Hirano, James just short in epic men’s halfpipe final

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — Ayumu Hirano already has an Olympic silver medal back home in Japan. The budding snowboarding superstar didn’t plan on leaving Phoenix Snow Park with another one.

Yet it happened anyway because Shaun White happened, as he tends to do with the world watching.

White’s scintillating final run in the men’s halfpipe final vaulted him past Hirano atop the podium for his third Olympic gold, relegating Hirano to silver for the second time in four years. No offence, but Hirano wonders if maybe the positions should have been reversed.

Asked if he felt he deserved gold instead of White, whose score of 97.75 was just clear of Hirano’s 95.25, the soft-spoken 19-year-old’s answer was polite but firm.

“Yes I do but the result is the result,” Hirano said. “And whatever I do, whatever I say, the result cannot be changed.”

Hirano was a close second to Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov in Sochi. In the interim he has become every bit White’s equal. He stormed to the top spot at the X Games last month, an event White opted to skip while dealing with a cold and with his Olympic spot already locked up.

A “winner take all” between White, Hirano and Australian Scotty James loomed in the South Korean mountains. They wanted to put on a show. In a way, they did even more than that. The three were at the forefront of electrifying qualifying on Tuesday, stringing together edgy runs that in some ways would have been home in the finals in lower-stakes events.

The Olympics, however, are something different. The proof came in the finals. Hirano has become the standard bearer in many respects, his back-to-back 1440s (two flips and two twists, or four 360-degree rotations) is the trick by which all others are measured. Until Wednesday, he was the only snowboarder …read more

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