Javier Villegas had dreams of one day competing against the best freestyle motocross riders in the world. Being from Chile, though, meant that to really get a shot at doing that, he was going to have to move far north, more specifically Southern California.
In 2005 Javier packed up his wife and kids to embark on this new journey. Moving to a foreign country and making all the adjustments that come with it are never easy, but Villegas has seemed to keep his sights set on accomplishing his goals.
Now that he's established himself among the top riders in FMX, Villegas has earned medals at X Games and Red Bull X-Fighters and a Night of the Jumps championship in 2011. Not a bad portfolio of results to be building. Just to have accomplished measurable success in X Games and X-Fighters alone is the highest reward you can achieve in FMX.
One more recognition that Villegas can hold close to his heart is being invited to the Sport Gala, a ceremony at Chile's presidential palace. Villegas received the "Higher, Stronger, Farther" award granted by Chilean president Sebastián Piñera for excellent achievement in one's given sport.
"Before there was no recognition, no prize, no nothing and with this, now there is a goal. There's a goal for them and they know they're not working for nothing," Villegas said.
This year is off to a great start for Villegas who has kicked off 2013 with a switch to the Honda CRF 450 and a spot on the Nuclear Cowboyz tour. He plans to continue competing against the best FMX riders in the world and making his country proud. Doing some PR for the Nuclear Cowboyz tour out at Jimmy Fitzpatrick's compound, Villegas took some time to talk with X Games.com.
XGames.com: So what do you have going on today? I see a lot of cameras out here at Fitzland. Villegas: Well, we're out here at Fitzland doing some PR for all the Latin community -- Telemundo, Univision -- and I'm doing interviews for the Nuclear Cowboyz tour. I invited everyone to come out to raise awareness that Marco Gonzales and I are the only Latin riders in America on the Nuclear Cowboyz tour.
So all the production teams out here today are here for you? Yeah, they're hyping the fact that we have Latin American riders out here doing this (FMX on the Nuclear Cowboyz tour) and helping target the Latino market to attract more people to the events. And we're also going to Mexico, so it'll all be good.
Speaking of Latin America, I heard you received an award in Chile for winning the 2011 IFMXA championships. Tell me about that. Well, every year for the last two years the Chilean government has been doing these dinner invitations to the presidential palace if you've achieved something important in sports. It's a way to pump up the people of Chile to become better athletes. Before there was no recognition, no prize, no nothing and with this, now there is a goal, there's a goal for them and they know they're not working for nothing.
Since I won Night of the Jumps in 2011, by the time I won the championships the invitations had already been [made]. So I had to wait till the following year in 2012. I received the invitation at the end of last year and I went. I won [a cash] prize for that, got an award trophy and got a speech from the president.
What was it like being at the presidential palace in your home country receiving such a prestigious award? It was pretty cool, actually it was pretty weird.
I was all suited up and I don't think I even got suited up when I got married so it was super weird. And it was funny because people wouldn't recognize me because I wasn't wearing shorts or a snap back, you know, but as soon as I was introduced people realized who I was and a bunch of people there wanted to take pictures of me, [have] a bunch of interviews because of the Chilean media there covering the event.
What does it mean to you, being from Chile and having to come to America to do FMX and then be recognized by your own president for your achievements? It's both frustrating and fulfilling at the same time. It's frustrating that I had to leave my country to make it big, I had to sacrifice so much to make it but there's no good reward without sacrifices. So it is really fulfilling to make it here and I think if I did make it big there in Chile without leaving, I would've come here anyways because I wanted to ride with the best. 'Cause what I wanted in my life was to compete against the best in the world and they're all here. That's why I came here because I wanted to compete against the best.
How is FMX in Chile now, have your achievements here influenced the FMX community there? It has grown a lot since I left. There's more riders, there is more amateur riders but there is no one going professional there really.
There is, though, a lot of young kids coming up that are practicing tricks. I get pictures from these kids or their parents saying their kids want to be like me. And that brings a lot of hope to see how the sport will evolve in Chile.
That's cool, tell me about the Nuclear Cowboyz Tour. Is this your first time being in the show? So long, such a long wait, the rehearsal was long and I'm not used to doing something like that. It was hard to stay motivated during the week because I always practice with a goal, I always practice with a trick or to win a competition. This time it was practicing to remember the routine and it was really exhausting by the end of the week.
So how was the actual show, did you enjoy that part? Well the show was actually great, while you do rehearsals you don't see how the show is going to be, so it would get frustrating like, "Why do we have to do this stuff again?" But then when you get the show together you see the whole thing and it's completely different. And having the fans there brings it to life. It makes all that hard work during the week worth it.
That's cool, You also made the switch to the trusty 450 now, how has the transition been? Moving to the 450 changed my life, I really feel like I wasted two years of my life riding a two-stroke. I was afraid of switching, I thought it would be hard to maintain but first day hitting ramps on it I was doing [almost] all of my tricks and by the second day I was doing all my tricks. So much more reliable in the air, so much easier to control, I don't think I'll ever go back to two-strokes again.