Hiranos, Tomitas give Japan 7 snowboarders in halfpipe finals

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ayumu Hirano competes in the first qualifying round of the men’s halfpipe at the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic silver medalist snowboarder Ayumu Hirano had the best score in the men’s halfpipe qualification runs at the Beijing Winter Games on Wednesday, as Japan took a third of the 12 spots in Friday’s final.

On the women’s side, Mitsuki Ono and the Tomita sisters Sena and Ruki qualified the same day for Thursday’s women’s halfpipe final at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, northwest of Beijing in Hebei Province.

Ayumu Hirano, 23, who won silver in the halfpipe at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2018 Pyeongchang Games, scored a 93.25, and his brother Kaishu, 19, recorded a 77.25, good for ninth place. Not related to the brothers is Ruka Hirano, also 19, who was third with a score of 87.00, with Yuto Totsuka, the 20-year-old 2021 world champion in sixth at 84.50.

Australia’s Scotty James, 27, who took bronze in the halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Olympics, was second at 91.25.

American legend Shaun White, 35, who won his third halfpipe gold medal in Pyeongchang after also topping the field at the 2006 Turin Games and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, had an 86.25 on his second qualification run, good for fourth. The pressure was on the American after his disastrous first run only scored a 24.25.

The qualification scores determine the starting order in the final, meaning Ayumu Hirano will be the last snowboarder to make his run.

In the women’s final, Chloe Kim, the 21-year-old American who won the halfpipe gold in Pyeongchang, will make her run last after topping the qualification field with an 87.75.

Ono, making her Olympic debut at age 17, was second with a score of 83.75. Sena Tomita, 22, placed fifth with a 75.75, while her sister Ruki, 20, was just behind her with a score of 74.25. Sena Tomita finished eighth at Pyeongchang Olympics.

Kurumi Imai, 22, in her second consecutive Olympics, did not qualify for the final, finishing 15th with a score of 54.75.

Japan’s best result in the women’s halfpipe was at the 2014 Sochi Games, when Rana Okada finished fifth.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mitsuki Ono competes in the second qualifying round of the women’s halfpipe at the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday.

Summer to winter

Ayumu Hirano, who represented Japan in the men’s skateboarding competition at the Tokyo Olympics, had invited concerns as he was competing in the Winter Games just a handful of months after the Tokyo Games. During his qualification runs, he showed off spectacular performances boosted by more refined technique.

Totsuka, who finished 11th at the Pyeongchang Games at the age of 16, won his first world championship last March, defeating James, who was aiming for a fourth consecutive title.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ruki Tomita competes in the first qualifying round of the women’s halfpipe at the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday.

In December, Ruka Hirano won the opening round of the World Cup for his second career victory.

During the Winter X Games held just last month, Kaishu Hirano finished third as Ayumu Hirano took second.