On September 19, 2021, Takahisa Fujinami announced his retirement from 26 years of world championship racing. This is the story of the only Japanese rider to become a champion in the Trial World Championship, covering his return to racing in 2014 after recovering from injury, to the legend’s retirem
In 2014 when Fujinami decided not to compete in the X-Trials but concentrate on outdoor trials, his anterior cruciate ligament on the right knee was still torn. Although he anticipated a tough season, Fujigas was not ready to give in, but would compete as hard, if not harder, than anyone expected from him.
He knew it would be tough to win the world championship with a torn ligament. He would be competing against riders who had minor, or no, injuries.
But, Fujinami won the opening round in Australia. He surprised everyone, including himself. He was on the podium in the next round in Japan, finishing third. Fujinami completed the season, torn ligament and all, fifth overall, and only then did he have his right knee operated on, preparing for the next season.
In 2015, Fujinami stunned everyone once again. Any normal person would consider starting rehabilitation six months after a major operation, but Fujinami rode to second place in the opening round in Japan. He went on to third place finishes in Sweden and France as well.
2015 for Fujinami was no easy ride. He had torn the ligament on his right knee, but had placed tremendous strain on his left knee to compensate. As he had difficulty stretching his right leg, his riding form demanded that he place all of his weight on his left side, which led to other problems. If he took painkillers, he would injure other parts of his body without realizing it. The pain, however, began to subside mid-season. He was not fully recovered, but he felt much better, and finished the season fifth overall.
In 2016, Fujinami was close to a full recovery. He scored third place for the second time at the Japan trial, back on top once again when he won in France, his first victory since Australia in 2014. The Australian trial was where he won as he began his recovery from ligament damage, so France became the win that marked his comeback.
2016 was not done with Fujinami yet, though. His win in France placed him third in the championship. He had a chance of finishing the year in third, but breaking his left wrist at an indoor round, albeit not disastrous for a rider, would seriously hamper the probability of securing third place at the final round in five weeks.
Fujinami endured the pain, riding his best through every section in the final round, scoring sixth and fifth. He fended off challenges from Albert Cabestany and Jeroni Fajardo to close the season in third place, for the first time in five years.
After finishing the 2017 season fifth and 2018 sixth, Fujinami was once again third in 2019, winning five podiums out of the eight rounds. Takahisa Fujinami was still one of the world’s best trial riders.
In 2020, the sudden pandemic changed everything. Schedules were canceled, and the TrialGP season was shortened, to Fujinami’s disadvantage. He needed time to accustom himself to the new-spec bike, which took time. The season ended while Fujinami still learned and modified his riding. His overall ranking of seventh was the first time since 1996, his debut year, when he had performed so badly.
2021, the coronavirus still rages on. Fujinami had been considering his retirement since last year, yet hardly anyone knew that this was to be his last season.
Only a few knew of his intentions, as Fujinami was determined to concentrate as a trial rider until clearing the final section.
On the second day of Round 1 in Italy, Fujinami won for the first time in five years. No-one had a clue he was going to retire, so this win only led people to believe he would keep on going.
Fujinami’s will was strong. He did his best throughout the 2021 season, and finished the year ranked third overall. He then announced the end to his 26-year world championship career.
In his professional world championship career, Fujinami had won 34 trials, and was on the podium 168b times. He was world champion once. In 350 out of the 355 trials he competed in, he had finished within the top 15.
Takahisa Fujinami’s performance and results, along with his lovable personality, brought happiness and inspiration to trial fans all over the world.