Very few 12-year-olds get the chance to make history, but a pair of skateboarding phenoms may be headed to Tokyo this summer to do just that as two of the youngest-ever summer Olympians.
Kokona Hiraki and Sky Brown aren't you're typical skateboarders, nor are they your typical preteens. You don't get to the Olympics at 12 by being ordinary. Both girls have qualified to compete in the first-ever Olympic skateboarding event, with Hiraki skating for Japan and Brown representing Great Britain. Both girls compete in the park skateboarding event, which involves doing tricks on skate park-style ramps and bowls. Street skateboarding, which involves tricks done on stairs, handrails, benches, walls and slopes, will also be making its debut as an Olympic sport.
Brown currently ranks as the third-best female park skateboarding competitor in the world at age 12 (though she'll be 13 by the time she reaches Tokyo). Hiraki ranks sixth in the world. At age 12.
Did I mention they are 12 years old? TWELVE. Unreal.
Hiraki will compete as the youngest Olympian ever from Japan. Five of the top ten ranking female park skaters, including the top two, are Japanese, so competition from the country is fierce. But Hiraki told The Japan Times she didn't let nerves get the better of her at the qualifier.
"I was enjoying it just as usual," she said. "I wasn't as nervous as usual."
Sky Brown would have been Britain's youngest ever Olympian if the Olympics hadn't been postponed by a year, but that year turned out to be a good thing for her chances to compete anyway. In June of 2020, Brown suffered horrifying injuries during a training fall in which she fractured her skull and broke her wrist and hand. The fact that she was able to recover, continue training, and then take home second place in the Olympic qualifier is truly something.
Brown doesn't seem too fazed by any of her skating success or the pressures many athletes feel trying to get to the Olympics. "I'm always wonderfully surprised to see where it takes me," she told ESPN. "So, I'm not too stressed about the Olympics. I just want to see what happens and enjoy the journey."
Gracious, these babies and their cool-as-a-cucumber confidence.
Last year, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk told ESPN that Brown is "a unicorn" in the world of skating.
"She has incredible potential," he said. "She could definitely be one of the best female skaters ever, if not one of the best, well-rounded skaters ever, regardless of gender. She has such confidence, such force, even at such a young age. The way she's able to learn new tricks and the way she absorbs direction, it's so rare."
Whether they end up medaling or not, to qualify for the Olympics at 12 is extraordinary and their futures in the sport are incredibly bright. Go, girls, go.
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