Ayumu Hirano, A Snowboarder of The Century

Ayumu Hirano is an incredible, record-breaking nineteen-year-old champion, as he is the first snowboarder to achieve a back-to-back double cork 1440s in a halfpipe competition at the X Games. History was made at the 2018 Aspen Winter X Games when he scored a 99.00; he won the gold medal for an incredibly dangerous and difficult mid-air stunt. Previously, he was known for being the first Japanese athlete ever to win a gold medal at the Winter X Games in Oslo in 2016. 

Young Ayumu was only 14 years old when he won the silver medal in 2013 at the Aspen, Colorado Winter X Games. At that time, he became the youngest winner to earn a Winter X Games medal for snowboarding in a halfpipe. 

At 15 years old, he won a silver medal at Sochi, Russia Olympic Games 2014. It was the first time he joined any Olympic competition. He had practiced and perfected his stunts as a snowboarder riding the halfpipe for men - and his efforts paid off. 

Here are Ayumu’s most notable victories in the past years:

•    2013 Silver Medal Aspen, Colorado (January 24- January 27, 2013) Winter X Games Halfpipe

•    2014 Silver Medal Sochi, Russia (February 7- February 23, 2014) Olympic Games Halfpipe

•    2016 Gold Medal Oslo, Norway, (February 24- 28, 2016) Winter X Games Superpipe

•    2018 Gold Medal Aspen, Colorado (Jan.25-Jan 28, 2018) Winter X Superpipe

•    2018 Silver Medal Pyeongchang, South Korea (Feb 9-25, 2018) Olympic Games Halfpipe 

A Little More About the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Games is an important international sporting event eagerly awaited by both sports fanatics, and casual watchers around the world. It is held once every four years and is specifically designated for winter sports that have to do with competitions involving snow and ice. This sporting event has been going on for quite a while, for as early as 1924, the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France. Aside from snowboarding, other sports like using a bobsleigh, playing ice hockey, ski jumping, ice skating and cross-country skiing are included in the competition. 

Just after winning his second Winter Olympic halfpipe silver medal, Ayumu Hirano stated that he was looking forward to competing at another game - the 2020 Tokyo Games from July 24 to August 9, 2020. Hirano, being a very young, rising, and promising Japanese snowboarding athlete, easily became a favorite for snowboarding enthusiasts. Born on November 29, 1998, Ayumu Hirano also made history for Japan and earned the honor to be one of the first Japanese snowboarding Olympians to bring home the medals. 

Snowboarding - Not An Easy Sport

Snowboarding is a very competitive extreme winter sport. It involves dangerous and perilous maneuvers, as well as high speed, precision, and skill. It can be quite an insanely death-defying sport. It is considered a combination of skiing, skateboarding, and surfing. 

Snowboarders glide down a structure called a halfpipe. A halfpipe is a curved ramp that slopes up at both ends usually used by skateboarders, rollerblades, and snowboarders. For snowboarders, the halfpipe is covered in snow as they glide up and down from one curved side to another using a board.  

Wearing safety helmets, wrist guards, gloves, waterproof warm clothing, and knee pads are necessary when doing these sports. Snowboarders attach their boots to a board and slide with ease down a snowy slope thanks to its waxed underside.\

Criteria For Good Snowboarding Skills

Snowboarders are judged on how they can show their perfected spins, flips, landings, as they all try their best to attain the highest jumps. Some stunts include very complicated tricks and movements - which are exactly what Ayumu Hirano does best. Under the snowboarding language, Hirano uses the “goofy” stance or position, which means that he rides his snowboard with the right foot at the front (Regular stance means riding with your left foot in front.) Hirano’s left foot, positioned at the back of his board, is what will do most of the power steering during a stunt while his right foot in front helps his balance and direction.

A Quick Story; the Life of Ayumu Hirano

Ayumu Hirano, whose name (Ayumu) was given by his mother, means in Japanese “walk the dream”. He soon grew up to live up to his name. Hirano always dreamt to participate in the Olympics. His Olympian dream became a reality, as not only did he participate, but he confidently brought home both silver and gold medals. 

Ayumu was born in a small, lively coastal town of Murakami in Niigata Prefecture. Murakami is a place which is not very conducive to snowboarding, as it is near the Sea of Japan making the location quite windy. It also does not have enough snow for the sport. 

Ayumu’s father, Hidenori, was a surfer who owned a surf shop. He encouraged his boys to become surfers and be involved in sports. When a surfing accident traumatized his eldest son, Eiju, it turned off young Ayumu to surfing even more. Hidenori introduced them to skateboarding instead. He built a skate park (Nihonkai Skate Park) where his sons could practice and perfect their skateboarding skills. 

