A couple days ago, freestyle motocross rider Eigo Sato died in a training accident. As a long-time fan of the sport, I was devastated by the news. Sato was the first Asian rider I knew of, and throughout the years, he’s not only helped FMX but the people hit by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. I wanted to pay tribute to him by highlighting his many accomplishments in this profile.
Name: Eigo Sato
Name in Kanji: 佐藤英吾
Date of birth: October 30, 1978
Hometown: Iwaki, Fukushima
Sport: Freestyle motocross
Notable achievements: first Japanese rider to do a back flip on a dirt bike, 3rd place overall in 2009 Red Bull X-Fighters, organizer of Red Bull Fighting Spirit
Date of death: February 28, 2013
Eigo Sato first made a name for himself representing Team Asia at the X Games Global Championships in 2003. A couple months later, he became the first Japanese rider to do a back flip. He would continue to be a pioneer, helping fellow Japanese riders get noticed overseas while promoting his sport at home.
From Chuck Carothers (freestylemtx.com)
The Team Virus rider began competing in the Red Bull X-Fighters series in 2006. Three years later, he was the runner-up in the Mexico City and Calgary stops. Those finishes helped him obtain a third place overall ranking.
After battling injuries, Sato scored a third place finish in the 2011 Red Bull X-Fighters competition in Poland. While in Austria for the Masters of Dirt competition, he learned that his hometown in the Fukushima Prefecture was one of the cities hit hard by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Despite losing his office which was in a friend’s house, he worked to keep his countrymen’s spirits up. Sato organized Red Bull Fighting Spirit, an FMX demo for affected cities in the neighboring Chiba Prefecture. He also recorded the following message:
Sato was known for his creative runs and kind personality. He had been training for the upcoming X-Fighters tour, and despite being the oldest rider, he didn’t seem to be slowing down. Although no official word has been said about what happened, one of his fellow riders mentioned that he under-rotated a back flip, and Red Bull stated that he had been transported to a hospital. He is survived by his wife and son, as well as many freestyle motocross riders (from Japan and elsewhere) who look up to him.
Listening to: “Sakura” – Jam9