Hirano Ayumu: Everything you need to know about the Japanese snowboard star

Hirano Ayumu will attempt to earn his long-sought-after Olympic gold medal when the men's snowboard halfpipe competition gets underway on 9 February at Genting Snow Park. Incredibly, Beijing 2022 will be the Japanese's second Olympic Games in the space of six months after he competed in the skateboarding competition at Tokyo 2020. 

By Yukifumi Tanaka
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

In December 2021, Hirano Ayumu returned to the slopes to take part in the FIS snowboard halfpipe World Cup competition for the first time in three years. After winning a second Olympic silver medal in the event at PyeongChang 2018, he decided to compete at Tokyo 2020 in another discipline: skateboarding.

With the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 having now begun the Japanese snowboarder is in world-class form. With his sights set on the gold medal, let's learn more about Hirano, whose first name (Ayumu) translates to "walk a dream" in English.

An early introduction to sports

Influenced by his father and older brother, Hirano started snowboarding and skateboarding at the age of four in his hometown of Murakami in Japan. At 14, the Japanese made his debut on the World Cup scene, and won a silver in the X Games in the halfpipe competition. He would make Japan's national team for Sochi 2014, but due to injury the teenager was unable to practice before the competition got underway. Despite the setback, Hirano still won the silver medal, becoming the youngest Japanese athlete to win a Winter Olympic medal in history.

A near-fatal accident and dramatic comeback

In March 2017, less than a year before he was due to compete at PyeongChang 2018, Hirano suffered a heavy fall during an event in the United States.

Although he did not need surgery, he was forced to spend two weeks in the ICU because his liver had ruptured internally, and the medial collateral ligament of his left knee was severely damaged. According to his doctor, Hirano might have lost his life if had he fallen differently.

Just six months later, however, Hirano would make an incredible comeback by winning the halfpipe competition at the World Cup event in Cooper Mountain.

A second Olympic silver medal

Hirano competed again in the Olympic halfpipe competition at PyeongChang 2018, following his debut at Sochi 2014. In the final, the Japanese took the lead after landing the first double cork 1440 on the Olympic stage. However, in the last run of the competition, Shaun White (USA) stole back the lead after hitting five clean tricks to win the gold medal with a score of 97.75. Hirano, once again, would finish with silver.

With both men set to renew their rivalry at Beijing 2022, the men's halfpipe competition cannot be missed.

The boards of winter and summer

After PyeongChang 2018, Hirano announced that he would represent Japan at his home Olympics at Tokyo 2020 in the skateboard competition.

Despite the one-year postponement of those Games, Hirano never gave up on his goal, and even started his snowboard training in addition to his skateboard work. His dedication paid off, as he rose to the top ranking among all Japanese skateboarders, gaining the spot to compete in the new Olympic street sport in Tokyo.

History-making triple cork 1440

At the Dew Tour last December, Hirano made history again by becoming the first athlete to successfully land a triple cork 1440 at an official competition. If the 23-year-old is able to replicate the trick in Beijing, it could prove pivotal in the battle for the gold medal.

Competing alongside his brother

His younger brother Hirano Kaishu has also been selected to represent Japan in the same event at Beijing 2022. Kaishu participated in the halfpipe competition at Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, winning the silver medal.

"Walk a dream"

Hirano’s first name, Ayumu, is described in Japanese as “歩夢”, which means to “walk a dream”. Literally, he lives his life and walks his dream.

When he became the youngest Olympic medallist in Sochi, he answered a question about the ultimate goal in his life: "I am going to walk toward it, step by step”

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