The event is one of five additions to this year’s Games, alongside karate, sport climbing, surfing, and the returning baseball/softball.
Skateboarding as a sport is still fairly new, only really existing in its current form since the early 1980s. However, it has been a constant fixture of the X Games since its inception. There are traditionally five disciplines, but only two will be held at Tokyo 2020.
Australia boasts one of the larger teams, with five athletes heading to Tokyo. Only Brazil, the USA and Japan had more skateboarders qualify.
Skateboarding events – park or street?
At Tokyo 2020, skateboarding will be broken up into two events: the park, and street events, across both the men’s and women’s divisions.
The park will see skaters tackle a course that might not look all too dissimilar from your local skate-park. Bowls and ramps make up the majority of the course, giving skaters ample opportunity to get plenty of air.
For the street course then, the primary focus is on rails, steps, and shorter, sharper ramps. Though there are more flat surfaces, technical skills will be put to the test.
Both events are overseen by judges, who mark skaters in a similar manner to events like figure skating or snowboarding.
Skaters are scored based on their style, difficulty of both individual tricks and the run as a whole, consistency of the run, and the amplitude of the heights they reach. The amplitude is more relevant on the park course, where there is significantly more opportunity for mid-air tricks.
Why you should be getting tubular at Tokyo
Let’s be honest; everyone has either wished for or been gifted a skateboard as a birthday or Christmas present at some point in their life. And yes, 95% of us never used them.
In seriousness though, skateboarding joining the Olympic line-up at Tokyo 2020 is a history-making moment.
Every athlete competing in the sport is making their Olympic debut. It’s a chance to watch some of the brightest young athletes we have on offer to strut their stuff on the world stage.
Four of the five Australians competing in skateboarding are 21-years-old or younger. Sydney’s Kieran Woolley makes his Olympic debut at just 17.
While the larger teams have dominated medal placings at world events and the X Games previously, there’s no doubt every Aussie skater is off to Tokyo to make their mark.
More Tokyo 2020 News
The 2021 Street Skateboarding World Championships were held in Rome from May 30 to June 6, with the top three of both the men’s and women’s events qualifying for the Olympics.
Japan took home the gold in both the men’s and women’s events, also earning bronze. The USA’s Nyjah Huston would come away with a silver, while Brazil’s Rayssa Leal earned bronze.
Shane O’Neill was the only Australian to move past the initial qualifiers, finishing 12th in the semi-final. His score of 26.93 left him four points shy of moving on to the final.
Poppy Starr Olsen most recently won bronze at the 2017 X Games, in the women’s park event. She put up a score of 83.66, five behind the USA’s Brighton Zeuner. Olsen and Zeuner will go head to head once again in Tokyo.
The Aussies on boards
Kieran Woolley (17) – Men’s park: Regular stance.
The youngest member of the Australian skateboarding team, this is the biggest stage Woolley has seen yet.
He recently won the Australia Street Skateboarding Championships in March, in the open male division. Woolley has overcome multiple injury setbacks since 2019 to join the Olympic team.
Keegan Palmer (18) – Men’s park: Goofy stance.
Palmer has rocketed up to seventh place in the Olympic World Skateboarding Rankings and will be making veterans with far more experience than him, sweat.
He’s said before he enjoys the pressure of a crowd, and there’s no bigger audience than that of the whole world. Palmer’s highest X Games placement is 10th, and he’ll have a lot to prove at Tokyo.
Poppy Starr Olsen (21) – Women’s park: Regular stance.
Now fourth in the Olympic World Skateboarding Rankings, Olsen is beginning to look like one of Australia’s genuine podium threats.
Having won bronze at the 2017 X Games when she was just 17, Olsen is no stranger to the big stage. She’s already made history as the first Australian woman to compete at the X Games, can she now become the first Australian skateboarder to win an Olympic medal?
Shane O’Neill (31) – Men’s street: Goofy stance.
The veteran of the Australia team, O’Neill boasts more experience than the majority of skaters he’ll be competing against at Tokyo.
Though he comes up against some true powerhouses of street boarding, O’Neill is no slouch. He won gold at the World Skateboarding Championship in 2016, and silver at both the Championship in 2017 and the X Games in 2016.
Hayley Wilson (19) – Women’s street: Goofy stance.
Wilson was the Australian Skateboarding League champion for four years straight, winning the event four times in a row between 2016 and 2019. She did it for the first time at just 14.
She also won silver in the 2019 Street League Skateboarding Championship, boasting one of the strongest recent records of any of the Australians heading to Tokyo.
Sunday, July 25 – Men’s street
Monday, July 26 – Women’s street
Wednesday, August 4 – Women’s park
Thursday, August 5 – Men’s park
Who’s grinding for gold?
Wilson and Olsen are firming as Australia’s best medal chances across the skateboarding events, with some of the strongest proven form on the big stage.
Brazilian Pamela Rosa will be the skater to beat in the women’s street, having placed six times at the X Games since 2014, including two golds. She also won the 2019 World Skateboarding Championship in Sao Paulo, over Wilson.
In the men’s street, American Nyjah Huston and Japan’s Yuto Horigome and Sora Shirai will be full of confidence after taking out podium finishes at the World Championships to qualify for Tokyo.
Palmer will be pushing hard for a medal in the men’s park, though Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano has shown off his multi-disciplinary chops. He’s already a two-time Winter Olympic silver medallist and could add another to his cabinet. Brazillian Pedros Barros has more X Games experience than anyone, and will also be looking at the podium.
The first event begins at 9 AM JST on Sunday, July 25 at Ariake Urban Sports Park. These athletes are just a few weeks away from making history.
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