Japanese Wunderkind Ayumu Hirano Wins Halfpipe Silver Medal in Sochi; Hiraoka Takes Bronze


Everyone had the same canvas on which to work. Many were critical of the Halfpipe conditions in Sochi, but that didn’t seem to bother Ayumu Hirano. As the sport has come to expect from the 15-year-old Japanese wunderkind, his amplitude was greater and his tricks more technical and stylish. And as a result, he won an Olympic silver medal. His fellow countryman, Taku Hiraoka won the bronze medal.

While Hirano’s accomplishment was certainly a feat to celebrate, the biggest story coming out of the event was who was not on the podium. Shaun White came into the Games aiming for a three-peat performance in Halfpipe. He pulled out of Slopestyle in order to focus on his specialty event. After advancing through qualifiers with the top score, the conditions in the Halfpipe appeared to deteriorate. White was one of several top podium threats to stumble. Fellow Americans Greg Bretz and Danny Davis fell on each of their runs in the final, resulting in the first podium not to include an American since the event was introduced to the Olympics in 1998.

Hirano finished second to White in SuperPipe at X Games in 2013, but both skipped X Games this year in order to rest their bodies and focus on the Olympics.

Hirano was sitting atop the leaderboard after the first runs in the final with a score of 90.75, but Iouri “I-Pod” Podladtchikov landed his trademark “YOLO flip” and took the lead with a 94.75. Hirano had a chance to reclaim the winning position, but the score for his run – which was executed to perfection – came up short (93.50).

Gold: Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI) – 94.75
Silver: Ayumu Hirano (JPN) – 93.50
Bronze: Taku Hiraoka (JPN) – 92.25