Taka Higashino helps debut Moto X QuarterPipe at X Games Austin

Taka Higashino Moto X Quarterpipe

Taka Higashino set to soar at the first-ever Moto X QuarterPipe competition at X Games Austin 2015. Photo: Matt Morning/ESPN Images

Taka Higashino hasn't sleep for more than a week. This will be his routine until after Sunday, June 7, the day he steps up to the ramp at the first-ever Moto X QuarterPipe competition during X Games Austin 2015.

Higashino, 30, is arguably the best competitive freestyle motocross rider in the world, with five X Games medals to his name, but even he isn't impervious to game-day nerves.

"Since X Games [is coming up], I can't sleep at night," he says with genuine kid-on-Christmas-morning enthusiasm. Speaking via phone from his home in Murrieta, California, Higashino says he's still adjusting to working with the quarterpipe ramp.

"With freestyle, it's jumping and then I can do a crazy trick. But a quarterpipe is very new for me. With Moto X QuarterPipe, we have to jump a lift [at the top of the ramp], so takeoff and landing make a difference."

Taka Higashino Moto X Quarterpipe

Taka Higashino celebrates his gold-medal win in Moto X Freestyle at X Games Foz do Iguaçu 2013. Photo: Luiz Doro/ESPN Images

Moto X QuarterPipe is one of two new disciplines debuting at X Games Austin 2015. Six freestyle riders will each attempt a trick off a single quarterpipe feature and each rider will have two runs, with his best score counting toward the final score.

After weather conditions preempted last year's Freestyle competition in Austin, it'll be the first time Higashino returns to an X Games program in two years.

The Osaka, Japan, native starting riding at age 8, when his father, a motorcycle enthusiast, first took him to a motorcycle track. He honed his craft in Japan before moving to the United States in 2006, making his X Games debut in 2007.

Three years later, he won bronze in the Best Trick competition, becoming the first Japanese athlete to medal in X Games MTX. He followed that up with Freestyle gold at X Games Los Angeles 2012, another first for a Japanese athlete, and another Freestyle gold at X Games Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, in 2013.

Despite being of the most dominant names in MTX, Higashino exudes a measured coolness when it comes to his progression: "I try to have fun. When I start having fun, I [come up] with new tricks. If I get stressed about a competition or stressed about creating a new trick, then I start to get really boring. Sometimes it's super fun, and sometimes it's super stressful."

He's spent the last month and a half training on a custom-built ramp setup in Japan, which he acknowledges is hardly any time considering his inexperience with the quarterpipe.

Nonetheless, he's working on something special for the occasion. Having made history at X Games Los Angeles 2012 by landing The Rock Solid backflip in competition, this year he wants to put his own twist on the 540 Indy.

"It looks strange. It's like a backflip, but going to the side [of the bike]. I'm moving everywhere, the bike and the body. It's pretty crazy because I've never done a 540 Indy off a quarterpipe. If I do it smoothly, I think it's going to be pretty cool," he says, then pauses for a moment. "I don't care what place I get; I just want to land it."

Moto X QuarterPipe at X Games Austin 2015 will be broadcast on ABC and ESPN3 on Sunday, June 7, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Check the X Games Austin tune-in schedule for updates and more information.

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