King of Ground 2005 finals

     King of Ground 2005 finals in Tokyo

Photo credits: Take-yang

Whatever you thought you knew about Flatland contests or Flatland in general, if you have not been to one of the King of Ground contests in Japan, in the best case the finals of the three contests a year series, you might have to think again. As far as I have experienced it, it seems in Europe and the USA, too many riders do mostly the same tricks. Sure, everybody has their own style, some do tricks that are a little more difficult, some even do really, really hard stuff. But in the end, only a few riders stand out, the rest pretty much looks the same to me.

At this years KOG finals in Tokyo, my mind was once again opened to how beautiful a thing Flatland can be. It was a two day event, with 194 riders in total. When I got to the venue at 9:15 Saturday morning, riders stood next to one another along the barriers surrounding the contest area, leaving no gap for another rider. But only four of them were riding at a time, giving each other enough space to try their tricks at least a few times before the contest would start at 10 o’clock. This was the novice class, and I was impressed with the quality of riding. I had the feeling that most riders rather tried to do some tricks very well instead of doing too many tricks and pulling none. With 90 riders in this class, there was no space at all for me to ride. I went for a walk around the Asakusa area, where the contest was held in a multi sport court next to a mall called Rox. This court can be rented for events, as done by the crew around Takashi Ito, who organizes the KOG series. While I was wandering around, the contest progressed and in the early afternoon hours I came back to see the expert class riding. This class had 79 riders, many of them so good it embarrassed me to be riding pro. Earlier this year the expert class has seen York Uno and Akira Okamura, who was riding expert again at the Finals. This is the 2004 pro World Champion if anyone forgot. That seems rather strange to many, but it is simply a result of the strict rules for KOG.

Unless you are a visiting foreigner, you have to qualify for the pro class. You can either do that by winning one of the expert events on a Saturday and turning pro the next day, or by getting top three in the year end standings. Since both Akira and York did not compete in 2004, they had to qualify for the pro class for 2005. Yes, Japan can be very strict, but I think this is a result of so many people living on such a small area. If you don’t obey the rules, you will end up in total chaos all too soon.
Back to the contest: Sunday was the day for the pros. Since Akira won the expert class, that qualified him for the pro contest on Sunday. He actually had an awesome run in the expert finals, but could not repeat it in pro qualifying, so he missed the cut. Foreigners who came to ride in the KOG Finals were Art Thomason from the US, Martti Kuoppa, Alexis Desolneux and myself. Not very many compared to previous years, for reasons I don’t know. Anyway, Sunday started with some early practice, registration and then what was called the “One Touch Jam”. Whoever wanted to take part signed up for it and had a maximum of three tries to pull a difficult combo that represents his style. Before that started, I realized Martti had disappeared and not returned. He mentioned before he had some stuff to do at his Hotel. Until he came back, nobody knew what he had to do. When he returned, it was pretty obvious. He had decided to paint his face in warrior style, which earned him the nickname “Mr. Pumpkin” for the day. To me, it was a thing that one could think about, but would never have the courage to do. Martti did it and it was great! Well, 17 riders signed up for the “One Touch Jam”, and as you know the winner turned out to be Martti Kuoppa!
For the actual contest we were 29 riders in the pro class, riding the prelims in three groups, with 15 minutes practice time in between the groups. I was nervous, because you can imagine it is tough to qualify in a strong field of mostly Japanese pros. Since all amateur prelims and finals had been held on Saturday, there seemed to be a bit of a gap after the prelims with everyone wondering what was to happen next. Some riding took place and soon the finalists were announced. Long story short, Martti qualified first. I also made the cut and was happy! Everone warmed up again and as usual, the tenth place qualifier started off the finals and the number one qualifier ended the finals. In this case it was Martti, who also won the Finals.
Other stand outs were Kotaro Tanaka with a very dialled run and great showmanship and Hiroya Morisaki, with his all or nothing attitude.

I did not actually see their runs, but they must have been good, because they got third and second respectively. After the finals were over, everyone was just waiting for the trophies being handed out, the pro year end standings, which Takuma Kawamura won with Kotaro Tanaka in second and Hiroya Morisaki in third.

After a closing ceremony everyone went their ways, many probably thinking of the next KOG.



1 Martti Kuoppa
2 Kotaro Tanaka
3 Hiroya Morizaki
4 Michael Staingraeber
5 Hirokazu Miura
6 Eiichirou Watanabe
7 Takuma Kawamura
8 Shinichiro Hara
9 Yoshihiro Nishikawa
10 Seiji Sakata

1 Akira Okamura
2 Eiji Kataoka
3 Hidekazu Kuga
4 Tomokazu Morinaga
5 Yorimitsu Miyata
6 Koutarou Arai
7 Norihiko Kouno
8 Yousuke Yamaguchi
9 Kenshirou Hori
10 X

1 Masato Ito
2 Katsushi Tanaka
3 Yukiya Murata
4 Kouhei Fujii
5 Shouhei Okamoto
6 Takumi Etou
7 Kouichi Higo
8 Yuuki Sugimoto
9 Fumihisa Maeda
10 Kazuya Kuwahara

Pro Year End Standings

1 Takuma Kawamura
2 Kotaro Tanaka
3 Hiroya Morizaki
4 Shinichiro Hara
5 Youhei Uchino
6 Hideki Kawai
7 Seiji Sakata
8 Yoshihiro Shinde
9 Eiichirou Watanabe
10 Shintaro Misawa
Expert Year End Standings

1 Yousuke Yamaguchi
2 Eiji Kataoka
3 Takayuki Iwa
4 Hironao Doukou
5 Yorimitsu Miyata
6 Masataka Yamamoto
7 Yuki Takeuchi
8 Tomoyasu Nozaki
9 Keisuke Tanigawa
10 Akihiko Takahasi

Complete Results and Year End Standings are available in the forum and on the official website.

9th of November 2005 - Michael Steingraeber