New Zealand's Levi Sherwood pulled off a win at the 2012 season opener of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour in Dubai on Friday.
Sherwood delivered a brilliant performance in front of 20,000 spectators on a stunning dirt track set up on the white sands of Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence, between the city's glittering skyscrapers and the Persian Gulf's turquoise water.
It was Sherwood's first victory since 2010.
"It means a lot," said a beaming Sherwood, 20, after celebrating with the spirited crowd that savored the spectacle with riders jumping up to 40 feet high and 65 feet in distance on their bikes. "I didn't have much confidence coming into it."
Kicking off the six-month long season, which includes six stops on four continents, Dubai provided a night filled with upsets.
Defending World Tour champion Dany Torres, of Spain, and Norway's Andre Villa, a leading title contender, were knocked out in the quarterfinals, finishing eighth and fifth, respectively. Villa, who suffered a leg injury last season, had earlier wept with tears of joy, after qualifying second and being overcome with emotion from the performance.
Sherwood was clearly on top of his game in the sweltering heat. He was able to once again display his incomparable flexible and fluid style in the world's most prestigious freestyle motocross competition (which will have a total purse of $1 million based on performances and appearance fees).
For Sherwood, Dubai was his fourth career victory and first since triumphing in London in 2010. Australia's Rob Adelberg was a surprise second, while Javier Villegas, of Chile, rode to his first podium with third place.
"After years of sacrifice, I finally made it," said a thrilled Villegas. "I'm not going to stop here. I want to be on the podium all season."
Red Bull X-Fighters has become the biggest and most respected freestyle motocross tour on the planet since it was created in 2001 with the best FMX riders battling for championship points at six stops on four continents.
1. Levi Sherwood (NZL)
2. Rob Adelberg (AUS)
3. Javier Villegas (CHL)
4. Josh Sheehan (AUS)
5. Andre Villa (NOR)
6. Todd Potter (USA)
7. Edgar Torronteras (ESP)
8. Dany Torres (ESP)
9. Eigo Sato (JAP)
10. Mat Rebeaud (SWZ)
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