VISTA – When skateboarding was approved as an Olympic event six years ago, young athletes around the world definitely took notice.
Neither did the teenage girls in Japan, who fled to concrete in droves and found they were pretty good at keeping a board under their feet.
The rapid rise of Japanese girls who can not only ride a board on four small wheels, but also perform difficult kickflips, rail grinds and box jumps was on display at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, and even more at the X Games in recent days.
Five of the six X Games medals awarded in women’s street and park skateboarding competitions have gone to athletes of Japanese nationality. Four of those contestants weren’t even old enough to make it to the California Training Center in Vista.
The success of Japan’s young skaters followed a similar pattern at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, when athletes from the host country won four of six medals in the women’s street and park events.
“I think a lot more girls are in it,” said Sakura Yosozumi, who won an Olympic gold medal at age 19 last summer at the park. “I’m not talking about those who have already arrived. I feel like there are more girls taking lessons in schools and in skateparks now.
Momiji Nishiya, who turns 15 on August 30, won the women’s Street Skateboarding competition on Sunday, adding to the Olympic gold medal she won in Tokyo last summer and silver at the X Games that she won at the age of 11. in 2019.
Chloe Covell, a 12-year-old Australian, delivered a huge final drive to move from seventh to second, pushing 14-year-old Yumeka Oda of Japan to third.
Meanwhile, the two oldest and most experienced competitors in the field of nine, Leticia Bufoni, 29, and Pamela Rosa, 23, both Brazilians, finished at the back of the pack.
The Women’s Skateboard Park event went the same way on Saturday.
Sky Brown, who has dual nationality with Japan and England, won her second straight X Games gold medal in the event, while the Japanese skaters also took second and third place.
Brown, who turned 14 on July 7, joined female skateboarder Brighton Zeuner of Encinitas as the only X Games athlete to win two gold medals before turning 15.
Yosozumi finished second, but also recalled how quickly things can go wrong above hard surfaces. She wiped herself off in the final seconds of her final run, stood still for a stretch, and was eventually taken out on a stretcher.
After being briefly hospitalized, she returned to the event site later that afternoon.
Cocona Hiraki, who turns 14 on August 26, took third place in the park event, adding to the Olympic silver medal she won last summer.
Lizzie Armanto, a heavily sponsored 29-year-old from Santa Monica who won the Women’s Skateboard Park X Games debut in 2013, finished eighth in the field of 10.
The second-oldest competitor in the women’s park, 22-year-old Kisa Nakamura of Japan, finished last but was competing with a sore knee and swollen eye after falling during practice earlier in the week.
Nakamura, however, had a major influence on the competition.
Skateboarders like Nishiya, Oda, Yosozumi, and Hiraki saw Nakamura become the first Japanese female skater to win an X Games gold medal in the park in 2016, and she was also the only Japanese female skater to compete in the event.
Nakamura’s win also coincided with the International Olympic Committee’s decision to add skateboarding to the Tokyo Olympics.
As a result, a flood of Japanese girls became much more interested in the sport, even as access to skate parks in Japan continued to be lacking and public opinion still largely viewed skateboarding as a nuisance.
Aori Nishimura came back with a victory in Women’s Skateboard Street at the Summer X Games in 2017.
Nishimura won silver in 2018 and Yosozumi took bronze in his X Games debut, but even so, only three of the 18 competitors in both events were from Japan.
However, the landscape has changed.
Four years later, 10 of the 19 women’s street and park competitors were Japanese citizens.
“For anyone involved in action sports, the X Games are as important as the Olympics,” Yosozumi said.
WOOLLEY WINS SKATEBOARD PARK TITLE
Australian Kieran Woolley closed out the X Games with a win at the CATF Skateboard Park.
Woolley, 18, was making her second X Games appearance.
He debuted at X Games Chiba 2022 in April and finished second.
Oceanside’s Gavin Bottger was second and Brazil’s Luiz Francisco third.
Woolley’s gold medal was the sixth for Australia at this year’s X Games, which tied for the most with the United States.