Brotherly love: Hirano Ayumu and Kaishu eye joint podium in Beijing

The two-time halfpipe silver medallist and his soon-to-be Games debutant/younger brother realise a childhood dream. Now, they will try to egg each other on in their first Olympics - stronger, together.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2022 Kyodo News

Hirano Ayumu will be all business at these Olympic Winter Games.

Family business, to be exact.

At his third Winter Games next month, two-time men’s halfpipe silver medallist Ayumu will be joined by his younger brother of four years, Kaishu.

Kaishu, the 2020 Youth Olympic Games runner-up, will make his first Olympic appearance in Beijing.

Since they were kids, the two have been dreaming about competing at the Games together side by side and now they will get their chance.

“It’s so rare to have an opportunity to go to the Olympics as brothers”, said Ayumu, a veteran of the Games at 23.

“I think it’ll be a fantastic experience for my brother. I just want him to be himself and have the ride of his life.

“I’ve been waiting for him to come through all long. But I don’t want him to take his foot off the pedal just yet and become complacent.

“I hope we can feed off each other and want him to make the most of this experience”.

Said Kaishu, “It still hasn’t sunk in. It’s been a dream of mine forever. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was a kid and it’s come true.

“We’ve talking about it in our family about how cool it would be to go to the Olympics together. It had been our goal.

I want to be able to have the ride that I envision and if I can win a medal on top of that, great”.

Eyeing history

The Hirano brothers - Ayumu is the second oldest of three, Kaishu the youngest - will be in extremely select company should they both reach the podium.

At last summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, judoka brother-sister Abe Hifumi and Uta struck gold on the same day.

Before that, Miyake Yoshinobu and Yoshiyuki won gold and bronze, respectively, in men’s weightlifting at Mexico 1968 but that is it as far as Japanese siblings medalling at the same Games are concerned.

Ayumu and Kaishu would be the first to accomplish the feat at a Winter Games, and judging by the results of the X Games in Aspen on 21 January, the thought is not farfetched.

The two placed second and third, behind only PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist Scotty James.

“Only a select few are given a chance to compete at the Olympics. It’s massive to the snowboarding community”, Ayumu said.

“It’s once every four years which separates itself from all the other competitions. No regrets, and just let it all out”.

With younger brother Kaishu accompanying him to Beijing, Hirano Ayumu has every reason to be all smiles.
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Summer job

Ayumu comes off a summer in which he traded the snow for the pavement, making a Tokyo 2020 cameo in the skateboarding park as only the fifth Japanese athlete ever to appear in both versions of the Games.

He said switching boards gave him a fresh new outlook on not only snowboarding but on life in general.

Having been denied by Shaun White in 2014 and 2018, Ayumu will be in search of the elusive gold in Beijing. But he wants to make clear that he’s not stressing.

“I feel different compared to four years ago when I was last up against Shaun. I think we’re riding for different reasons this time at the Olympics.

“PyeongChang was very dramatic, showcased what snowboard was all about. Steel really sharpened steel.

“But he’s a challenger. It’s going to be his last Olympics and I’m looking forward to facing off with him.

“I have nothing to lose. I feel more comfortable this time”.

To Kaishu, Ayumu has seemed larger than life ever since he pocketed his first Olympic medal at the age of 15.

Since the two were officially selected named to the Beijing squad on 19 January, the conversations have turned from pipe dreams of competing together at the Games to the type of tricks and training Kaishu ought to have for his Olympic debut.

Kaishu has yet to taste the glory Ayumu had by his age and might very well have a case of the nerves come 9 February, the day of the halfpipe qualifying.

But he will, at least, have Ayumu at his side who will always be big brother to little Kaishu to steer him through.

“We’ve been doing this together since kids and I think he’s had a career like no other - like him skateboard at the Olympics”, Kaishu said.

“Having watched him up close his whole career, he has a presence unlike anyone else. The difficulty of his tricks. He’s pretty amazing.

“The first two or so events this season, I was coming up short and it felt like the Olympics was slipping away from me.

“But late in the season, I started to ride well and punched my ticket to the Games. To have achieved the goal I set, I’m really fired up now”.

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