Miscellaneous Blog Posts

The day Ayumu Hirano saved the world

The Beijing Olympics was full of events. I mean surprising amount of events involving not only athletes’ performances and violations but also organizer’s faults and misconduct.

Take figure skater Kamila Valieva, for example. Her case seems to be too multifaceted to digest or even to comment on, like, why was she allowed after testing positive in the first place?

And there was the suit measurement issue in ski jumping mixed team. “The person in charge happened to be stricter” sounds like the worst excuse ever. If the person is legitimately strict, that’s fine, but bring that same person or at least the same strictness every single time. Varying rule enforcement is a major killer of any game.

Another case of inconsistent rule enforcement hit Julia Marino competing in women’s slopestyle and big air. The brand logo on the sole of her board, deemed fine in slope, would not be in big air, as she was notified the day before the event. Sharpie it or tape it, she was instructed. What? Was the organizer trying to kill an athlete? What would you think if you’re told to duck tape your car or bike tires right before a race because the tread pattern is inappropriate?

Then there was Ayumu Hirano being robbed for his second run, where he stomped the Olympic’s first, most difficult routine, which excited the whole Planet Earth but not the judges. Naturally it enraged the whole world (excluding judges).

A normal reaction to this as an athlete would be desparation, I’d think. Ayumu was different. With his third run, where, as he later commented, he “managed to express that anger, amongst all the feelings I had, in that run,” he repeated the routine with even greater perfection, finally waking up the judges and winning the utterly undisputed gold. I seriously don’t remember any athlete demonstrating that level of physical and mental strength under such circumstances.

Another aspect of his routine, which is the transition from participating in the Summer Olympics to the Winter in just half a year, was a world’s first as well. The Hirano Brothers grew up skateboarding at the skatepark their father runs, exactly like the Yasutoko Brothers in inline skating. That environment may seem like a huge luck factor, but nowhere near enough to account for their world-leading achievements. It just wouldn’t make any sense if you don’t take the hard work and devotion into consideration. It is actually us who’s lucky, being able to watch them ride real time.

One of the causes of this judging issue is in the competition format, where the sole judging criterion is “overall impression”. This will quite likely change in the near future. In the course, there probably will be discussions on what should be valued, like technicality versus style. The pursuit of more spins and higher difficulty cannot stop IMHO, but if you’re keen to see a different end of the spectrum, Kaishu Hirano just catered it in Beijing with a record-breaking high air out of the pipe (google for eye candy).

Overall, the comment from a fellow rider “glad he put this down and we didn’t have to riot” says it all. If it ended any other way, the world would have been divided, and we would have been left in the wild where there is no such thing any longer, as evaluations that you deserve or efforts that pay off.

For the issues that arose in the Olympics this time that shook the feasibility of respective events, not just in halfpipe but including all else, measures should be taken on the organizer’s side for the most part. However, that shouldn’t necessarily mean that the athletes are powerless. If you bring your A-game, gathering all your strengths and focus and never giving up, there should be a chance that you fascinate people and make your dreams come true. That’s what Ayumu’s run told me. His third run was literally an embodiment of Olympism in its full extent. Congratulations Ayumu, you really made a difference.