On Wednesday the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and the International Freestyle Motocross Federation (IFMXF) announced a three-year extension of their partnership with event promoter SportPlus to present the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship tour through 2016 and to introduce a new event, the FIM Freestyle of Nations, debuting in 2013.
"Freestyle Motocross is a very entertaining and exciting discipline combining the show element with top sport," said FIM CEO Stéphane Desprez, in a statement on Wednesday. "The riders work hard and step up their performances with every event. Sportplus gives them the perfect showcase to battle it out for the FIM Freestyle Motocross World Championship. Creating a Freestyle of Nations event will certainly be a boost for the sport."
Desprez took over as CEO of the FIM in October, following Guy Maitre's retirement, and has previous experience as director of competition for the Rugby World Cup and as secretary general for the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the governing body for international air sports.
Although details of the new event have not been released yet, the Freestyle of Nations was inspired by the long-running FIM Motocross of Nations, which celebrates its 65th anniversary in Lommel, Belgium in September, pitting teams of riders from different countries against each other.
"With the Freestyle of Nations we will join the circle of sports with national teams who will fight not only for themselves as individuals but also for their flags," SportPlus director Marko Manthey told ESPN.com. "If we take into consideration what we have achieved during the last seven years together with the FIM, the Freestyle of Nation will be the next big thing. We have moved freestyle motocross from a circus to a recognized sport."
American riders have won the FIM Motocross of Nations every year since 2005, but it isn't clear they'd similarly dominate in the new Freestyle of Nations: SportPlus, in partnership with the FIM and IFMXF, has helped grow both the international field of riders and the global fan base for freestyle motocross over the last decade, through events like the Night of the Jumps World Tour, the UEM Freestyle MX European Championships, and the FIM Freestyle MX World Championships. And while the core of the freestyle motocross community remains in California, these days the top riders in any given event -- including X Games and the Red Bull X-Fighters series -- are just as likely to come from places like New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Norway, or Chile. Cases in point: French rider Remi Bizouard is the current leader in the 2012 Freestyle MX World Championships; Chilean rider Javier Villegas won the title in 2011.
Last week the IFMXF announced a multi-year partnership to bring FIM Freestyle MX World Championships events to China, beginning with an event in Guangzhou, September 15-16. Other remaining IFMXF events in 2012 include Night of the Jumps World Tour stops in Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Germany, but the host country for the first Freestyle of Nations event has not yet been announced.
"The very first Freestyle of Nations will be held in 2013, with rules, location, and date to be announced at a later stage," said IFMXF/Night of the Jumps World Tour spokesman Oliver Franke.