Most athletes do not peak until their 20s. Snowboarders are different: youth reigns supreme. Its household names, Chloe Kim and Shaun White, won Olympic gold medals aged 17 and 19 respectively. Jack Coyne (USA) went viral at 11. A 2013 snowboarding video of him accumulated hundreds of thousands of views.
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“It felt crazy, it just blew up Coyne said. “The video was a bit goofy so I ended up looking through the comments and there were a bunch of people hating on me. I just had to think ‘whatever’. But my family and friends were stoked. Coyne started riding aged four in his hometown of Vail. “I was pretty good at 11,” he said. “I had a few years on the books, so to then carry on and make the US team for the Youth Olympics is awesome.”
He is part of an impressive US men’s team, including Jake Canter, Dusty Hendrickson and Kolmar Leroy, while two unrelated Japanese athletes with the family name Hirano are also likely to shine.
Hirano Ruska (JPN) is the current junior world champion and is already making podiums in senior World Cup events, while Hirano Kamisha (JPN) recently came fourth at the Japanese national championships. Big Air junior world championships silver medallist Kawakami Alto (JPN) is also likely to be a contender. In the women’s field, Ono Mitsuko (JPN) is the junior world champion, while world silver medallist Tessa Maud (USA) is an outstanding competitor.
“The US team is killing it this year,” Coyne said. “But the Japanese are going to be really competitive. So why do snowboarders peak so early?
“I think we start the sport young and we make progressions much faster than we used to,” Coyne added. “A lot of us also don’t have too much fear. If you grow up doing halfpipe, it’s not so bad. If I started it now I’d be way more scared because dropping into a halfpipe is scary.”