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Teen snowboarding medalists make history, certain to inspire other athletes

Publication Date : 14-02-2014


We are very happy that the youngest Japanese medalist in the history of the Winter Games emerged at the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday.

Fifteen-year-old Ayumu Hirano, a third-year middle school student, won a silver medal in the men’s snowboard halfpipe. The bronze in the same event went to 18-year-old Taku Hiraoka, a third-year high school student.

They are the first Japanese medalists in snowboarding since it became an official event at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. It is also a remarkable accomplishment in Olympic history that the two Japanese won medals in the same event.

Athletes from Western countries, particularly the United States, were overwhelmingly strong in the snowboard halfpipe. We are glad that youthful Japanese athletes have changed that competitive landscape.

Hirano flew out high and successfully completed his favorite aerial tricks one after another. It was an outstanding performance, with his 160-centimeter-tall body dynamically whirling through the air.

He began snowboarding at the age of 4 and signed a professional contract with a US snowboard maker when he was only a fourth grader in primary school. His experiences undergoing the rigors of international competitions apparently made Hirano able to perform in an undaunted manner even at his first Winter Olympics.

“I was as good as I could be at the Olympics, and I’ve enjoyed it,” Hirano said happily.

Good rivalry yields medals

Japan was able to win the two medals in snowboarding because Hirano and Hiraoka have competed with each other and sharpened their skills as friendly rivals. At the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a male snowboader attracted criticism for his sloppy dress. The great success of Hirano and Hiraoka may improve the public image of the sport.

We hope the number of snowboarders will increase, with more children inspired by the two teenagers enjoying the sport. Further development of training areas is essential to nurture stronger athletes.

Meanwhile, Sara Takanashi ended up fourth in women’s ski jumping, which made its Olympic debut. It was an unfortunate outcome since Takanashi was regarded as the Japanese athlete most likely to win a gold medal.

However, many people must have been moved to see her struggling under heavy pressure.

Takanashi was superb at World Cup meets this season, but something was a little off when she was jumping at the Games. That is how daunting the Olympics are.

She may have regrets, but Takanashi is just 17. She still has an abundance of time to learn from this bitter experience and to avenge the defeat.

In the Nordic combined normal hill event, Akito Watabe won a silver medal. These three medals won by these three Japanese athletes are certain to become the best catalyst to push the Japan team into full gear.

There are still many events to look forward to, such as figure skating and the men’s ski jump. Our hopes are rising for the middle and final portions of the Games.


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