Japanese rider Taka Higashino and French rider Tom Pagès paid fitting tribute to their fallen friend Eigo Sato on Saturday, taking the top spots in the Red Bull X-Fighters event Sato helped bring to Osaka, Japan, before his death in February.
"I can't believe it, [to be] home riding is great," Higashino said after narrowly edging out Pagès in the head-to-head finals in an upset that surprised him as much as anybody. "I don't think I won, so I don't know."
Pagès was the top qualifier coming into the event, just ahead of Higashino, then dispatched fellow French rider David Rinaldo and U.S. rider Adam Jones (who later defeated Australian rider Rob Adelberg in the consolation round for third place) in head-to-head competition on his way to the finals showdown with Higashino, an Osaka native who was the clear crowd favorite in the first X-Fighters event ever held in Japan.
Higashino's path to finals went through Chilean rider Javier Villegas and Adelberg, and his final run included the rock solid backflip combo air that has become his signature since unveiling it at X Games Los Angeles 2012 as well as a kiss of death backflip, rowdova to fist pump combo, sidesaddle to cat nac indy, Cordova backflip, KOD Indian air backflip, turndown whip, holy grab, double nac, KOD, dead body stripper grab combo, and a crashed 360 attempt, just after the buzzer.
"I just promised Eigo last night if I made it to final I've gotta do a 360," he said. "Last jump I thought I still had one second more so I still had time to try a 360 there. I tried but I lost and crashed, but I tried my best." The judges ruled he was not under power as his run timed out, so the fall did not count against his final score.
Pagès had a nearly flawless run packed with tricks that would have been unheard of just a few years ago, including a massive Indian air 540 flair on the quarterpipe, a volt body varial, flatliner indy grab, special flip, and one-handed Hart attack, as well as the sidesaddle takeoff to airplane air that had been a Sato staple, but did not throw a single backflip variation in his run. He's won without them as recently as the 2013 X-Fighters opener in March in Mexico City, but the judges in Osaka apparently weren't having it.
Higashino and Pagès held a Japanese flag aloft together in honor of Sato as their scores came in, with Higashino rocking an "Eigo Sato" patch on the seat of his pants and Pagès wearing a jersey with a printed image of Sato. It came down to a close decision, with Pagès winning points for use of course and energy, and Higashino winning on execution, variety, and style.
Saturday's victory bumped Higashino up to fifth place in the overall standings with two events remaining in the six-stop series, which continues July 19 in Madrid, Spain and concludes Sept. 7 in Pretoria , South Africa. Pagès now holds a comfortable 60-point lead over second-place Adelberg in the season standings.
Red Bull X-Fighters results: Osaka, Japan, June 1, 2013
|1||Taka Higashino (JPN)|
|2||Thomas Pagès (FRA)|
|3||Adam Jones (USA)|
|4||Rob Adelberg (AUS)|
|5||Levi Sherwood (NZL)|
|6||Dany Torres (ESP)|
|7||Javier Villegas (CHL)|
|8||David Rinaldo (FRA)|
|9||Josh Sheehan (NZL)|
|10||Daisuke Suzuki (JPN)|
Red Bull X-Fighters standings through June 1, 2013
|1||Thomas Pagès (FRA)||325|
|2||Rob Adelberg (AUS)||265|
|3||Dany Torres (ESP)||245|
|4||Levi Sherwood (NZL)||190|
|5||Taka Higashino (JPN)||165|
|6||Josh Sheehan (AUS)||110|
|7||Adam Jones (USA)||110|
|8||David Rinaldo (FRA)||105|
|9||Javier Villegas (CHL)||85|
|10||Maikel Melero (ESP)||60|