“It’s very possible, and it would be very cool,” he said shortly after winning the men’s halfpipe gold medal at Leysin Park & Pipe on Tuesday. “But I want the gold.”
Ruka had just pipped Hirano Kaishu (JPN) to the title at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The two are unrelated, but Kaishu’s elder brother is Hirano Ayumu, a double Olympic silver medal winner in the same event.
“We could be 1-2-3 in Beijing, of course,” said Ruka, who is the current junior world champion. “Kaishu inspires me. It’s complicated competing against each other, but he is fantastic, we are good friends and we like to chat about all kinds of things.”
Ruka said his success is the result of hard work and a willingness to experiment.
“When I was younger I wasn’t so good, but I worked harder than anyone,” he said. “I try to do tricks others aren’t good at, like making lots of turns. I did a lot today.
“Today was my best-ever score and I put so much work into this competition. I was very happy I could do a new trick here. I try to be on the snow longer than any other snowboarder.
“It is the best feeling ever to win gold. I’m going to get a lot of medals.”
The two Hiranos had jostled for position throughout the event, with Kaishu putting down big scores and Ruka beating them. On final run 2, Ruka’s 97.33 surpassed Kaishu’s excellent 95.66. It was enough to win it.
“I did my best performance today, I’m so happy,” Kaishu said. “I was really nervous when I woke up this morning, but it went well.
“My brother will be proud. I respect him so much and he inspires. I want to be like him.”
Liam Brearley (CAN), who got bronze with 82.00, accepted that the Hiranos were in a different league to the rest of the field.
“They are insane, I’ve never seen anything like them,” he said. “To compete with them is so cool.
“They train way more intensively than everyone else does, and they only do halfpipe.
“The judges are really looking for amplitude and holding your grabs here, rather than bigger trips, and that’s an advantage to them. They’re just great to watch.”
The snowboarders heading for Beijing 2022 have been warned.
There is just one question left: are there any other Hiranos coming through?
“I’m the youngest, so it’s me and Ayumu,” said Kaishu. “I have a brother,” said Ruka. “But he’s not a snowboarder.”