Young teens dominate women’s street event
Gold and silver medallists are just 13, while the bronze winner is 16
Japanese schoolgirl Momiji Nishiya, 13, clinched the Olympic title in the women's street skateboarding competition yesterday, shedding tears of happiness after nailing her final trick and becoming the country's youngest-ever gold medallist.
Nishiya came out on top of an unusually young field of competitors, with all three medallists in their teens.
Brazilian silver medallist Rayssa Leal is also 13, while bronze medallist Funa Nakayama, also from Japan, is 16.
Nishiya's victory brought a skateboarding double for Japan after Yuto Horigome, 22, won the men's street event on Sunday, claiming the first gold medal for the sport in Olympic history.
"I welled up in tears because I was beyond happy," Nishiya said, describing the moment when she realised she had won gold.
Though the 13-year-old said she was "stressed out" after initially stumbling and missing key landings on her first two tricks, she landed her final three, earning 4.66 on her fourth, to bring her total above Brazilian prodigy Leal.
In a twist, Nishiya's fancied Japanese teammate, Aori Nishimura, 19, struggled after repeatedly stumbling in the finals and finishing last.
Earlier yesterday, after the heats, Nishimura's father, Tetsuo, told Reuters his daughter had hurt herself the day before during practice and was in a wheelchair on Sunday night.
Athletes again competed in front of empty stands without roars of approval from fans yesterday when they landed difficult moves, as spectators were kept away in Tokyo due to anti-coronavirus measures.
Even so, Leal had by far the liveliest supporters, with compatriots Pamela Rosa, 22, and Leticia Bufoni, 28, who were both eliminated, backing her.
They comforted Leal after she broke down in tears following a failed trick, which seemed to momentarily erase the confidence she had displayed in the preliminaries.
By the end of the event, Leal had cheered up, telling reporters she wanted to have a party with friends when she returned to Brazil.
Asked by a reporter how she would respond to people who said girls can't skate, Leal said there should be no gender barrier in sports.
"It's not right to think, 'well you have to study, you can't go skating because skating is for boys,'" she said, adding that she had never listened to such messages.
"I think skateboarding is for everyone."
Bronze medallist Nakayama, who used to take the overnight bus to Tokyo from Toyama in central Japan just to practise, said she hoped Japanese skaters' successes would encourage more young women to take up the sport.
"I want more rivals, which will make skating more fun," she said. - REUTERS