Ariake Urban Sports Park, Tokyo
When the three athletes on an Olympic podium have a combined age of 42, you know — in the words of English rock band The Who — that the kids are alright.
That was the case as women’s street skateboarding made its bow at the Olympics, with 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya of Japan taking gold ahead of Brazil’s Rayssa Leal — also 13 — and 16-year-old Funa Nakayama, also from Japan.
If organizers wanted to engage a younger audience by adding skateboarding to the Olympic program, then it was mission accomplished at Tokyo’s Ariake Urban Sports Park.
Nishiya, who becomes one of the youngest ever Olympic champions, moved into the gold medal position with her fifth and last trick in Monday’s final. Her score of 15.26 saw her leapfrog Leal (14.64) and Nakayama (14.49).
“I’m simply very, very delighted. I am so happy,” Nishiya told reporters, adding that she felt her success had “nothing to do with her age.”
While fans being kept away from nearly all Olympic venues has led to a surreal, eerie atmosphere at some events, this street skateboarding final hummed with energy — be it the music that was pumped from speakers, or the lively announcer who encouraged and cajoled the skaters from the sidelines.
The 20 competitors brought an energy of their own, too, fist-bumping and elbow-tapping each other in between rounds.
Combine that with the constant buzz of the cicadas that could be heard from a nearby cluster of trees and the absence of fans was almost forgotten.
The heats — which, like the final, saw riders scored on two 45-second runs and five individual tricks — were topped by the three skaters who would eventually stand on the podium, although it was Nakayama who initially led the way with a score of 15.77.
As the eight best riders advanced to the final, the stands began to fill up with the competitors’ teammates and a growing number of media members. On several occasions, the announcer had to remind spectators to wear masks. With the final heating up, USA’s Alexis Sablone and Netherlands’ Roos Zwetsloot both had chances to move into the medal positions, but neither could stick their last two tricks.
Nishiya, Leal and Nakayama all had an opportunity to take gold with their final tricks, but Nishiya — Japan’s second Olympic champion in skateboarding after Yuto Horigome’s victory in the men’s street competition on Monday — was the only rider to land one.—AFP