Ayumu Hirano captures halfpipe gold

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ayumu Hirano holds a Japanese flag during a flower ceremony after winning the gold in men’s halfpipe in snowboarding on Friday.

BEIJING — Ayumu Hirano’s third Olympic medal came in an even better color than the first two.

Two-time silver medalist Hirano, 23, brought Japan its first gold medal in Winter Games snowboard competition after he won the men’s halfpipe at Genting Snow Park on Friday. Hirano has also become the first Japanese athlete to win a medal at three straight Winter Games. He earned Japan’s second gold of the Beijing Games after Ryoyu Kobayashi won the men’s ski jump normal hill on Sunday.

Hirano, who won silver at the 2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Games, scored 96.00 points in his final run to earn the gold. Australia’s Scotty James, 27, the Pyeongchang bronze medalist, scored 92.50 in his second run to earn the silver. Jan Scherrer of Switzerland, 27, took bronze with 87.25 in his second run. Three-time halfpipe gold medalist Shaun White, 35, finished fourth in the American’s farewell Games appearance.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ayumu Hirano performs a trick during his third run of the men’s halfpipe final in snowboarding on Friday.

“It hasn’t hit me as being real yet,” Hirano said of his victory. “But my childhood dream has come true.”

On his first run, Hirano made a triple cork 1440, a trick of spinning four full rotations while simultaneously inverting three times, early in his performance, but he finished ninth on that run with 33.75 as he suffered a fall.

In the second run, Hirano moved up to second place with a score of 91.75 while James was on top with 92.50.

In his third run, which Hirano called “clean and perfect,” he moved up to the top with 96.00 while James failed to improve on the score from his second run.

In the final, snowboarders have three runs each and their ranking is determined by their single best score.

“I wasn’t satisfied with my score for the second run, and I was able to express my anger in the third run in a good way,” Hirano said. When his winning score was shown, he joyfully pumped his right fist, in which he was holding his board.

At age 15 in Sochi, Hirano became the youngest Japanese to win a medal in a Winter Games. He also drew media attention as a two-sport athlete when he participated in the men’s skateboard park at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games last year.

Hirano’s younger brother Kaishu, 19, finished ninth with his best score of 75.50 in the first run. “The fact that I won and we participated together as brothers was great for both of us,” Hirano said.

Countrymen Yuto Totsuka, 20, placed 10th with 69.75 on his second run and Ruka Hirano, 19, and unrelated to the brothers fell on all three runs.