Skateboarding is about to make its historic Olympic debut. Get a glimpse of the incredible talent on display in these gravity-defying photos.
Skateboarding is entering a new chapter as it’s included as an Olympic event at the 2021 Tokyo Games—a long-awaited moment in the history of the sport. The newly-minted Olympic competition, which kicks off on July 25th, has been split into two categories—park and street—each comprising of two rounds, the preliminaries and finals.
Park skating will feature ramps and pipes—similar to the type of terrain you might find at a traditional skate park. This will serve as the stage in which competitors will be judged based on the immense heights they achieve when climbing the curves at rapid speeds, followed by the quality of their thrilling mid-air tricks.
The preliminaries of the park event will feature twenty skaters for each gender, sorted into four heats of five skaters. Each skater has the chance to perform three forty-five-second runs before a panel of five judges who will score them on a scale of 0 to 100 (with two decimal places). The highest and lowest scores of each run are dropped, and the remaining scores are averaged. The highest of the three-run scores will be the skater’s final score. The top eight skaters overall will advance to the finals, where they’ll compete in the same way in a bid to take home an Olympic medal.
Meanwhile, street skateboarding will involve rails, stairs, curbs, walls, benches, and slopes to mimic an urban cityscape. Each competitor will navigate the course, performing their best tricks to impress the judges. Factors like speed, height, originality, execution, and composition all play a part in the scoring.
The preliminaries of the street event will also have twenty skaters for each gender, sorted into four heats of five skaters. This event, however, has two runs, each lasting forty-five seconds and featuring five tricks. Judges will score competitors on each run or trick they perform on a ten-point scale (with one decimal place). Again, the highest and lowest scores of each trick or run are discarded, and the remaining three scores are averaged out to determine a final score. Eight will advance to the final and perform another two runs and five tricks to determine the champion.
After a long qualification process, the official round-up of eighty skateboarders (forty male and forty female) was only just finalized in June. Three athletes per gender per event were selected from the World Championships, sixteen from the world rankings, and one from the host country, Japan.
The first-ever skateboarding Olympians hail from twenty-six different nations. Their talent is equally eclectic, as evident in these incredible photos of the athletes in competition.
1. Nyjah Huston, Street Skateboarding (United States)
Ranked as the No. 1 tour skater in the world, the U.S. competitor is a firm favorite to win gold in the men’s street category at the Games. Boasting an already impressive resume, the four-time world champion has been awarded the most street gold and street medals in X Games history and has received more prize money than any other skater in the sport’s history.
2. Pamela Rosa, Street Skateboarding (Brazil)
Growing up on the tough inner-city streets of southeastern Brazil, Pamela Rosa summoned sheer grit and determination to reach the top tier of women’s skateboarding. Now twenty-one, she already owns five X Games medals—two of them gold.
3. Heimana Reynolds, Park Skateboarding (United States)
As the highest-ranked male park skater in the world, Hawaiian native Heimana Reynolds topped the Olympic rankings by a huge margin. Now, he’s set his sights on doing what no other skateboarder has done before—winning gold at the Olympics for Team USA.
4. Misugu Okamoto, Park Skateboarding (Japan)
Japanese schoolgirl Misugu Okamoto, fifteen, looks to be Japan’s top hope of winning Olympic gold on home turf in the park event. She took up skateboarding when she was just eight years old, and she’s been on a vertical trajectory ever since. In 2019, she placed first in four of the last five Olympic qualifying events and currently sits in the No. 1 spot in the World Skate rankings.
5. Yuto Horigome, Street Skateboarding (Japan)
Another Japanese skateboarder to watch is Yuto Horigome, who’s currently ranked second in the world in street skateboarding. The twenty-two-year-old narrowly beat Nyjah Huston at the 2021 Street Skateboarding World Championship held in Rome in June. He’s pictured reacting just moments after winning the men’s final.
6. Rayssa Leal, Street Skateboarding (Brazil)
Rayssa Leal rose to prominence in 2015, after videos of the then eight-year-old doing tricks in a tutu went viral. At eleven, Leal became the youngest ever skateboarder to win the Women’s Final at the Street League Skateboarding World Tour. Today, the fifteen-year-old is second in the World Street Skateboarding rankings and is set to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
7. Zion Wright, Park Skateboarding (United States)
Zion Wright arrived at the final park skateboarding event for the Olympics ranked 114th, and 16th among Americans. He needed to win the Dew Tour in Des Moines if he were to have any chance of earning that third and final spot—and he did. Against all odds, Wright won the Dew Tour just two years after finishing 76th at the event—providing one of the most thrilling Olympic qualifying event victories across all sports this year.
8. Sky Brown, Park Skateboarding (Great Britain)
Sky Brown is a professional skateboarder and surfer from Miyazaki, Japan. With a Japanese mother and British father, Brown chose to represent Team Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She will be the youngest person to compete in the Summer Olympics, turning thirteen just before the Games begin in late July.
9. Sora Shirai, Street Skateboarding (Japan)
After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Sora Shirai thought his chances of participating in skateboarding’s first-ever Olympic Games were over. But, after learning the Tokyo Olympics were postponed due to COVID-19, Shirai had surgery and resumed training after rehab.
In June 2021, Shirai placed third in the men’s Street Skateboarding World Championship held in Rome and secured a ticket to the Olympic Games.
10. Leticia Bufoni, Street Skateboarding (Brazil)
Brazil might be a hotbed of skateboarding talent today, but when Leticia Bufoni started out at age nine, she was the only girl on a skateboard. Despite being told skateboarding is “a man’s sport,” today she’s one of the world’s top female street skateboarders, fourth globally in the female street skating discipline.
11. Lizzie Armanto, Park Skateboarding (Finland)
With over thirty awards to her name, Lizzie Armanto of Finland is one of the most successful women in skateboarding. One of her most stunning accomplishments occurred on a ramp known as “the 360-degree loop.” Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk himself invented this infamous challenge, in which skaters travel upside down in a perfect circle. Fewer than twenty people in the world are said to have done it (successfully), and Armanto is one of them. The skateboarder ranks fifth globally in the park skateboarding discipline and has set her sights on her next big accomplishment—the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Skateboarding in the Olympic Games runs from July 25-26 (street) and August 4-5 (park) in Miyazaki, Japan.
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Cover image via Charlie Neibergall/?AP/?Shutterstock.
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