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03.01.12

Javier Villegas' Long Road to Success

ESPN Interview

Doug Parsons / ESPN

With the hub of freestyle motocross being located in Southern California, it can be difficult for international competitors to get noticed from afar. Chilean FMX rider Javier Villegas knows this all too well. Hailing from South America, Villegas knew that if he wanted to gain momentum with his riding career and fulfill his dream of riding at the professional level, he would have to pack up his family and make the journey to America. Seven years ago, Villegas and his family moved to Southern California.

Though his career has been plagued with the ups and downs of the professional FMX circuit, Villegas has managed to make the best of it, becoming an international FMX icon that earned him the 2011 Night of the Jumps FIM World Championship, a title he hopes to maintain going into the 2012 season. With a Night of the Jumps contest on deck in Italy this coming weekend, we recently caught up with the Chilean transplant now living full-time in California. This is Javier Villegas.

What country are you from?
I was born in Chile, a nice country from the south cone of the continent.

What is it like being an international rider living in the heart of the FMX industry?
It is great, it's been years since I wanted to move here, but things never seem to be right and I noticed that if I kept waiting for the conditions to be right, I might never make it here. So I told my wife that we were giving the big jump and trying to pursue my career in Southern California, and so far, I'm loving it. I get to ride with so many riders at so many places, it's great.

What is it like to live in another country and watch FMX from outside the box?
From the outside, it definitely looks more glamorous than it is, still easier than what it was in my country. When I got to the U.S., I thought that it would be like everybody inviting me to ride their places and would be hooking me up with sponsors, but it does take a lot of work to earn things.

When did you know that you wanted to take a leap of faith and move to the US to pursue your dreams as a FMX rider?
Since I did Global X Games in 2003, I knew I had to move to the U.S. to improve my riding, I knew that hanging out with top riders, I would be able to ride better too. Then when my parents moved to the U.S., it was a great platform to get behind my goals. So in 2005, I just grabbed everything I had, which wasn't much, and moved to the states.

What is it like to live here in the U.S. but travel overseas constantly to ride in contests and demos?
Very exhausting, I wish there was more professional contest here in the U.S. Spending over 13 hours on a plane every few weeks takes a toll on you. But there is a great side to it -- I'm visiting so many places and making so many new friends. I have to say is really worth it.

Do you bring your family with you every time?
Not really, my older kid is in school and I don't want him to miss any of that. When he's on vacations, I take them to all the shows and contest I can. I love to have them around.

What series are you planning on doing in 2012?
I hope I get to do all of them, I just want to ride at the top level as much as I can. I love challenges, and I want to compete as much as I can against all of the top warriors of FMX. Right now I have the Night of the Jumps world series and European Cup confirmed and am still working to get invites for the other events such as Red Bull X-Fighters, X Games and Dew Tour.

What are your goals for this year?
I want to defend my title, that's number one, I also I want to win the European Cup, get podiums in X-Fighters and medals in X games. That's my goal every year. I want to close the year riding better than how I started and of course, finish the year without any injuries.

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  • Javier Villegas, Photo: NIGHToftheJUMPS.com
  • Javier Villegas
  • Javier Villegas, Photo: NIGHToftheJUMPs.com