He may only be 20 but it seems like Levi Sherwood has already managed to fit a lifetime of highs and lows into his freestyle motocross career.
A seasoned Red Bull X Fighters campaigner with 14 events now under his belt – including Friday's win in Madrid – the New Zealander is a huge name on the FMX circuit and garners praise from his rivals in a way few other riders manage.
The 2012 Tour got off to the best possible start for Sherwood with victory in Dubai, and he then placed seventh at the second round in Glen Helen before taking another win in Spain on the latest stop of the Tour.
“It was a big deal for me to win the first round,” he told redbull.com at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid. “In my first year in the series I won the first round in Mexico, but I never thought I had a chance at the other rounds, I feel like I gave up a little bit soon. But this year after I won the first round I gained a bit of confidence and maybe realised I had a chance. Obviously it's going to be tough this year but after last year it kind of made me realise I can still do it and I still have a chance.”
The “after last year” comment is Sherwood's modest way of hinting at the kind of issues faced by many riders, but overcome by few. Towards the end of 2010 Sherwood had a massive crash in California at the ASA FMX World Championships which resulted in a broken femur and the end of his Red Bull X Fighters title hopes for the year.
After he returned to action in 2011 a nasty fall in LA when training for the X Games interrupted his progress once again as he sustained injuries that included a lacerated liver and fractured vertebrae, thus compounding what had been a tough 9 months.
He rode again in 2011 taking an excellent second place at the Sydney stop and has managed to glean positives from his trying experiences. That is evident in his approach to riding and the manner in which he enjoys himself.
“Last year was pretty heavy for me,” he admitted. “The injuries were probably the worst I've ever had and the crash was definitely the worst I've ever had. It changed my whole way of thinking. I hadn't really been injured that bad before and I didn't realise it could happen. I knew it could, of course, but until it happens you don't think about it.
“I know I ride a lot different now, I think about stuff a lot more. When I was younger I just used to be a little bit loose and I just did something as soon as I thought about it, but I am a different rider today to the one I was last year.
“I think once I learned to trust my bike and myself on the bike again [after the injuries], I just learned to have fun and that's the biggest thing. I think last year I knew I could do it but I put too much pressure on myself and I wasn't having fun. I was just so serious and that doesn't work for me.
“This year I just had fun, I thought 'Screw it, if I do good then I do good and if not I'm having fun, so it doesn't matter!'.”
It was that attitude which he says helped him to take silver in the motocross freestyle category at this summer's X Games, after he missed the previous year.
'Screw it, if I do good then I do good and if not I'm having fun, so it doesn't matter'
“I went there with the exact same attitude I have had all this year. I thought 'Whatever happens, I'm here to have fun and enjoy it', and it worked. They had a new format this year and it worked for me: go there and practice one day and then compete that night. It was short and it was good. You go in there for one stressful day and have the competition and then the rest of the week you can relax, hang out and watch the rest of it. I was surprised with my silver medal, and I was really happy with that.”
Back to the present and the Madrid stop of the 2012 Red Bull X Fighters is the most feverish on the calendar. The fans are loud, passionate and energetic and that is something that the riders feed off, and it proved a great motivation for Sherwood who saw off the challenge of hometown favourite Dany Torres in the final.
“I knew going into the final it was going to be tough. There was no point that I thought I had it in the bag. I just had to remember I needed to do what I needed to do, I tried working off the categories and it was pretty intense when I was waiting for the scores to come up. It was definitely the most meaningful win for me,” he said.
“Madrid is awesome. It's good to come here, especially after going to Turkey where it was just windy and we couldn't do anything about the fact we couldn't ride for safety reasons. Here the weather is always good and the bullring isn't a windy venue.
“The fact it's in this venue also brings the crowd in so close and makes it so much more personal for them. Everything works off each other and it's just a different energy.”
It would seem that Sherwood is bringing his own brand of energy to this year's competition too.