Ohtani Shohei isn’t Japan’s only two-way star.
Hirano Ayumu may not ply his trade on the baseball diamond like the pitcher-slugger for the Los Angeles Angels but on 21 May, nearly 9,900km away from Tokyo, Hirano made Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to qualify for both the Games’ skateboarding and snowboarding competitions.
At the Summer Dew Tour global skateboarding qualifier in Des Moines, Iowa, Hirano secured the highest men's ranking from Japan - netting him a ticket to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 through the host country allocation.
Already a bona fide global star on the Winter Olympic stage with two halfpipe silver medals, Hirano will look to make his mark at its summer counterpart in the Tokyo 2020 skateboarding park event (4-5 August).
Here’s a bit about the man behind the legend in the making:
In select company
Hirano will become just the fifth Japanese to have appeared in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, the second for a male athlete. Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko, a seven-time Olympian, is among the five.
No one, however, has won a medal in both.
Hirano is the youngest snowboarding Olympic medallist ever at 15 years and 74 days (Sochi 2014).
A student of the game
He is studying kinematics applied to aerial technique used in skateboarding and snowboarding.
Ayumu is the second oldest of three brothers in the Hirano family. Both of his brothers, Eiju and Kaishu, are also snowboarders.
Ayumu took up snowboarding at the age of four and signed his first endorsement deal when he was in the fourth grade.
His father Hidenori, a former aspiring professional surfer, owns a skatepark in their hometown of Murakami, Niigata Prefecture.
Hirano once stared death right in the face.
In March 2017 at the US Open Snowboarding Championships, Hirano ruptured his liver AND tore the MCL in his left knee.
Massive internal bleeding left him in the ICU for two weeks.
“I was told I was a centimeter away from being dead”, he said.
Hirano came back only four months later at the World Cup, finishing second.