Skateboarding in Tokyo Olympics Continues With Park Competition
Skateboarding was added to the Olympics in hopes that it would infuse the Summer Games with a jolt of youthful rebellion. One way to do it in Tokyo is to feature real kids.
While the street competition wrapped up last week, with Yuto Horigome and Momiji Nishiya from Japan winning the gold medals, the women’s park will be held on Wednesday (Tuesday night in the US), and the men’s park. will follow Thursday at Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.
Who are the skaters to watch?
The youngest athletes in the park’s women’s event have reasonable expectations for medals.
Japan’s Kokona Hiraki is 12 (she will be 13 a few weeks after the Olympics), but the two big favorites are Briton Sky Brown, 13, and Japan’s Misugu Okamoto, 15.
Beyond their petite stature and flying acrobatics in the bowl, Brown and Okamoto are a study of contrasts. Brown is the effervescent daughter of a British father and a Japanese mother, who grew up mainly in Japan and now lives mainly in California. Her smile will win her fans in at least three countries.
Okamoto is a calm and unemotional competitor, the best park skateboarder of the past two years, leading a deep Japanese contingent that could win more medals in skateboarding than any other country.
Others are likely to be swallowed up primarily by the United States and Brazil. This is the other thing that skateboarding promises besides youth – the likelihood of medalists from four continents and a wide range of diversity and personalities.
Who are the other stars?
The Men’s park is a competition for the general public that promises high-level acrobatics, perfect for television. American talent runs deep: World No.1 ranked Heimana Reynolds, No.2 Cory Juneau and Zion Wright (from Hawaii, California and Florida respectively) could each win a medal, if any. A trio from Brazil could intervene, as could the Swede Oskar Rozenberg.
Rune Glifberg from Denmark will attract attention because, at 46, he looks like almost everyone. He won a medal at the X Games in 1995, before most Olympic skateboarders were born.
What is the difference between the street and the park?
If you watch snowboarding at the Winter Olympics, think of the street and the park much like slopestyle and halfpipe – variations in the frame that feature slightly different types of acrobatics.
While the street is a playground of short stairs, ramps and ramps, meant to simulate something like a schoolyard, the park is meant to evoke a swimming pool. It’s a deep, asymmetrical bowl of sheer drops and outlines. Athletes will run through it in one non-stop stretch for 45 seconds, or until they fall. They will throw and spin high on the rim of the bowl and fall back into the pool to pick up speed to start over. A panel of judges will rate each athlete’s three races, and the highest score is the only one that matters.
In street and park, the fields of 20 men and 20 women (including three per country at most in each discipline and gender) will each be reduced to eight finalists, who will return later in the day and start over.
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