Hospitalised jockey Joe Fujii continues to inspire in his brave recovery from spinal injuries and has been buoyed by a visit from one of his all-time heroes Craig Williams while the Australian rider was in Japan for the World All-Star Jockeys series.
Fujii has been in a rehabilitation clinic since suffering severe spinal injuries in a race fall in April this year that left him unable to walk.
The popular Japanese rider’s fellow jockeys, including close friends Christophe Lemaire and Mirco Demuro, have rallied around him but a visit to the clinic from Williams and his wife Larysa was a surprise.
Fujii completed his apprenticeship in Australia and idolised Williams, who he had never met before this week’s visit.
“When Craig and Larysa came and visited I was so pleased, I have followed his career for a long time, ever since I was an apprentice,” Fujii said. “I remember seeing a documentary about him on TV. I admired that he had been very successful around the world – the UK, Hong Kong and of course at home in Victoria.”
The ever-positive Fujii took the opportunity to dig into what motivates Williams, well-known for his humanitarian and charity efforts, most recently in his wife’s war-stricken Ukraine.
“He is not just a great jockey, he is always trying to help people,” Fujii said. “He told me he just likes to see everybody happy and that if everybody is happy he feels satisfied with what he has done. It was inspiring to talk to him.”
It has been a difficult month for Fujii and the tight knit Japanese-Oceania racing community after the death of young Japanese rider Taiki Yanagida as a result of injuries sustained in a race fall in New Zealand.
“It was very sad what happened,” Fujii said. “He messaged me after my fall in April.”
Lemaire returned from his European summer break recently and gifted his Shergar Cup ‘rest of the world’ team jacket to his friend.
“It was so wonderful of him to do that for me. I am wishing the guys luck this weekend in Sapporo.”
Fujii has also been able to see his wife and three young children for the first time since the day after the accident. COVID restrictions had meant they were not able to enter the hospital previously.
Article – Asian Racing Report , Michael Cox