PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Some projected Yuki Kadono to win an Olympic medal, but the Japanese snowboarder isn’t even on the entry list.
Kadono made his fourth X Games Aspen big air podium in the last five years two weeks ago. He is the first man to land back-to-back triple cork 1620s and believed to be the only one to land a quadruple cork 1980 (though not in a contest).
Yet he has not competed in an International Ski Federation event (like a World Cup or world championships) since August 2015, making him ineligible for the Olympics.
The Japanese Olympic Committee did not detail why when asked about it Wednesday. Kadono and Japan’s snowboard federation have not responded to Facebook messages or an email asking the same question.
But others have. A man with Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers company in PyeongChang and Olympic big air medal favorite Max Parrot of Canada, in separate interviews, said that Kadono violated Japanese law while he was in the U.S.
“His federation, they didn’t like it, so they kicked him off the national team,” said Parrot, the three-time reigning X Games big air champion. “His career for that ended. But we have other contests like Dew Tour, X Games, so he can still participate in those ones.”
Three other Canadian riders said they didn’t know the exact violation, but they knew there was an issue between Kadono and the Japanese federation.
The absence of the 21-year-old Kadono from slopestyle starting with qualifying Friday night (ET) and the new Olympic event of big air in two weeks is felt by the medal favorites.
“I’ve gotten to know Yuki pretty well over the last four years, and it is really tough not having him here,” said Mark McMorris, a four-time X Games Aspen slopestyle champion. “Japan’s obviously a really strict nation not letting him come. It’s kind of their loss at the end of the day. The kid’s so nice, such a great representative of snowboarding. He’s a really polite kid. It’s too bad.”
For McMorris, the episode reminds him of Kazuhiro Kokubo, the Japanese rider who was barred from the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony by his federation for showing up in Vancouver with his shirt untucked, tie loosened and pants sagging below his waist.
Kadono’s violation is not believed to be along those lines.
“It’s an honor thing,” NBC Olympics analyst Todd Richards said. “The Japanese team, they don’t screw around.”
The Canadians could sweep big air or slopestyle in PyeongChang, but they would rather do it with the groundbreaking Japanese rider in the field.
“If he was here, he could definitely be a medal contender in big air and slope,” said Tyler Nicholson, the 2017 X Games slopestyle silver medalist from Ontario. “He’s done one of the gnarliest snowboard tricks that’s ever been done, a backside quadruple cork 1980. When I saw that, I was just mind-blown. … He did 16 to 16 [at the 2015 U.S. Open]. It still hasn’t been done [since]. Maybe at this event you’ll see it from some of the dudes, but not Yuki, unfortunately.”