KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - For a nation that’s never won a medal in snowboarding, Japan sure looked awfully strong.
Teenager Ayumu Hirano captured silver and his teammate Taku Hiraoka took bronze in the men’s Olympic halfpipe final on Tuesday. But no one could touch Iouri Podladtchikov, the Swiss rider who was born Russia and goes by the nickname, “I-Pod.” He threw down his new trick to flip and spin his way to gold, ending the reign of American Shaun White.
Especially Hirano, who had all the talent to go with the big tricks, but he’s been banged up this season. He even pulled out of the Winter X Games two weeks in Aspen, Colo., because of a foot injury.
“I decided to win by jumping really high and that’s a good thing,” Hirano says.
“This is an amazing start and I wish him the best of luck in his career,” White says. “He’s 15!”
Actually, as someone pointed out, he’s 15 years and 74 days.
“Oh man, OK, he’s going to retire soon,” White joked.
“I’d like to see snowboarding develop more in Japan,” he says.
As for Hiraoka’s bronze medal, it caught even him by surprise.
“Surprised very much,” he said.
- Pat Graham - Twitter http://twitter.com/pgraham34