Living far away in Japan, Taka Higashino had a dream of living in the United States, riding freestyle motocross for a living and hopefully winning a gold medal.
Well, that dream has been getting closer to coming true more and more every year for Higashino. With one bronze medal to show for in five previous X Games, he finally took home gold this year at X Games Los Angeles. His run on June 28 was nothing short of electrifying from his stripper flips, the infamous rock solid flip to hugely extended right-side-up tricks, Higashino was on a mission to put on the performance of his life.
Weeks and months leading up to the event he was out practicing every day throwing down all his A-list tricks and critiquing his every move on video. Hard work pays off and one thing is for sure: Higashino, who won silver in Moto X Best Trick a night later, is one of the gnarliest freestyle motocross riders out there, if not the gnarliest.
With his dreams being reality it's an inspiration to anyone that if you have a dream and you work your heart out for it, it can come true.
ESPN.com: Well, first off, how happy are you to finally get your first gold medal?
Higashino: Gold medal is a dream; I still can't believe it. The first time I come to the U.S. I was only thinking I wish I could get a gold medal but now I have and it's no more pressure [on me].
Hands down everyone knew that you deserved gold, how hard did you work on practicing leading up to the event?
Yeah, I ride every day but I don't try too hard, [I] just make sure I have fun and enjoy every day. Some years before, I would try too hard and get too stressed and have no fun. I tried not to think about score and just do my tricks like I did every day in practice.
How was the day of the event for you? Were you nervous or just focused on doing your job?
Not nervous at all. I had two practices and in the first one I try all my tricks, so I knew I was comfortable and confident. But up on staging, waiting for TV [broadcast to start] I saw a bolt was missing on a flip lever and I think, "Oh, that's no good I need to fix [this] before I go." And so I was lucky to be able to get down into the pits before it was time and fix it. That was a little scary for a moment because you need flip levers to do tricks.
You're very consistent in throwing your tricks every run, what do you contribute that to?
[A] long time riding every day. I know I can do my tricks because I practice every day, filming and watching my riding. I feel comfortable.
How was the learning process you went through to finally get that trick?
Just two days of hitting the foam pit and doing under 20 into the pit. Then hitting [the] 75-foot ramp and start small, then go bigger till perfect rock solid back flip. I tried at first to do a one-handed seat grab back flip but it was so hard I just try rock solid back flip. Double grab back flips were more comfortable so I just think. "Oh maybe a rock solid back flip might be easier."
Did you think in the months leading up to X Games that would be the deciding trick that would help seal gold for you?
Oh no I just thought it would be a good scoring trick and maybe top three score. I think for me a rock solid back flip is [an] easy trick so I didn't think it would win gold but after first run score came in I see 90 and I said, "Oh my God."
Did you ever think you'd be living in America riding FMX for a living and now a gold medal holder?
No way, no way, I come here and think this is my goal but I only think it's a dream.
Well, holding that gold medal means you are the top guy in the world in our sport, congrats!
Ahh thank you, arigato.