Medals update: Japan's Hirano Ayumu ushers in triple-cork era with Olympic halfpipe gold

Hirano Ayumu of Japan pulled off a pair of unprecedented triple corks to beat Australia's Scotty James (silver) and Swiss rider Jan Scherrer (bronze) to the Beijing 2022 gold in men’s snowboard halfpipe on a day that saw Team USA legend Shaun White soar in competition for the last time.

By Jonah Fontela
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

The future is now.

He's given us glimpses before, but on the biggest stage and under the brightest Olympic lights, Japan's Hirano Ayumu landed a pair of triple corks in the men's snowboard halfpipe finals to seal his first gold medal.

He adds it to the back-to-back silvers he won in PyeongChang and Sochi.

The man who's pushing halfpipe snowboarding into a brave new future finished on top of a pack of 12 of the world’s top riders in the best-of-three competition with a top score of 96.00 at the Genting Snow Park.

Australia's Scotty James (92.50) and surprise podium-placer Jan Scherrer (87.25) of Switzerland ended up with silver and bronze respectively.

A dream fulfilled

"It hasn't sunk in yet but finally one of my childhood dreams has come true," said Hirano after winning his (and the nation of Japan's) first snowboard gold -- and landing the first-ever Olympic triple corks after teasing this Winter Games run with a sneak-peek at recent Dew Tour and X Games events in the United States. "Everyone was here at this final and they pushed me, providing me with great motivation."

"I had a different feeling from usual," added the new champion, who's still just 23. "I was ready to take the plunge and give my all -- and it was great to finish it off cleanly."

The star-studded men’s snowboard halfpipe finals were among the most-anticipated events so far at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

And they didn't disappoint.

Hirano's gold medal-winning run came in the third round – in the final run of the competition – and included a triple cork to open (his second of the night) and a huge 1440 that won over the judges who weren't quite convinced with his previous effort.

"I did what I wanted to do right at the end -- I wasn't able to accept the second run's score," he said of his third go-round of the night -- a showstopper by any measure. "But I managed to express my anger well at the end."

Aussie James’ impressive switch backside 1260-into-1440 combos and Scherrer's double alley-oop 1260s simply weren’t enough to match the style, amplitude and sheer technical wonder of Hirano -- men's halfpipe snowboarding's new king.

"I'm very happy and proud. It was always going to be a challenge today," said the 27-year-old James, who added silver to his bronze from PyeongChang 2018 and hinted at another Olympic tilt in his future. "I've got the bronze and the silver and now I've got to complete the collection."

"I'm feeling great," added Scherrer after taking surprise bronze in a contest where the four members of Team Japan were heavy favourites. “To me, it’s the greatest way I could have imagined how I would win a medal, like, with my own trick, with my own way. It worked out, and it just feels so unreal right now."

End of the road for Olympic legend

Three-time and defending Olympic champion Shaun White, competing in his fifth Olympics at the age of 35, finished his competitive career with three impressive runs -- but no place among the medals.

He pulled off his signature double McTwist 1260s and 1440s, but they weren't enough to see the California native and undisputed snowboarding legend end his career on an Olympic podium.

White’s best run was his second and it landed the American – older than many of his competitors on the day by a decade or more – in fourth place.

He fell in his final effort to to grab last-gasp glory.

“This is it for me. I'm so thankful to be here and so proud of Hirano [Ayumu] and Scotty [James] and Jan [Scherrer], incredible riders," White said, fighting through the emotions of the moment. "I wish I could have landed my last run, but I was having some difficulty in my back leg for some reason, it was giving out on every run, I don't know why.

"Maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was just exhaustion," added the most iconic snowboarder of all-time. "Snowboarding, thank you. It's been the love of my life."

A tearful White walked off the course to a standing ovation from peers and fans alike -- all recognising the end of something special.

The night's winner, Hirano, joins Team USA’s Chloe Kim as the Beijing 2022 snowboard halfpipe champions after Kim’s sensational performance yesterday blew the rest of the women's competition out of the water.

Men’s snowboard halfpipe results

  • 1 Hirano Ayumu (JPN) 96.00
  • 2 Scotty James (AUS) 92.50
  • 3 Jan Scherrer (SUI) 87.25
Shaun White
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

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