FOZ DO IGUAÇU, Brazil -- Taka Higashino, the X Games Los Angeles 2012 Moto X Freestyle gold medalist, grabbed his second gold medal on Sunday, closing out X Games Foz do Iguaçu with a win over Australian rider Rob Adelberg and X Games rookie Wes Agee of Temecula, Calif. The Japanese rider wore an Eigo Sato patch on his pants, in honor of his friend who died in February while training for this year's competition season.
"I feel like it's not true, like I'm still sleeping," Higashino said in a breathless podium interview after the competition. "It's crazy. This is fantastic."
Higashino led after the first of two runs in the nine-man finals, with a little help from the rock-solid backflip, double-grab combo that earned him a Best Trick silver medal last year in Los Angeles. He had the lead over Adelberg, Agee, French rider David Rinaldo (the current leader on the 2013 FIM Freestyle MX World Championship circuit), Czech rider Libor Podmol (who won bronze, his first X Games medal, in the Moto X Step Up competition on Friday), Brazilian riders Gilmar Flores and Fred Kyrillos, and Australian rider Jackson "Jacko" Strong.
On his first hit, Strong landed a corked front flip, the trick that won him Best Trick gold in 2011, and Sunday was the first time the trick ever had been seen in Moto X Freestyle competition at X Games. On his third hit, Strong crashed after under-rotating a cliffhanger backflip. He was carried out on a backboard but managed to wave to his fans on the way out. X Games medical staff confirmed that he was conscious, moving and alert. Strong was transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, but a CT scan came back negative, according to X Games medical. He also broke the tibia in his right leg, and X Games medical reported he would be released later Sunday night.Strong later posted the following message on his Facebook page: "Hey everyone, I'm OK, I've just got a little broken bone in my ankle and I'm beat up but otherwise I'm all good. Thanks for all of the support!"
The top spots on the leaderboard remained unchanged through Run 2, with Adelberg taking silver -- his first X Games medal in three appearances -- and Agee winning bronze, leaving Higashino to take a victory lap for his new fans in Brazil and in front of his new wife, who he proposed to during a podium interview last year at X Games Los Angeles.
"Obrigado," Higashino said -- Portuguese for thank you -- pressing his palms together and bowing as he addressed the crowd to uproarious applause. Higashino's winning run included a backflip Cordova, a rowdova, the backflip rock solid combo that has become his signature, a backflip seatgrab barhop, a holy grab combo, a backflip seatgrab Indian air look-back, and a backflip kiss of death look-back.