Just like every other rider at the 2017 Nitro World Games in Salt Lake City, Taka Higashino logged countless hours preparing for the second annual FMX event, but it all went out the window when he went down at the end of his qualifying run. Taka slightly under-rotated a front flip and was immediately tossed to the ground resulting in a dislocated shoulder that ultimately sidelined him for the event. Prior to the contest, we sat down with the FMX star to discuss the NWG along with his shoulder injury and his plans for the rapidly approaching 2017 X Games.

Unfortunately, you went down in practice on Friday ultimately injuring yourself to the point where you had to sit out the competition. Talk about what happened.
Yeah, Friday was our open practice day/qualifiers. Everything was going really well, as I was nailing all of my tricks. I’d say the only trick that was actually scaring me a little was the cliffhanger backflip because it was getting a little windy at the time in the stadium. In fact, I almost crashed earlier doing that trick because of the wind, but I really wasn’t even nervous about the front flip because I’ve done them so many times now. After we got through practice,  we started with the qualifiers. I did the cliffhanger-flip without any problems, so I went about the rest of my run with confidence. I went for the front flip, and as I was rotating I thought I had it, so maybe I got a little too comfy. I think I under rotated just a little bit, and I think I first noticed it once I left the ramp. I shorted the jump just a little bit, as well and from that I hit my chest on my handlebars; I think the initial impact from coming up short is what dislocated my shoulder. During the first practice session, the airbag was out for the people that wanted to do dial in front flips, but it was only out there for an hour. The airbag is a great new safety tool for us, especially if we’re not going to stick the landing. If you happen to get both wheels down for a perfect landing, though, prepare to eat shit. The bag is great, but it can be a little dangerous at times because of the speed we’re carrying. When you hit the bag you come to a near dead-stop. I actually hurt my neck jumping into that thing. I got what seemed like whiplash because the next day I could barely turn my head (laughs).

Although you’re unable to compete at the NWG, is it still exciting for you to see some of the things that the other riders are doing?
Yeah! I actually got to watch practice, which was a nice change for me because it gave me the chance to study what the other guys are doing. It was funny to see the different characters that FMX and Best Trick bring together, because some guys are methodical and calculated during practice and qualifying, while others are out there just absolutely sending it. I guess that’s just something I’ve never noticed when I’m out there focusing on my own tricks. FMX is going crazy, too because everyone has a big trick these days. I can’t wait to retire (laughs).

The Nitro World Games crew constructed some pretty wild ramps and landings that enable you guys to do insane tricks. You’ve obviously spent plenty of time on them, but what was your initial opinion of these new “tools?”
I really wasn’t a huge fan of that stuff at first. I may have even talked a little shit (laughs), but that’s only because I was unfamiliar with it. This year, they had open qualifying in Perris, CA, so I was able to get in a sufficient amount of time on those ramps and landings. I think with these ramps it helps to level the playing field because not very many of us have that kind of set up to practice on anytime we want. A lot less effort and technique is required when doing these tricks with these ramps, but your timing still has to be on point! There’s a completely different feeling as you’re approaching these ramps, as well because you have to go a little bit faster than normal.

This year’s NWG trumped its inaugural event in 2016 in more ways than one. Is it crazy for you to think what we’ll see in 2018?
Yeah, of course! Before the NWG, all we ever used was the typical 75 foot ramp and a super-kicker, so we were limited with what we could do. With these new ramps, the sky is the limit! The progress that we’ve seen in just the last year or so has been crazy. I think I still prefer the old two ramp setup, though. I think the two ramps really showcase a rider’s talent on a motorcycle. That’s the kind of setup that guys like Levi Sherwood, Adam Jones and Josh Sheehan excel on. Here at the NWG, though, it really is wild to think of what will go down next year. This event almost seems to be like a different category or sport in itself because it’s so much different than anything we normally encounter.

What’s next up for you after the NWG?
I’m headed to France next and then Spain for X-Fighters. After that, I’ll fly home for one day and then head off to X Games.

Is your shoulder going to be healed in time for X Games?
I don’t know. I’ll just pop a Viagra (laughs). It feels okay right now, but I’ll have to wait and see what happens. The last dislocation I had was worse than it was this time around, so maybe that’ll work to my benefit. I know I can ride a motorcycle, but doing freestyle is totally different because you have to move fast. I’m really focused on X Games, but I’m going to have to take this day by day.