Ayumu started to skateboard at the age of 4. He felt at home, perfectly in tune with his skateboards. At such a young age he joined skateboarding competitions and belonged to a team called “e-Yume Kids” (meaning “great dream kids”).

The Turning Point

A year later, Ayumu also started snowboarding. His father, Hidenori, who was his main supporter and trainer, drove both boys all the way to Yokone ski resort in Yamagata prefecture where there was an official halfpipe, though it was a bit smaller than the world standard halfpipe. Hirano was sponsored by a known snowboarding brand called Burton which had seen the potential in the young boy. 

Ever since he was a young boy in the fourth grade, Ayumu Hirano was heavily trained. Under the watchful eyes of his parents, he was made to practice until the evening as soon as he finished school. In the following years, when he had become very good at snowboarding, he missed a lot of his education, so he did his best to catch up as much as could. Soon after, Kazuhiro Kokubo, a Japanese winner in the halfpipe US Open became one of his mentors and guides. Ben Boyd and Elijah Teter were also excellent coaches to Hirano. 

Competing Records in the Winter X Games and Other International Games

Hirano’s first memorable international snowboarding success began in March 2011, when he won the Burton US Junior Open. Since he was only 12 at this point, he was not officially allowed to join the open division of the event where his mentor then Kazuhiro Kokubo won gold, and his brother Eiju placed seventh. However, Hirano delighted the audience with showmanship and amplitude with his performance. Later in 2012, he was invited to the Burton High Fives.  It was an open event in New Zealand. He bagged the gold medal at the age of 13. 

He then joined to compete in the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, and won the silver medal right behind Shaun White, whom a friendly rivalry would start with Ayumu, at 14 years old, went on to win first place at the Burton European Open and second place at the Burton US Open (again Shaun White won first place). 

By U.S. Mission Korea [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ayumu Hirano Versus Shaun White

Shaun White from the USA, a champion snowboarder, and skateboarder is clearly a force to reckon with by Hirano, and they both know this. Though Hirano has a promising future as a professional snowboarder ahead of him, here comes this one guy who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, winning against Hirano in many competitions.

Hirano felt that he should have won that gold medal in the Pyeongchang Olympics. Even bronze medal winner Scotty James, a staunch rival of White, agreed that Hirano could have easily won the gold.  He could have won that victory, but he has resigned to the fact that the vote went to White as the gold medal winner. 

He placed third at the Oakley Arctic Challenge and finally bagging the youngest 2012-2013 Halfpipe World Tour Champion. In Sochi, Russia, in 2014, during the Winter Olympics, he placed second and behind Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov. 

All About Ayumu Hirano’s Run in the Winter Olympics in 2016 to 2018

Pursuing a dream and persevering to make it come true is what Ayumu Hirano strived for. In 2016, he won the Gold in Oslo Norway at the X Games. He simply refused to quit, so in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, he tried again but got the silver medal behind Shaun White of the US. He did become a gold medalist in Aspen, Colorado in 2018 in the Winter X Games. 

Hirano’s confident and precise techniques, apt timing, and fearlessness allow him to soar to achieve such difficult and perilous stunts, making his tricks and jumps look effortless and simply awesome. 

Major Injury Sustained from A Professional Competition in 2017

In March 2017, during the 2017 Burton US Open, Ayumu landed on the side edge of the halfpipe and injured his liver and knee ligaments. The doctor told him that he could have died if he had just fallen one centimeter more. Recovery was long and slow, but he received a lot of support which Ayumu is grateful for. He felt that it was the help that he received that made him win the silver medal during his comeback in Pyeongchang. Ayumu, bedridden for a two month period, was determined to return in time for the Copper Grand Prix/ World Cup Halfpipe in December 2017 - which he won. 

Who Is the Girlfriend of Ayumu Hirano?

Ayumu Hirano, now becoming a household name, has fans wondering what his relationship status is now, but he has not given any clues as to who he is dating. There are guesses that all his energy is concentrated on getting better and winning more gold medals. Romance does not seem to be in the picture. If he is dating someone for real, then he has kept it a secret. The little information given of his personal life is that he describes himself as “lazy” and that he would rather spend time with his brother and friends. 

Insights from an Interview with Ayumu Hirano

In an interview done with Ayumu Hirano, he mentioned in a section that no matter how bad the conditions or situations got, he always believed in himself.  He always tried to give his very best no matter what. He always made sure to give his best performance. He diverted his learning efforts from trying to jump as high as he could to learning new tricks and maneuvers with the board instead. Trials and errors were part of the training and constant practice was the routine, long into the night, which are good lessons for anyone out there reading. Take it from Ayumu - he won the Olympics.