Taka Higashino is on a tear. The 28-year-old FMX elitist from Osaka, Japan has a hunger for precious metals—preferably gold—and has nourished this hunger by devouring nearly every significant competition he has entered over the past two years. When Taka first moved to the US back in 2006, freestyle’s biggest stage, the X Games, was still just a dream for the young Japanese rider. Now, seven years later, Taka is on top—he’s won back-to-back gold at X Games Los Angeles in Moto X Freestyle, gold in Freestyle at this year’s X Games Brazil, and stood atop the podium in front of his hometown crowd after a stunning upset of France’s Tom Pages when Red Bull X Fighters visited the Osaka Castle back in June. Taka continues to demonstrate why we chose him for the 2012 TWMX FMX Rider of the Year, so we caught up with him before he proceeded with his busy schedule and departed for the Nitro Circus Live Tour overseas.
Congrats on your gold medal! How was X Games for you?
X Games was great! At times during practice I felt the track was too tight and I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but then I started riding and started tricks. I made it through the first run pretty smooth and scored 90 points. I did it again in my second run and I ended up winning—so everything was good!
You’re the first non-American to win back-to-back gold in Moto X Freestyle—what does that mean to you to come from Japan and start winning like this in the US?
It’s crazy and I can’t believe it! I used to watch it on TV and hoped that one day I could compete in the X Games and now I am—it’s pretty crazy but I enjoy it and I’m lucky.
You threw down a new trick that we haven’t seen you do before. What was it?
It was the double grab back flip, and I had just learned it about two days before X Games so it was a pretty new trick for me.
Are you working on innovating anything else new that you’re going to unveil soon?
Yeah, I have one, but some of the tracks are too small. I have to figure out how to get over the bike sideways but one day I’ll make it. I’ve done it a couple of times in practice but I just have to focus a little more.
Winning in LA is as big as it gets; what did you do after to celebrate?
Nothing [laughs], we just went back home!
It was the last X Games in LA and next year it’ll go to Austin, how do you feel about that?
It’s great, but it’s different because I feel like X Games LA is a pretty important stop.
You also recently won X Fighters in your hometown of Osaka?
Yeah! I thought I was going to get second because Tom Pages was way better than me, but I ended up winning so it was great!
Was it crazy winning it there? Was the crowd going insane for you?
Yeah it was pretty crazy because I was home and everybody was watching. I had hoped to get top three, and then I made the final and I thought to myself, “Cool, I’m going to get second place!” But then I won.
Is it a different feeling going home now after all of your success?
No, not really!
You recently got married and bought a house here in the US?
Yeah, we bought a house in Murrieta and we’re now living the married life. Everything’s good and it’s awesome.
You have a lot of big sponsors including brands like Monster Energy, Famous Stars and Straps, and Shift MX. They all play a big part in helping you out, but which sponsor has been the most crucial to supporting your FMX career lately?
Monster Energy has been great, super nice and very professional!
You’re still riding a two-stroke even though a lot of other guys are jumping to 450 four-strokes. Do you ever plan on making the switch?
I could change to four-strokes, but it would cost me too much money and I’m doing well on my two-stroke—so it’s okay!
What are you plans for the rest of 2013?
I’m headed to France for one month, and then China, but I’m just going to try and relax, have no stress, and just visit friends and enjoy.