting a feel for the many dirt-to-dirt jumps, they launched a stellar showcase of their best tricks. Thomas Pagès of France, currently third in the overall standings, showed off a Volt and a Special Flip that looked more effortless than ever to earn second place in Qualifying. Australia's Clinton Moore, who finished the day in third, launched his new Suicide Flat Spin. Meanwhile, current World Tour leader Levi Sherwood, who has been fighting to stay ahead of Sheehan all season, had an uncharacteristic crash. After that setback, the Kiwi will have to battle his way out of the first round tomorrow to have a chance at besting Sheehan for the championship.

Local riders Alastair Sayer of Botswana and Nick de Wit of the Johannesburg area gave their all under the watchful gaze of a statue of Nelson Mandela, who was inaugurated as president near the track at Pretoria's Union Buildings. Another type of inauguration will take place in less than 24 hours, as one of the 12 exceptional riders in the lineup will know the lifetime thrill of being crowned Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour Champion.

Red Bull X-Fighters Pretoria Qualifying Results
1. Josh Sheehan (AUS) 87,9
2. Thomas Pagès (FRA) 87,0
3. Clinton Moore (AUS) 84,6
4. Adam Jones (USA) 84.2
5. Taka Higashino (JPN) 83,7
6. Dany Torres (ESP) 83,6
7. Rémi Bizouard (FRA) 83,1
8. Maikel Melero (ESP) 83,0
9. David Rinaldo (FRA) 82,2
10. Alastair Sayer (BOT) 76,7
11. Nick de Wit (RSA) 72,4
12. Levi Sherwood (NZL) 56,2

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