Ayumu Hirano makes history in the halfpipe, wins X Games gold
The favorite in snowboard halfpipe for the PyeongChang Olympics? Right now, it just might be Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano.
Hirano, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist, won gold at X Games Aspen after landing a historic run.
Already holding the lead heading into his final run, Hirano boosted a backside air nearly 20 feet out of the pipe before landing a frontside double cork 1440, cab double cork 1440, frontside double cork 1260, and backside double cork 1260.
It marked the first time that back-to-back 1440s have ever been landed in a halfpipe competition.
Hirano’s run scored a 99.0 from the judges, about as close to a perfect score as you can get when there are still other riders left to go.
Taking the silver medal was Australia’s Scotty James, who landed a frontside double cork 1260, backside double cork 1260, frontside 900, backside 360, and switch backside double cork 1260.
James’ technicality was rewarded with a 98.0 on his final run, not far off the mark set by Hirano. It continued a streak of runner-up finishes this season for James.
Next up for Hirano and James will be the PyeongChang Olympics. Both riders will be among the top favorites.
The other rider near the top of the list is two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who withdrew from X Games after making the decision to return home and rest before the Olympics.
White recently won a qualifying event at Snowmass with a new run that scored a 100 from the judges, but that was before Hirano raised the bar with back-to-back 1440s. (White’s winning run included a frontside 1440 and back-to-back 1260s, but he did not attempt a cab 1440.)
Aside from White, the U.S. has another strong medal contender for PyeongChang in Ben Ferguson. Ferguson continued his strong season by winning X Games bronze on Sunday night. (Full results here.)
But the night was marred by an injury to Iouri Podladtchikov. The defending Olympic gold medalist from Switzerland went down after taking a hard slam on the final hit of his second run. The contest had to be delayed while medical staff attended to him.
According to a report from ESPN, Podladtchikov went to the hospital to be evaluated for a head injury after being taken off on a sled.
Podladtchikov already had to overcome one injury recently. Last March at the FIS World Championships, he suffered a torn ACL.
Earlier on Sunday, Henrik Harlaut won X Games gold in the freeski slopestyle contest. It was his second gold of the weekend, as the Swede also won the big air event on Saturday.
Norway’s Oystein Braaten and Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli rounded out the ski slopestyle podium. The top Americans were Gus Kenworthy in sixth and Nick Goepper in seventh. (Full results here.)