Olympic gold medal hopeful Ayumu Hirano won the snowboard halfpipe crown at the season-ending Laax Open on Saturday, claiming his first overall World Cup championship in the process.
The two-time Olympic silver medalist sealed the result with his first run of the final, earning 93.25 points after setting the tone from his opening trick, a front-side double cork 1440 indy, involving four full rotations and two sideways inversions.
The 23-year-old Hirano tried to take things up a notch on his second run but washed out the landing as he attempted to lead off with an audacious triple cork 1440.
Switzerland's Jan Scherrer finished second on home soil with 90.00 points, while 35-year-old great Shaun White of the United States scored 84.00 to reach the podium for the first time since winning his third Olympic championship at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
With back-to-back wins, Hirano wrapped up the overall World Cup title just four events into his return from a three-and-a-half year sabbatical to focus on skateboarding, in which he represented Japan at last summer's Tokyo Games.
"Things finished up smoothly, and I've been able to arrive at a good place without any injuries," Hirano said. "The atmosphere of the competition was really good and so was the condition of the pipe, so I felt really excited."
The Niigata Prefecture native will aim for his first gold medal at the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Winter Olympics after taking silver at the 2014 Sochi Games and again in Pyeongchang.
Hirano's younger brother Kaishu was next best among the Japanese men in Laax, finishing eighth, while compatriots Raibu Katayama and the unrelated Ruka Hirano were ninth and 10th, respectively.
Japan's Yuto Totsuka, one of the favorites to win, finished 12th after faltering in the final
In the women's competition, Japan's Mitsuki Ono was second with 89.00 points, 1.25 behind American Chloe Kim, the reigning Olympic champion. Japan's Sena Tomita was fourth and Haruna Matsumoto fifth.
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