French rider Tom Pagès took top honors as Best International Freestyle Motocross Rider in the seventh annual FMX Awards, announced on Wednesday by the Berlinièros Sports Agency, the promoters of the FIM Freestyle MX World Championships and Night of the Jumps World Tour. He also won Best European FMX Rider in the awards, based on a combination of fan voting and jury selection.
"It's a big surprise to get that recognition from FMX fans around the world," Pagès told XGames.com. "I'm happy, but it's a lot of pressure!"
Pagès has been flipping the script on FMX competition in recent years after eliminating backflip variations from his competition runs, following an injury, and focusing instead on technical tricks with BMX roots like 540 flairs, volt body varials, and the "special flip" varial that put him in fourth place, just shy of the podium, in the Moto X Best Trick competition at X Games Los Angeles 2012.
"Doing big tricks like the volt and special flip brought me back and the results this last year have been surprising everyone, even me, since I'm not doing backflips," he said. "Probably one day I will be back on backflips in my runs, but it's been fun to work on some of these other tricks and see good results. For me, FMX has to be fun or why bother? Every time I'm going to a big contest I'm thinking there are better people than me -- I'm riding with the best in the world -- so I never expect to get a good result. I just give my best, have fun, and go big."
This year is shaping up to be big for him: Pagès won the 2013 Red Bull X-Fighters season opener earlier this month in Mexico City after finishing second overall on the tour in 2012, and he will be a Moto X Freestyle favorite in the upcoming X Games events. He says he's disappointed by the news that ESPN has canceled the Moto X Best Trick contest this year but thinks it could ultimately be good for the sport.
"It was the most popular, famous event at X Games, and everyone always waited all year to bring out big tricks there, but I think it's fair enough for the evolution of the sport," he said. "There was a lot of risk in that event, with a lot of riders who were only focused on bringing big new tricks. Now I think you'll still see big new tricks, but they will be in the freestyle runs instead, and it will be on the top overall riders to bring them."
X Games Los Angeles 2012 Moto X Freestyle gold medalist Taka Higashino was another big winner in the FMX Awards, voted Best Asian FMX Rider and awarded Best Trick Innovation for the Rock Solid backflip variation he won Moto X Best Trick silver with at X Games Los Angeles 2012. Three-time X Games gold medalist Nate Adams was voted Best American FMX Rider, Chilean rider Javier Villegas -- the 2011 FIM Freestyle MX World Champion -- won Best South American rider, and Josh Sheehan was voted Best Australian FMX Rider. Emma McFerran, another Australian rider, won Best Female FMX Rider, a new category this year; McFerran has been performing backflips at recent international events after training under the tutelage of X Games gold medalist Jackson "Jacko" Strong over the past year.
"'I'm really happy to have been voted Female FMX Rider of the year," she told XGames.com. "I know there's not a lot of girls out there riding FMX but to see that I am being recognized around the world after just a few years in the sport is awesome! Thanks to all my fans who voted for me."
Mexican rider Erick Ruiz won Best International FMX Rookie. Luc Ackermann won Best European FMX Rookie and Best German FMX Rookie. Other international rider awards went to Botswanan rider Alastair Sayer (Best African FMX Rider) and Hannes Ackermann (Best German FMX Rider). Red Bull X-Fighters was voted Best FMX Series/Event, FMXworld.com was voted Best FMX Website, and the Yamaha YZ 250 was voted Best FMX Bike.