Skateboarding

Ayumu Hirano to start Olympic skateboarding bid at Japan Open

Two-time snowboard halfpipe silver medallist Hirano to compete on 16 March, increasing possibility of rematch with Shaun White at Tokyo 2020.

Ayumu Hirano is getting serious about trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in skateboarding.

Hirano's management team says the 20-year-old will compete in the Japan Open at Kugenuma Beach Skate Park on 16 March.

And a strong showing would see the two-time snowboard Olympic silver medallist challenge for a spot in the Park Skateboarding World Championships in the second half of the year.

The Japanese was denied gold by Shaun White with the very last run of the halfpipe competition at PyeongChang 2018.

Snowboard halfpipe silver medallist Ayumu Hirano and winner Shaun White on the podium at PyeongChang 2018

Now the Japanese will follow 'The Flying Tomato' in trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020 as skateboarding makes its Olympic debut.

Making the switch

Back in November, Hirano announced he would swap boards in a bid to make Tokyo 2020.

Despite admitting his concern that training in two sports could make him weaker in both disciplines, he said skateboarding's debut in his home country was something he "could not just let go".

Hirano took up both snowboarding and skateboarding at the age of four, practising the latter at his father's skate park.

Vert - in which White has won two X Games titles - is the most natural discipline for halfpipe snowboarders, but it is not being contested in Tokyo.

This means the pair will compete in park (as opposed to street) which, according to the Tokyo 2020 website, takes place "on a hollowed-out course featuring a series of complicated curves – some resembling large dishes and dome-shaped bowls".

A bit like this...

But Japan is not short of top park skaters with Yuto Horigome a medal contender in both disciplines.

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And Kensuke Sasaoka took the park crown at last August's Asian Games in Indonesia.

With a maximum of three competitors from one country permitted in each event, Hirano will find it far from easy to make the cut.

Revenge mission?

Hirano has been competing against White for over five years.

He won his first Winter X Games medal at Aspen in 2013 in the snowboard superpipe, taking silver behind the American.

A year later, aged 15, he became Japan's youngest Winter Olympic medallist when he took silver behind Iouri 'I-Pod' Podladtchikov in the halfpipe at Sochi 2014.

Four years later, it was silver again with White taking victory on the last run.

But their rivalry is a friendly one, with both coming back from horrific injuries sustained while attempting cab double cork 1440 spins, a trick first landed by I-Pod at the 2013 Winter X Games Tignes.

White's skateboarding mission

A three-time Winter Olympic gold medallist, White is switching codes to try and add to that tally.

The 32-year-old is working hard towards his goal, and told Olympic.org he is enjoying training and relishing the challenge of park and bowl skateboarding.

He said, "Vert is a similar mentality to halfpipe, skating bowl is more like slopestyle, so there’s some variety.

"Every park you show up to is totally different, there’s a new line, something to be sought out."