PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Ayumu Hirano won his second straight Olympic silver medal in the snowboarding men’s halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Games on Wednesday after Shaun White of the United States denied him gold in his final run.
Hirano’s 95.25 points in his second run was 2.50 off the mark set by White, who returned to the top of the podium for his third gold, after falling and finishing fourth at the last Olympics in Sochi.
Scotty James of Australia took bronze with 92.00. Hirano’s compatriot Raibu Katayama came in seventh with 87.00 from his third run.
The 19-year-old Hirano had led the field after his second run that included back-to-back 1440s, one point ahead of White’s first try. However, White matched Hirano with consecutive 1440s of his own, scoring a 97.75 in the final run of the competition.
Hirano showed no emotion as the three took the podium, while White screamed, shouted and fell to his knees, weeping tears of joy as he won the United States’ 100th Winter Olympic gold medal.
“Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time,” said White, who became the first snowboarder to win three Olympic golds. “I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me.
“Honestly it’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done. I didn’t even link the combination, the 14 to 14 (back-to-back 1440s) until I got here, today, this morning.
“So, honestly, I’m just so happy with my performance. I’m proud of the other riders for pushing me this whole time.”
Said Hirano, who started next to last just before White, “It’s another silver for me, but I guess this gives me something to aim for at the next Olympics.
“I think I was able to give it everything I had in the second run. I was hoping I could top that in the third, but I lost speed and couldn’t do it. I just have to live with the result.”
Despite overtaking White after the second run, Hirano felt far from assured about potentially having won Japan’s first gold in snowboarding.
“I didn’t think I had it won at all,” Hirano said. “A lot of the other riders were pulling off some difficult tricks and I thought the scores were a little high all around.
“A 95 was going to be pretty tough to beat, but if there was one guy who could, it was the guy going after me. So I felt like I had to do better in the third run.”
Instead of ramping up the pressure on the 31-year-old White with a superb third try, Hirano fell, as he had in his first run. Hirano said the visibility was not great out on the pipe, making the landing difficult after all the twisting and turning he does.
“Even after the second run, I knew the guy trailing me was capable of doing the same,” he said. “I wanted to do better the third time out, but I decelerated and that was that.
“Considering the circumstances, the pressure he was under, I think Shaun today was the best I have ever seen him. You have to credit him. He was outstanding.”
Also from Japan, Yuto Totsuka came down hard on the lip in his second run and had to be stretchered off the pipe. He hurt his hip and was immediately taken to the hospital, though the injury was not believed to be serious.