Ayumu Hirano, the snowboard halfpipe silver medalist at the last two Olympics and primary Shaun White rival, competed in a top-level contest for the first time in nearly three years on Thursday.
Hirano, a 22-year-old from Japan, won a U.S. Revolution Tour event in Aspen, Colo., against a field of Americans, mostly teenagers, who have never been to an Olympics.
It marked his first top-level event since winning the March 2018 Burton U.S. Open, a month after his second consecutive runner-up finish at the Olympics.
Since PyeongChang, Hirano indicated a bid to qualify for skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, like White (who then gave it up a year ago). He competed in the 2019 World Championships in the park discipline, finishing 17th (best of the four Japanese in the field).
In Olympic park qualifying, he’s the highest-ranked man from Japan, which gets an automatic spot as host nation.
In PyeongChang, then-5-foot-3 Hirano became the first snowboarder to land back-to-back double cork 1440s at an Olympics, taking the lead in the second of three runs.
But in the last run, White attempted the same combination — for the first time in his competition career — and landed it to win — 97.75 to 95.25.
In 2014, Hirano became the second-youngest man to win a Winter Olympic medal, according to Olympedia.org.
White’s last snowboard contest was the PyeongChang Olympics. He was slated to return at the Winter X Games on Jan. 31 but withdrew with a knee injury.
The world championships are in Aspen in two weeks.
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