LOS ANGELES -- Japanese rider Taka Higashino unveiled a never-before-seen backflip Rock Solid double grab -- Moto X Best Trick material -- in the first hit of his first run in the Moto X Freestyle final on Thursday on his way to claiming his first gold medal at X Games.
"It's too exciting: It's like a dream, it's like it's not true," said Higashino, ecstatic after the final results were posted. "This is my dream. It's crazy! I've been working hard every day for five years, thinking, 'I wish, I wish, I wish' and I've spent all of my life working on this X Games dream. It was all about that Rock Solid for me. After landing that I don't even remember anything else from my run."
Higashino posted a score of 93.33 for his first of two runs, which also featured a Kiss Of Death flip, a heel-clicker flip, and a massive no-handed Superman air to holy grab. The score held for first place, beating out New Zealand's Levi Sherwood and Chilean rider Javier Villegas, whose bronze medal marks his X Games debut. [He was invited as an alternate in Moto X Freestyle and Speed & Style in 2011.]
"I was just happy to be selected to compete here, where they only take the top 10 riders in the world, and here I am with my first medal," Villegas said. The 2011 FIM Freestyle MX World Champion now lives in California with his family and has said he's focused on becoming the top rider in the world. "It was the best run I could put together on this amazing course: I cleared my head and it was just the ramp, the bike and me. The stadium was empty, and then I landed my last trick and the stadium was full again."
U.S. rider Nate Adams, last year's gold medalist, finished in fourth place after a tie-breaker decision that scored his and Villegas' second runs as an average of all five judges' scores, instead of the usual average of three scores, with the highest and lowest point-scores dropped out. Australian rider Blake "Bilko" Williams finished fifth, ahead of U.S. rider Adam Jones [last year's silver medalist], Australian rider Rob Adelberg, Spanish rider Dany Torres[(last year's bronze medalist], U.S. rider Todd Potter [the current leader on the 2012 Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour], and Norwegian rider Andre Villa. All three of Thursday's top finishers now live and train in California full time, but the all-international podium reflects the global spread of freestyle motocross over the past decade.
Higashino also will be competing in the Moto X Best Trick competition on Friday, airing at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Adams, who has been rehabilitating an injured shoulder over the past nine months, will defend his gold in the Moto X Speed & Style race on Saturday, airing at 9 p.m. ET.