NBC's Todd Richards torches halfpipe judges for controversial Ayumu Hirano score

Japan's Ayumu Hirano laid down two unprecedented runs en route to a gold medal in the Beijing halfpipe on Monday.

But only the last of his three runs was good enough for gold. His second fell just shy of Australia's Scotty James. NBC's Todd Richards wasn't having it.

Hirano started his run with a triple cork — the hardest trick in snowboarding that had never been landed in previous Olympics. He finished his run without a mistake.

Richards, a snowboarding pioneer who helped launch the halfpipe in its 1998 Olympic debut with Team USA was livid when the run scored a 91.75, trailing James' run of 92.50 for gold-medal position.

'Is there a mistake?'

"Uhhhhh, what?" Richards proclaimed when the score was announced. "Is there a mistake? How did that — wait a minute. There's no way. There is nooo way! A 91.75?"

NBC then cut to commercial break. But Richards wasn't done. Given some time to collect his thoughts, Richards let loose on the judges when the broadcast resumed.

"As far as I'm concerned, the judges just grenaded all their credibility," Richards continued. "That run — I've been doing this for so long. Soooo long. I know what a good run looks like.

"I know the ingredients of a winning run. I know when I see the best run that's ever been done in a 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."

After yet another commercial break, Richards was still heated.

"All we've been talking about is the triple," Richards continued. "It's the next level. It takes the most commitment of any trick. And it wasn't like he just did a triple. He combo'd that into incredible tricks."

Ayumu Hirano from Japan winning gold during Snowboard - Half Pipe at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park on February 11, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
In the end, Ayumu Hirano secured his gold. (Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

'This is triple-gate'

When he saw the scoring breakdown — and that an American judge gave him an 89 — he fired back up. The highest and lowest scores are thrown out, but the 89 was the only score not in the 90s. Meanwhile Sweden scored it a 96, France a 92, Canada a 90, Japan a 95 and Switzerland a 90.

"This is triple-gate," Richards continued. "The U.S. judge dropped an 89. No other judge put him in the 80s. ... I can’t believe — I’m still in shock that that wasn’t rewarded.

"What is the point of doing the triple cork — the most dangerous of dangerous tricks — if you’re not gonna get rewarded for it? ... Never did I think there would be controversy like this in halfpipe snowboarding."

The controversy was short-lived. Ayumu put down the last — and the best — run of the event, topping his previous run and James' 92.50. Richards cheered him on as he dropped into the pipe: "Give it to them, Ayumu."

Give it to them he did, en route to an 96 — a gold-medal score by a comfortable margin. Only then was Richards was satisfied.

"Justice. That run is the heaviest run that has has ever been done in a halfpipe. I will say that. It will echo through social media for the next however long. Ayumu Hirano. The G, the new king."