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April 18, 2024
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Mitsuki Ono wins 1st halfpipe gold of season at World Cup event

Japan’s Mitsuki Ono claimed her first gold medal of the season in the third round of the snowboarding halfpipe World Cup on Saturday.

Last season’s overall champion in the discipline logged 81.75 points with the first of her two finals runs in Laax, Switzerland, to beat second-placed Bea Kim (77.50) of the United States and Japan’s Ruki Tomita (60.50) in third.

“I feel I’ve really gotten stronger performing in real competition,” the 19-year-old Ono said.

Japan’s Mitsuki Ono performs a trick on her way to winning a snowboarding halfpipe World Cup event in Laax, Switzerland, on Jan. 20, 2024. (Kyodo)

“I’ve boarded my way through and it’s a satisfying result, but I’m aware I’ve still got some way to go. I’ll keep working to improve my skills.”

Ono won her maiden World Cup gold in Laax a year ago, when the final was canceled due to bad weather and the standing decided by results from the qualification round.

“It’s a special feeling, different from last year. There’s no other event that draws this many people,” Ono said.

Japan’s Mitsuki Ono (L) and Ruki Tomita stand on the podium after placing first and third, respectively, at a snowboarding halfpipe World Cup event in Laax, Switzerland, on Jan. 20, 2024. (Kyodo)

The 2022 Winter Olympian energized the crowd with solid tricks after three other finalists were forced to withdraw due to injury.

The occasion also marked a return to competition for the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist, Chloe Kim of the United States, who was unable to complete a clean run on either attempt.

“This is a season for taking on challenges. I want to know how far I can go when Chloe and other rivals are out there,” Ono said. “It’s a good opportunity to step up both mentally and technically.”

Japan’s Ruka Hirano came third in the men’s competition after scoring 90.00, with Beijing Olympic silver medalist Scotty James (94.00) and Valentino Guseli (92.25) earning a 1-2 finish for Australia.

Australia’s Scotty James (L) poses for photos after winning the men’s halfpipe at a snowboard World Cup event in Laax, Switzerland, on Jan. 20, 2024, alongside Japan’s Ruka Hirano, who finished third. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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