Photo/IllutrationAyumu Hirano, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, on Nov. 13, plans to compete in skateboarding in the 2020 Tokyo Games. (Shinnosuke Ito)

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  • Photo/Illustraion

Despite setting Winter Olympic records, teenage snowboarder Ayumu Hirano said frustration over his performances has pushed him on an unprecedented mission.

The two-time Olympic silver medalist in the men’s halfpipe on Nov. 13 announced his plans to enter skateboard events at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics during a news conference to announce his contract with clothing chain Uniqlo.

The 19-year-old said he decided on his own to compete in skateboarding. “It’s embarrassing to start (something) after being told to do so,” he said.

Skateboarding makes its Olympic debut in the Tokyo Games. And if successful, Hirano would be the first Japanese athlete to compete in both snowboarding and skateboarding Olympic events.

Born on Nov. 29, 1998, in Murakami, Niigata Prefecture, Hirano became the youngest Japanese Winter Olympic medalist by winning silver in the half-pipe at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games when he was 15.

At the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February, Hirano pulled off an Olympic-first back-to-back double cork 1440s, a tough trick consisting of two flips and four full rotations. But he still could not top 31-year-old American Shaun White, who won his third gold in the half-pipe event.

“I was naturally frustrated,” Hirano, the silver medalist, said. “But what mattered is what I would do about such feelings. I felt it would be a waste if I just let the frustration continue to the end.”

Hirano started planning his new mission upon his return home from the Games in South Korea.

“Now that skateboarding has become an official event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, I could not just let it go,” Hirano said.

Hirano started both snowboarding and skateboarding when he was 4 years old. He has been practicing skateboarding at a local facility set up by his father, Hidenori, 46.

Whenever he travels overseas for a snowboard competition, he always brings his skateboard.

The two sports appear similar but they are quite different, Hirano said.

He also worries that training for the two sports could make him weak in both events.

“I must brace myself for the possibility that pursuing both sports could end up in the air,” Hirano said. “(But) I want to keep trying to do something that nobody has ever tried.”

Hirano’s back-to-back double cork 1440s in the FIS World Cup last season were the first in history.

He is also the youngest medalist in a Winter X Games, an extreme sports event, when he won silver in 2013 in Aspen at the age of 14.

He also won the gold medal in the men’s superpipe in the Winter X Games in both 2016 and 2018.

Hirano says he becomes engrossed in studying videos of his competitors and himself while recovering from injuries suffered in the high-flying sport.

His words often exude extreme confidence. For example, he says of his record feats that he is proud to “embody something made possible only because of myself.”

However, Hirano’s younger brother, Kaishu, 16, says: “(My brother) may look cool and calm, but he usually tells me many hilarious stories, as well.”

With just two years to go until the Tokyo Olympics, Hirano said: “The first person to defy the odds is the toughest of all, and that requires courage. The name of the game is how far I can go when facing a big wall.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Takeo Yoshinaga and Takeshi Teruya.)