I recently picked up an issue of TIME and saw a small article about snowboarding at the Winter Olympics. It really irked me to see the silver and bronze medalists in men’s halfpipe identifed as “two Japanese snowboarders”. NPR had done the same thing when announcing results, and while more people are becoming familiar with Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka, I thought I would help ensure that their names will be remembered.
By The Asahi Shimbun and Hannah Johnston/Getty Images (SIKids.com)
Name: Ayumu Hirano
Name in Kanji: 平野 歩夢
Date of birth: November 29, 1998
Hometown: Murakami, Niigata, Japan
Sport: Snowboarding, halfpipe
Notable results: 2012/2013 Halfpipe World Tour Champion, 2013 FIS World Cup Cardrona gold medalist, 2013 X Games silver medalist, 2014 Winter Olympics silver medalist
Ayumu Hirano’s young age, small stature, and high-flying style has drawn comparisons to Shaun White, but he is quickly making a name for himself. He began snowboarding at the age of 4 after mastering surf and skate (the latter of which would play a role in shaping his halfpipe style). Two years later, he started entering contests. His first major win came at the 2011 Burton US Junior Open, where he was too young to compete in the open division but good enough according to those who saw him take runs for fun.
In the 2012/2013 season, he became the youngest Halfpipe World Champion. Ayumu was also the youngest X Games medalist until Chloe Kim came along this year. Trained by some big names in snowboarding (Kazuhiro Kokubo, Ben Boyd, and Elijah Teter), he continues to generate buzz from international media outlets and praise from his top competitors.
By Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe (Zimbio)
Name: Taku Hiraoka
Name in Kanji: 平岡 卓
Date of birth: October 29, 1995
Hometown: Gose, Nara, Japan
Sport: Sniowboarding, halfpipe
Notable results: 2013 FIS Snowboarding World Championships silver medalist, 2013 FIS World Cup gold medalist, 2013 X Games Tignes SuperPipe bronze medalist, 2014 Winter Olympics bronze medalist
Taku Hiraoka started skiing at the age of 3 before making the switch to snowboarding. He studied trampolining and played basketball in school. This athletic background, along with his surfing hobby, has contributed to his prowess on the halfpipe, notably his high amplitude. Unlike his teammate, Taku doesn’t really have a coach; instead he learns from snowboarding videos.
He won one of his first contests in the second grade, beating out older competitors, and made a steady climb upward to win the FIS Junior World Championships twice. Then in the 2011/2012 season, he ranked fifth in the halfpipe division of the World Snowboard Tour, where he currently sits in second. The Sochi halfpipe seemed to be a good place for him, as it was also the location for his World Cup victory a year before the Olympics.
“Japanese snowboarder Hiraoka grew up with little snow but plenty of determination” – Morning Sun
“Sochi Winter Olympics: Ayumu Hirano is far from your average 15-year-old boy” – The Sydney Morning Herald
World Snowboard Tour rider profiles
Listening to: “FINAL ATTACK” by DAZZLE VISION