Right now there’s no argument about who’s the best pound-for-pound halfpipe nation in the world – as far as power in the pipe goes, it’s Japan’s world and everyone else is just living in it.
You can start at the top with Ayumu Hirano, Beijing 2022 Olympic gold medallist and two-time Olympic silver medallist, 2021/22 halfpipe crystal globe winner, and first rider to land a triple cork in competition.
Then throw in three-time halfpipe crystal globe winner and Aspen 2021 World Champion Yuto Totsuka, Beijing 2022 Olympic bronze medallist Sena Tomita, 2022/23 crystal globe winner Ruka Hirano (no relation to Ayumu), halfpipe amplitude world record holder Kaishu Hirano (definitely related to Ayumu), World Cup winner Ruki Tomita, young Shuichiro Shigano…the Japanese roster goes on and on, and no other nation on earth can boast one like it.
However, coming into the 2022/23 World Cup season, it had been over 17 years since a Japanese woman last claimed the halfpipe crystal globe, with Melo Imai in 2004/05 making it back-to-back Japanese women’s globe wins after Soko Yamaoka earned the trophy the previous season.
That somewhat surprising 17-year cold streak for the Japanese women came to an end this past February, when 19-year-old Mitsuki Ono claimed her third-straight World Cup victory on a chilly night in Calgary, giving her a total of 360 points on the season and winning her the 2022/23 women’s halfpipe crystal globe.
Mitsuki’s huge season in the pipe would loom even larger a month and a half later in Silvaplana when the USA’s Julia Marino would fall just seven points short of her in a bid to claim the Park & Pipe overall crystal globe – making Mitsuki the first female Japanese halfpipe rider in World Cup history to win the overall trophy.
With her combination of top-to-bottom amplitude, four-way rotations and undeniable, locked-in style, Mitsuki Ono has solidified her place amongst the halfpipe world’s elite – and she’s only just getting started.
Read on for our mid-summer email catch-up with one of the halfpipe world’s finest, below…