AP

Olympics nearing, Ayumu takes snowboarding’s next big leap

Dec 18, 2021, 11:43 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2021, 2:37 pm

Yuto Totsuka, of Japan, with first place, stands on the podium after the snowboarding halfpipe fina...

Yuto Totsuka, of Japan, with first place, stands on the podium after the snowboarding halfpipe finals, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, during Dew Tour at Copper Mountain, Colo. (AP Photo/Hugh Carey)

(AP Photo/Hugh Carey)

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) — The next big leap in snowboarding went down Sunday on a sun-splashed halfpipe in Colorado with a trick that set the stakes for the gold-medal race to Beijing.

Japanese snowboard star Ayumu Hirano finished fifth at the Dew Tour, but his spot in the standings hardly mattered. What did was that he became the first person to land the difficult, dangerous and once unthinkable triple-cork jump in competition.

“It’s just a game-changer because the level of halfpipe riding has gotten so crazy,” said snowboarding commentator Jonathan “DC” Oetken, who was at the bottom of the pipe Sunday.

Ayumu, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, pulled off what’s officially called a frontside triple cork 1440, a jump that involves three head-over-heels flips with a twist while grabbing the board above the 22-foot-high halfpipe.

Ayumu’s history-making jump at the top of the pipe made him wobbly in the setup to the next trick. He fell on it and didn’t finish the run, which accounted for the fifth-place finish. But there was no denying that in a sport that treasures progression over practically everything else, his jump will be the buzz of the halfpipe world as the sport makes its way to the Olympics, and probably beyond.

“This is crazy,” said Ayumu’s Japanese teammate, Yuto Totsuka, who won the contest. “I will make sure (to have it in) the next competition.”

All the top Japanese riders, including Totsuka and Sunday’s third-place finisher, Ruka Hirano, have been working on the trick in practice. Whoever lands it best, or at all, could be wearing a gold medal around their neck come Feb. 11 in the mountains above Beijing.

Is Shaun White in that mix? Hard to tell.

Though the three-time Olympic champion has worked on the trick over time, he also has abandoned it before, feeling it was too dangerous to pull off in a high-stakes contest.

White was nowhere near thinking about triple corks on Sunday. A broken binding ruined his first run and he fell on the first jump of his second. He executed back-to-back 1260-degree jumps for the first time this season, but he finished seventh.

“I was fighting an uphill battle,” White said. “I was just so happy to get a good run down.”

He heads into the last Olympic qualifying contest, next month at Mammoth Mountain, California, without the podium finish that would give him an automatic spot on the U.S. team. Even without that, he would almost certainly make the team as a coaches’ pick, but the clock is ticking on the 35-year-old who is saying this will be his final Olympic journey.

Another American, Taylor Gold, finished second thanks to the sort of stylistic run, filled with difficult grabs and spins, that makes snowboarding purists drool, even if it doesn’t include the sky-high tricks that capture the headlines.

“Those triples are hugely, hugely dangerous and risky, and to see somebody do that in an event is unreal,” Gold said.

The risks of this sport came into sharp focus in the women’s contest when America Maddie Mastro, who is expected to challenge defending Olympic champion Chloe Kim in Beijing, landed hard on the decking and skidded to the bottom. She was bleeding below her left eye and taken off the mountain by sled. Contest officials said she suffered an ankle injury.

Kim, who already had her Olympic spot wrapped up, fell on her first two runs but came up big in her final trip down the pipe to eke out a 1-point victory over Queralt Castellet of Spain.

“I’m never putting myself in that situation again. It was horrible,” Kim said of the tension of a must-have final run. “I’m so glad I was able to land.”

So was Hirano.

“I was very happy to land the triple cork in competition for the first time,” he said through an interpreter.

Whoever can pull it off in Beijing will be even happier. But in a sport that lives for progression, Hirano will always be able to say he did it first.

“Everybody would agree,” Oetken said, “that we are pushing the limits of what is possible.”

___

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.

___

More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Olympics nearing, Ayumu takes snowboarding’s next big leap