Hirano grew up on a steady diet of cross-over board sports from a young age. “Ayumu has been skating and snowboarding since he was 3 or 4 years old,” said Hidenori Hirano. His father would take young Ayumu and older brother Eiju to skateparks in Tokyo and Osaka, while winters were dedicated to snowboarding in the mountains.
Ultimately, Hidenori Hirano decided to open his own skatepark facility in their hometown, putting rocket boots on his son’s progression and building a vibrant local scene for board sports: “By making the skatepark, many skaters and snowboarders, even surfers, came and gathered here.” For young Ayumu, the close intersection between skateboarding and snowboarding laid the foundation for his all-terrain talent. “If my father didn’t create this environment for everyone to skate, I wouldn’t be here,” said Hirano on ‘Aspire – Inspire’.
After progressing at a rapid pace, Hirano won his first Japanese snowboard tournament while still in third grade. He made his international debut by taking first place in 2011’s Burton US Junior Open at the age of 12 and earned a coveted invite to compete in the Winter X Games in 2013. The rest is history: Competing against Shaun White in the final, the then 14-year-old clinched the silver medal in Superpipe, making him the youngest medalist in X Games history and first winter sports athlete from Japan to earn a medal.
“I have admired the X Games since I was little and couldn’t believe it. It was my first chance to compete with top pros such as Shaun White,” said Hirano. His father remembers the moment fondly: “When I was training with my sons in Japan, I taught them tricks to jump higher and higher. But when we actually went to the venue, I was speechless. The athletes were performing beyond my wildest imagination.”
Hirano’s epic run continued with a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In 2016, Hirano rose all the way to the top with a stacked run at X Games Aspen 2016 to claim his first X Games gold, followed by a second X Games gold in 2018 and another Olympic silver medal at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang.
“When I saw Ayumu for the first time, it was when he got second place in the final round of the Olympic Games,” said Japanese skateboarding legend Hironori “Aki” Akiyama in the episode. The seasoned pro skater, who became the first Japanese rider to enter a U.S. skateboard championship in 1975, hopes that Hirano’s rise will encourage more support for the sport in his country. “Even though I’ve been a pro skater for 46 years, there was nothing at all from the government. So I don’t know how they are supporting the current skaters.”
Speaking on his preparation for the upcoming Olympics, Hirano said: “I will be competing against athletes from different countries, so I feel the same responsibilities just like when I participated in the Olympics with snowboarding.” As can be seen in the video, the young rider – only 22 years old despite his long list of accolades – has been fully focused on skateboarding. His penchant for stylish airs and huge altitude meets technical control on liptricks and flip variations. It’s this exact combination that won him the Japanese National Championships – and the ticket to Tokyo.
“I think the influence of the Olympics is much greater than achieving good results in overseas competitions. The stage of the Olympics will be a great showcase for the Japanese audience,” said Hirano in the documentary. Will he make history as the first Olympic athlete to medal in both snowboarding and skateboarding? “I’m doing both at the same time because that would be my biggest expression to aim for the top in both. And I hope that my influence will be passed on to the younger generation.”