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For the first time, skateboarding is an official Olympic sport, and after watching the men's and women's street skateboarding events this weekend, our family has decided it's officially a totally welcome addition.
I grew up with a skateboarding brother during the earliest years of Tony Hawk's career, so the sport itself isn't unfamiliar to me. But I've never really followed skate competitions and wasn't sure how it would translate into an Olympic event. As it turns out, there are several things that make it both entertaining and refreshing to watch in comparison with other sports.
For one, let's talk about the "uniform" the athletes wear. As debates rage over volleyball bikinis and gymnastics leotards, here are the male and female skateboarders in long, loose pants and baggy t-shirts. They are the most comfortable-looking Olympians I've ever seen (being out in the humid Japanese heat notwithstanding). They look like they just popped off the couch after watching a movie and decided to go out and hop on their skateboard.
Secondly, hearing the announcers call out the names of the tricks was surprisingly entertaining. We laughed out loud as they strung together words like "That was a gnarly Frontside Half Cab Kickflip to a Nollie Backside 180!" as if those are just normal things everyone recognizes. Half the time it sounded like they were making things up (they weren't, of course), which we found just delightful. At the same time, the announcers were good about explaining what the tricks entailed so that those of us who aren't familiar with the ins and outs could appreciate what we were seeing.
Third, it was awesome to see the chill culture of skateboarding take root on the world's biggest, most intense sports stage. Skaters are competitive, no doubt, but they also all cheer each other on and seem so supportive of one another. In skateboarding, anyone landing an epic trick is a cause for celebration, and anyone who stumbles gets a pat on the back and a high five for the attempt. There's no cutthroat vibe here, just a unique combo of concentration and laid-backness, which is fun to witness.
Surely, there was heartbreak among those who hoped to medal, as there is in any sport. But the vibe was just different than it is n most sports. I mean, this is Margielyn Didal, who finished 7th and had some hard falls during the finals. She was like this pretty much the whole time. Pure joy.
The best tricks Margielyn Didal brought out today are these dance moves 😅 #PusoPilipinas #Tokyo2020 #PHI https://t.co/mpzKGEi0YT— Puso Pilipinas (@Puso Pilipinas)1627269255.0
And how about the diversity in ages, especially among the women skaters? We almost ended up with two teens and a 34-year-old on the podium in the women's street competition, with a spread of 21 years between the youngest and oldest. (American skater Alexis Sablone turns 35 in a couple of weeks and ended up in 4th place after the final trick.) The gold and silver medal winners are both 13 years old, and the bronze winner is 16. And while the young skaters dominated in the end, Sablone showed that it's not just a sport for the youth.
(But let's also take a moment of awe for these 13-year-olds, Momiji Nishiya of Japan and Rayssa Leal of Brazil. Holy moly. So much talent and such great sportsmanship and such a young age.)
Finally, let's have a moment of appreciation for the sport itself. It took a long time for the athletic world to fully appreciate the skill and practice it takes to do things like flip a moving board with four wheels several feet into the air with your feet, make it do just the right number of flips and turns in the air beneath you, stop it in exactly the right position to slide down a railing over a flight of stairs, and then land it on the ground—all while the board and you are flying through the air—without falling off. When skaters do it perfectly, it looks easy. But it's a million little movements and balances and weight distributions and calculations that make these tricks work, and as we saw from how many they don't land how hard it really is.
Also, they land on concrete when they fall. Ouch. And sometimes things like this happen:
Our family and friends have thoroughly enjoyed seeing skateboarding take its place on the Olympic stage, and are looking forward to seeing the park skateboarding competition coming up. Good move making skateboarding an official Olympic sport, finally. Definitely recommend checking out the highlights if you missed it:
THIRTEEN-year-old Momiji Nishiya wins gold in street skateboarding | Tokyo Olympics | NBC Sports www.youtube.com