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Team USA skaters hope Olympic spotlight will help develop the sport

Jagger Eaton, 20, smiled during the men’s Olympic street skateboarding final.

Shaking his head at the mix of old country and new rap in his AirPods, he used music as motivation in the absence of a crowd, making his way to a bronze medal for the United States last week.

“I feel like I’m at this level and I don’t know if I will come down one day. I’m so happy, I’m so lucky, ”said Eaton three days after the competition. “To win this bronze, I’m just trying to recreate the moment in my head. It’s surreal and I am so blessed.

The women’s skateboarding competition in the park took place on Wednesday with Sakura Yosozumi, 19, and Kokona Hiraki, 12, taking gold and silver for Japan, and Sky Brown, 13, taking bronze for the Grande -Brittany. The men’s park competition takes place on Thursday, when Cory Juneau, 22, Heimana Reynolds, 23, and Zion Wright, 22, represent the United States.

Eaton’s bronze medal in the men’s street competition marks the United States’ first and only medal in the first Olympic street skateboarding competition. Yuto Horigome of Japan, 22, won gold, while Brazilian Kelvin Hoefler, 28, won silver. In the women’s street competition, Momiji Nishiya, 13, and Funa Nakayama, 16, won gold and bronze for Japan, while Brazilian Rayssa Leal, 13, won silver.

Skateboarding has long been seen as a counterculture activity associated with rebellion. Many in the skateboarding community have high hopes that the Olympic spotlight will encourage people around the world to take an interest in the sport.

Bronze medalist Jagger Eaton on the podium at the end of the men’s street qualifiers during the Tokyo Olympics at Ariake Sports Park Skateboarding in Tokyo on July 25, 2021.Jeff Pachoud / AFP – Getty Images

Mariah Duran, 24, a member of the US Street Skateboarding Team, said she hopes not only for growth in the sport, but also an understanding of the pure love and dedication people feel for it.

“We like it,” she said. “We are skating on flat ground in front of the [Olympic] village because we like to do it… our board of directors is attached to us.

Jake Ilardi, 24, a member of the men’s street skateboarding team in the United States, saw firsthand the growing popularity of the sport when he returned from Tokyo after competing in the Olympics.

“When I was on my way back from Japan to my home in Sarasota, this lady came to me and said, ‘Hey, we watched the Olympics this weekend and my daughter wanted to ride. skate because she saw you skate, “he said.” I was like, ‘Wow, not at all!’ and she showed me the picture of her daughter that had just received a brand new skateboard.

However, the first Olympic skateboarding competition in Tokyo also drew some criticism.

The Olympic skatepark was outside, with no substantial protection from the elements. The temperature in Tokyo was already above 86 degrees Fahrenheit when competition began on July 25 and increased throughout the day.

“I have the impression that the weather has affected a lot of competitors and I don’t want to blame them. It touched me too, ”said Eaton, from Mesa, Arizona.

Chris Roberts, a former pro skateboarder and host of “The Nine Club” skateboard interview podcast, said the outdoor competition site contrasted with events hosted by Street League Skateboarding, a professional street skateboarding competition, which usually organizes indoor competitions.

“Having him in an indoor arena would be sick,” Duran said.

American Mariah Duran competes in the women’s street skateboarding final at the Tokyo Olympics on July 26, 2021.Ben Curtis / AP

Duran and Roberts also said there was room for improved street skateboarding coverage received at the Olympics.

“For people who wanted to connect and watch, I know it was a little difficult trying to figure out how to do it,” said Duran.

Roberts said there appeared to be a lack of focus on athletes as well, compared to other high performance sports.

“I think they really missed the point to put skateboarding personalities in the right place,” he said. “I feel like when I watch other sports at the Olympics, they talk about the sport and tell stories of people and this and that, and these plays that they do about them, and I didn’t just saw none of this. “

Still, Ilardi stressed the exposure the sport gains by being included in the Olympics.

“I just hope skateboarding grows,” he said. “My main goal in going to the Olympics wasn’t even the medal, it was to inspire more people to skate.”

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