Teen Murase makes Japan history with big air bronze

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kokomo Murase performs a trick during her first run in the big air final on Tuesday in Beijing.

BEIJING — Teenager Kokomo Murase sailed and twisted into Japanese sporting history when she became the youngest-ever Japanese female medalist at a Winter Olympics, finishing third in the snowboard big air event on Tuesday at the Beijing Games.

Murase scored 171.50 points over her two best runs at the Big Air Shougang venue to take the bronze behind Austria’s Anna Gasser and New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski Synnott.

Murase, at 17 years 3 months, eclipsed the record for Japan’s youngest Winter Olympic medalist previously held by figure skater Mao Asada, who was 19 years 5 months when she won a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“It’s like a dream,” Murase said. “I really can’t believe it. It was because of everyone that I got to this spot, my parents, my friends, my sponsors. It’s not a medal that I won alone, and all I can do is thank everyone.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kokomo Murase poses with the panda mascot following the victory ceremony.

Gasser, the gold medalist four years ago in Pyeongchang, came up with the top score of 95.50 in the last of her three attempts to repeat as Olympic champion with 185.50 points. Sadowski Synnott, winner of the snowboard slopestyle gold on Feb. 6, fell on her last run and finished second at 177.00.

There was heartbreak again for Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi, who had to settle for a second straight Olympic fourth-place finish when she lost her balance on the landing of her last attempt and ended with 166.00 points.

Miyabi Onitsuka failed to put together two high-scoring runs and finished 11th of the 12 finalists at 65.25.