Tokyo 2020: 13-year-old Japanese skateboarder wins Olympic gold

Momiji Nishiya topped the podium with two other teenagers in second and third

Brazil’s Rayssa Leal (silver), Japan’s Momiji Nishiya (gold) and Japan’s Funa Nakayama (bronze) pose during the medal ceremony after the skateboarding women’s street final. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil’s Rayssa Leal (silver), Japan’s Momiji Nishiya (gold) and Japan’s Funa Nakayama (bronze) pose during the medal ceremony after the skateboarding women’s street final. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

 

Japanese 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya clinched the Olympic title in the women’s street skateboarding competition on Monday, shedding tears of happiness after nailing her final trick and becoming the country’s youngest-ever gold medal winner.

Nishiya came out on top of an unusually young field of competitors, with all three medalists in their teens. Brazilian silver medallist Rayssa Leal is also 13, while bronze medallist Funa Nakayama, also from Japan, is 16.

Her victory brought a skateboarding double for Japan after Yuto Horigome won gold in 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 Nishiya 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, bringing her total above Brazilian prodigy Leal.

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In a surprise twist, Nishiya’s Japanese team mate, Aori Nishimura, 19, struggled after repeatedly stumbling in the finals and coming last.

Earlier in the day 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. Nishimura currently holds the No1 ranking according to Worldskate.

On Monday athletes again competed in front of empty stands without roars of approval from fans when they landed difficult moves, as spectators were kept away in Tokyo due to anti-Covid-19 measures.

Even so, Brazil’s Leal had by far the liveliest supporters, with comparative veterans Pamela Rosa and Leticia Bufoni in her corner in the finals. They comforted Leal after she broke down in tears following a failed trick, which seemed to momentarily erase the confidence she had in 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 medalist Nakayama, who used to take the overnight bus to Tokyo from Toyama in central Japan just to practice skating, said she hoped the Japanese skaters’ successes would also encourage more young women to take up the sport.

“I want more rivals, which will make skating more fun,” she said.

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