Japanese freestyle motocross rider Eigo Sato, 34, died Thursday after sustaining injuries while training for the 2013 Red Bull X-Fighters tour near his home in Iwaki City, Japan, according to a statement released by Red Bull.
"He was transported to hospital where he later passed away. We are deeply shocked and our thoughts are now with his family and friends," read the statement.
Sato made his X Games debut in 2009, the same year he finished third overall on the Red Bull X-Fighters world tour. He was very much at the top of his game, finishing in fifth place on the 2012 X-Fighters tour, and was among the list of confirmed competitors for the 2013 X-Fighters opener on March 8 in Mexico City where he was deemed a podium favorite.
"Eigo Sato, you teach me everything," wrote X Games gold medalist Taka Higashino, a fellow Japanese rider who has credited Sato as a mentor, in an Instagam post on Thursday morning. "You push me all time. You always by my side ... you're my hero and best friend. I'm gonna miss you."
Sato hailed from Iwaki Fukushima, Japan, and brought the Red Bull Rising Spirit exhibition to the nearby cities of Chosi and Asahi in 2011 following the tsunami devastation. The event also featured Daisuke Suzuki, Akira Kaga, Kota Kugimura, Chiharu Shioda and Yoshiki Sekishiro; Sato is credited with raising the profile of freestyle motocross in his home country and is cited as an inspiration by many of his fellow riders.
"RIP Eigo Sato," wrote his good friend André Villa, also in an Instagram post Thursday morning. "I love you. Always have, always will. You been like a big brother to me and I have always looked up to you. Nicest person in the pit, toughest man on the track. I can not believe you are gone. Thank you for everything you gave me and the people around you. For what you have done and who you have been, you will live forever. #EIGO4ever."