An Aussie favourite was in the thick of things when the world lost its mind over the way his rival was treated in an Olympic final.
Australian snowboarder Scotty James was in the thick of the action when controversy struck on Friday afternoon as commentators and fans cried foul over the judges’ treatment of his Japanese rival in the halfpipe final.
James crashed out of his opening run but blew everyone away with a stunning second effort, nailing a frontside 1440 with his final trick and receiving a monster score of 92.50 to slot into top spot.
Ayumu Hirano also pulled out something special in his second run, completing a spectacular frontside triple cork to become the first person ever to land the trick at an Olympics. But one judge only gave him a score of 89, dragging his overall score for the second round down to 91.75 and leaving him in second position, behind James.
Viewers couldn’t believe the assessment and American snowboarding legend Todd Richards was absolutely scathing in his analysis of how Hirano was treated.
“Ahhh what? What? Is there a mistake? There’s no way, there is no way. A 91.75?” he said in commentary for NBC. “As far as I’m concerned, the judges just grenaded all their credibility.
“I’ve been doing this for so long, so long, I know what a good run looks like. I know the ingredients of a winning run. I know when I’ve seen the best run that’s ever been done in the halfpipe.
“Try to tell me where you’re deducting from this run. It’s unbelievable that this is even happening. It’s a travesty to be completely honest with you.
“I am irate right now.
“Someone call the authorities, there’s been a robbery.”
That outburst on American TV was only the tip of the iceberg. There were reports of booing on the ground in China over the score as the rest of the world threw its support behind Hirano.
US sportscaster Adam Rosen tweeted: “No disrespect to Scotty James or any of the other competitors, but that’s just absolutely ridiculous. Absolutely robbed.”
Chris Costa wrote: “Oh my lord Ayumu Hirano ‘destroyed this halfpipe’ — a shocking 2nd place behind Scotty James. The announcers are in disbelief.”
NBC’s Kiki Intarasuwan said: “A triple cork has never been landed in the Olympics and Ayumu Hirano landed it in his near perfect run. Was it broad daylight robbery that he got a lower score than Scotty James? I’m shook.”
Regina Kim added: “I really want Shaun White or another US snowboarder to win, but after seeing that ridiculously low score the judges gave to Ayumu Hirano, I’ve lost all faith in the #Olympics.”
American comedian Jeff Davis tweeted: “Dear snowboard judges: you suck. #ayumuhirano had the best run ever and you should be ashamed.”
Fortunately for Hirano, the controversial call didn’t cost him. He produced another breathtaking run on his third trip to the pipe and this time the judges scored him a 96. It was enough for him to claim gold, relegating James to silver.
James won silver four years ago in PyeongChang and the Aussie hero repeated the dose in Beijing with another stellar showing that put him on the podium once again.