The making of Japanese snowboarding phenom Kokomo Murase

Seventeen-year-old is primed for her Olympic debut in Beijing, but can Girl Wonder set Winter Games history in Big Air and Slopestyle, and take another of Chloe Kim's records?

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2021 Kyodo News

Don’t let the name fool you.

While Kokomo, the Beach Boys’ tune from the Tom Cruise flick Cocktail was layered with cheese, the Kokomo the world will be witnessing next month at Beijing 2022 is every bit the real deal.

Murase Kokomo only turned 17 in November but the Japanese snowboarder is already a household brand.

The pint-sized rider standing at 1.53 metres took the snowboarding community by storm three months after PyeongChang 2018, which she was too young to compete in.

A the X Games in Oslo, Murase became the youngest snowboarder to win at the event, aged 13 years and six months, capturing the Big Air crown.

Murase rewrote the mark of 14 years, nine months that had been held by a certain Chloe Kim.

There in Norway, the prodigy from Gifu Prefecture also stuck the first women’s backside double cork 1260 in history - a move she had been working on since elementary school.

Quickly becoming the talk of town, a bright future burned for Murase - known affectionately as Girl Wonder - yet for a moment her career was in jeopardy.

While training in Colorado in December 2018, she rammed into the railing and broke her right patella, an injury that kept her out for the season.

Murase required three screws planted into the knee, but following intense rehab in the United States, away from her parents, she was back on the slopes in August 2019 - at the X Games, again, where she won silver.

It's Games time

A model of consistency, Murase has padded out her credentials since, producing her maiden World Cup victory in the Beijing Olympic season opener in October 2021.

On the very first day of 2022, she held off compatriot and Olympic medal favourite Onitsuka Miyabi to win her first slopestyle title in Calgary. Murase followed up with another podium finish (third) on 8 January in Mammoth Mountain.

Barely a teenager four years ago, hope now floats for Murase who is being counted on by her country to medal in both the Big Air and slopestyle against the likes of Jamie Anderson, Zoi Sadowski Synnott and of course, Kim.

Should Murase manage to top the podium in Beijing, she will break another record owned by Kim as the youngest female gold medallist in Olympic snowboarding.

“I feel it sinking in,” Murase told reporters in Mammoth Mountain ahead of the Games. “It means a lot to be on the podium. I’m really happy about that.

“I don’t worry about others. My focus is on beating me. I hope I can keep this up in Beijing and have some good results.”

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