Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano finally achieved his childhood dream of winning an Olympic gold medal and saved the multi-sport event from a potential scoring scandal in the process.
Hirano’s successful attempt at a triple cork 1440 helped him secure a final score of 96 on Thursday, Kyodo News reported. Australia’s Scotty James took home silver with a score of 92.50, while Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer took home bronze with a score of 87.25.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet but finally one of my childhood dreams has come true,” Hirano said. “I couldn’t end without getting this one, I gave everything.”
The 23-year-old Japanese snowboarder made history by becoming the first athlete to successfully land the triple cork 1440 at the Olympics — and he did it during each of his three runs. His performance even impressed NBC snowboarding analyst and former snowboarder Todd Richards.
“He destroyed this halfpipe,” Richards said, predicting that Hirano’s second run would receive a score of 98, Insider reported. “That run was something that we may never see again from anyone else. Unbelievable. Level raised. By such a large margin. They are going to give him a score that is going to be just out of this world.”
Although Richards claimed Hirano’s second run to be “the best run that’s ever been done in the halfpipe,” some of the judges purportedly did not see it as such, according to NBC Olympics.
Richards said the judges “grenaded all their credibility” when they gave Hirano a score of 91.75 for his second run even though he successfully pulled off the triple cork 1440 again. The challenging maneuver, which incorporates four full rotations while concurrently inverting three times, had reportedly put American snowboarder Shaun White – Hirano’s competitor – in the hospital, NBC Olympics reported.
“I’ve been doing this for so long. I know what a good run looks like. I know the ingredients of a winning run. I know when I see the best run that’s ever been done in the halfpipe,” Richards said. “Try to tell me where you’re deducting from this run. It’s unbelievable that this is even happening. It’s a travesty to be completely honest with you.”
Many in the sports community were also outraged by the judges’ scoring for Hirano’s second run, which landed him in second place after James.
Unfazed by the judges’ scores, Hirano returned for an even more impressive third run, nailing another triple cork 1440 and a backside 1260 that blew Richards’ mind.
“That was even bigger! That was even more perfect!” Richards said. “All the riders know that is the craziest run ever… I know what halfpipe snowboarding looks like. This is the pinnacle.”
Hirano was eventually given a higher score for his third run, prompting Richards to shout out “Justice!”
“A lot of emotions are hitting me right now, the cheering from the crowd, some kind words from my fellow competitors at the bottom, I’m so happy,” Hirano said. “Snowboarding, thank you. It’s been the love of my life.”
Hirano, who won silver at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in snowboarding halfpipe, also competed in skateboarding at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics last year.