U.S. Struggles in Skateboarding as Men’s Park Heads to Finals
TOKYO – The United States continues to struggle in skateboarding, a sport it invented and pushed at the Olympics.
Only one American, Cory Juneau, qualified for the final of the men’s park competition, taking eighth and final place on Thursday morning. But the world’s number one American Heimana Reynolds and teammate Zion Wright failed to qualify.
The men’s park competition is the last of four skateboarding events as the sport makes its debut at the Summer Games. In the top three, the United States had a medal, a bronze medal won by Jagger Eaton in the men’s street.
The men’s park, an event filled with high-flying tricks, technical board flips and long grinds on the deep, streamlined bowl rim, seemed like the salvation, deep in American talent.
But as Reynolds explained, with a smile on his face, American exports are now global.
“Skateboarding doesn’t make a distinction where you come from, who you are or anything like that,” he said. “A lot of these people barely speak English, and they’re some of my best friends. We all share the same language of skateboarding, and I think that’s the best part about it.
Under a scorching sun at Ariake Urban Sports Park, Wright and Reynolds finished first and second in the first heat. They had reason to hope that their scores would finish in the top eight out of 20 competitors.
But the scores rose with the morning temperature and their rankings took the standings down. Reynolds retired first, then Wright, as Juneau skated in the last heat and took eighth place.
Soon Juneau, too, was thrown from his position. He needed a big score on his third and final attempt and got it, a 73.0 which edged out 72.24 from Spaniard Danny Leon.
Reynolds finished 13th, Wright 11th, and they weren’t the only big names to miss the final. Among others, the Swede Oskar Rozenberg, considered a big favorite for the medals, struggled to stay on his feet and finished in 17th place.
The ousted, including the Americans, place their enthusiasm for the Olympic arrival of skateboarding above any personal disappointment.
“I was trying not to let my hopes get too high because I was in the first run and there are 20 of the best riders in the world here,” said Reynolds. “So I was just watching it and cheering on pretty much everyone, because we’re all here to skate, you know. And everyone killed him, so I’m just so glad to be here.
Three Brazilian skaters reached the final, scheduled for later today, finishing among the top four qualifiers: Luiz Francisco, Pedro Quintas and Pedro Barros.
Park is contested in a deep, asymmetrical bowl of steep slopes and contours. The athletes were treated to three runs, ending after 45 seconds or one fall. The best score counted. For the finals, the scores will be reset to zero.
Skateboarding made its debut at these Olympics, and skaters from Japan have dominated so far, winning gold in the top three events: men’s and women’s street and women’s park. This is expected to boost the sport’s popularity in Japan, where skateboarding’s long history has mostly taken place in the shadows.
The other theme of skateboarding at these Summer Games has been the age of many top competitors. There is no minimum age requirement for skateboarding at the Olympics, so five of the six youngest athletes at the Olympics were skateboarders, all women.
At the women’s street contest last week, the medal stand had two 13-year-olds and one 16-year-old. At the women’s park on Wednesday, all of the medalists were teenage girls, including 12-year-old Japanese Kokona Hiraki, who won silver, and 13-year-old Briton Sky Brown, who won bronze.
The men’s events got old and the park looked like a possible aberration with an international flavor among the favorites.
Qualifying rounds even included Dane Rune Glifberg, 46, who won an X Games medal in 1995, before most Olympic skateboarders were born. Another 46-year-old Dallas Oberholzer of South Africa was also on the pitch, sporting a smile and graying beard.
Each has ridden like a sort of ambassador from the skateboarding past; both finished last of their heats and did not reach the final.
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