2012 has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows for Toowoomba jockey, Nori Yamada.
Nori reached the pinnacle of his career in March when he rode Miss Imagica to victory in the prestigious Listed Weetwood Handicap, and broke a 20-year-old 'Weetwood drought' for Toowoomba trainer, Michael Nolan.
Nori grins proudly as he reflects on the big race, “It was great and I really felt like I had done something with horse racing," he said.
"It's that big race that every Toowoomba jockey wants to win, they all talk about it, it's like a Group 1 race and I did it after only riding here for three years."
Nori had the world at his feet until tragedy struck when his mount, Carlson's Treasure clipped heels and fell in race 2 at Clifford Park on Saturday, June 9.
"I thought I was okay, I got up and walked away but the following day, I became gravely ill and could hardly move," Nori said.
He was hospitalised for almost a fortnight and it was determined he had suffered L2 and L3 fractures.
The injury has been compounded by previous serious neck and lower back injuries that Nori suffered in race falls earlier in his career. He lives with two screws and a metal plate in his neck, following a cervical fracture sustained in 2009.
In mid-July, his worst fears were confirmed; one of Queensland's leading orthopaedic surgeons advised Nori he should never ride again.
It has put an end to his short but successful six year career as a jockey and a lifetime of dreams.
"You need only one time to get yourself in a bad position and I've been dearly lucky," said Nori.
"I don't know how I have been able to walk away from the bad falls that I have had."
He has decided he doesn't want to push his luck and while disappointed, Nori is just grateful he hasn't been left in the same position as his former riding colleague, Kristy Banks who will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
"Maybe I will miss it sometimes, but I will try not to because I have made that decision myself," Nori stated.
"I' have got my son, little Mizuki, and my wife Maki who is pregnant with our second child due in January so now I just want to look after them."
With a positive outlook Nori is already moving on with his future.
The family is currently in Japan where Nori will complete his certificate as a vegetable sommelier delivered by the Japan Vegetable Sommelier Association.
"It's very popular in Japan and they are very famous chefs there, it's not something you see in Australia," laughs Nori.
"You are an expert on vegetables and make vegetable recipes and offer advice to restaurants like what vegetables work best in different dishes."
Nori plans to bring the trend back to Australia and will return to Toowoomba to take the reins of his new culinary career.
RACING Queensland web news: July 25, 2012
Photo by Noel Pascoe