Olympic Skateboarding: Horigome Rises and Huston Stumbles


TOKYO — With its street-walking roots, youthful vibe, and total immersion in all kinds of cultures, skateboarding was invited to the Olympics because its global reach was no longer undeniable.

But for the first Olympic champion, he only had to look to the city.

Yuto Horigome, the 22-year-old son of a taxi driver in Tokyoswathed the gold medal in men’s street skateboarding around his neck at an empty, sun-drenched skate park about eight miles from where he grew up on Sunday.

While the tribunes of the hall remained empty due to the pandemic protocols, the army of volunteers working at Ariake Urban Sports Park, who received the biggest applause, followed him with enthusiastic applause.

But the victory was certain to resonate. A few miles away, Horigome’s father, Ryota, who first taught Yuto to ride, was too nervous to watch, even on TV. In a modest neighborhood on the east side, he left the family’s third-floor apartment and went cycling.

Finally, calls and messages poured into his phone. He knew what that meant.

Yuto had won. And in Japan, where street skateboarding remains a discouraged, sometimes law-breaking activity, there was a gold medalist street skateboarder.

“I was born here in Koto ward and started skateboarding in Koto ward,” Horigome said, referring to the area of ​​Tokyo that includes his family home and skateboarding area. “I can’t believe I’m still in the Olympics. I am very happy that I did my best in the Koto ward.”

Horigome’s victory did not come as a surprise. He had won his last major skateboarding event, the world championship in Rome, and was expected to win a medal in Tokyo.

Greater sadness became fate Nyjah Huston The biggest name in the skateboarding competition in the United States.

Huston fell four times in a row on Sunday, putting his hopes on hot concrete and ending his chances of adding an Olympic medal to the overstuffed trophy room in his home. He finished seventh.

Nerves seemed to be gripping several high-level opponents, and clean landings were difficult to find. Huston admitted he felt pressured, but said trying technical tricks was risky business.

What blew her chances repeatedly was what she’d been practicing all week, calling it “Caballero kickflip back lip slip and a faux 360 flip.” It’s hard to say; Doing this during an Olympic final was the difference between a medal and an apology.

“I’m sorry,” said Huston. “I definitely know I’ve let some people down and I have no problem admitting that. But I’m human, you know. We’re skateboarders. We’re not going to win with what we do out there every time. It’s too technical for that.”

While it came as a surprise that Huston didn’t take the medal, it did help clear space for Jagger Eaton, an American, to snatch the bronze medal behind Brazilian Kelvin Hoefler.

They were the most stable opponents from the beginning. Hoefler, 28, is a veteran of major competitions. Back-to-back strong runs gave him the lead midway.

Eaton, 20, from suburban Phoenix, admitted that he nearly vomited before the competition started because of his nerves. But he finished second among 20 contestants in the qualifiers and showed little sign of concern in the final.

His third number was the second highest score of the day. He celebrated his bronze medal on the podium with a smile concealed by the mandatory face masks that are part of his pandemic-era uniform.

“The best thing about skateboarding is that all of these guys are my friends,” Eaton said. “And I don’t think many sports can say that.”

Skateboarding worked for decades to get into the Olympics, and the men’s street competition was the first of the four at Ariake Urban Sports Park. Women’s street skaters will compete on Monday, and the men’s and women’s parkour competitions will run for over a week.

The first street race was a sweaty, sun-baked event under a blue sky. Each athlete ran a two-time run at the skate park and ran their own path for 45 seconds on a wide course of ramps, ladders and tracks.

Then they tried the five tricks they had chosen in turn. A panel of judges rated each run and game—seven points in total—on a 10-point scale. The best four scores are combined to form an opponent’s total.

The event turned into a tense exhibit as one skateboarder after another performed nuanced tricks from the park’s greatest feature, a 12-step drop with three different rails.

It was an all or nothing attempt. Falls scored zero. Stuck landings earned points for keeping. Each trick ended either in despair on the concrete or on the skateboard with a mix of relaxation and joy.

Huston and Horigome tried their final trick with a gold medal within reach, as expected. It was here that their fates diverged wildly.

Huston fell four times in a row, a series of zeros on the scoreboard that meant nothing.

Horigome has done back-to-back tricks in his last three tries, all scoring at least 9.3 points. Mathematics brought gold medal.

“I’m happy because I’m confident that I can do the best trick,” Horigome said. “Third was the trick I had never done in past competitions. I started working out five minutes before the final.”

He said he plans to show his gold medal later to friends and family. Unlike Huston, who has a room in his house devoted to career-worthy trophies, Horigome hangs his medals around the neck of a stuffed Pokemon. snorlax. (This is called Japanese Kabigon, commonly known for overeating and falling asleep.)

“I’m thinking of hanging it there,” he said.

While he was born and learned to skate in Japan, Horigome now spends most of his time in Southern California, the epicenter of skateboarding culture and a relatively friendly place for those who, unlike Japan, use the cityscapes as a training ground. The next time a security guard chases Horigome out of an office park or schoolyard, his defense may be that he’s a gold medalist, just training for the Olympics.

But Tokyo is at home, even though she hasn’t been able to visit her family since the start of the pandemic. skateboarding trainer of japan, Daisuke Hayakawa, grew up in the same neighborhood and has been friends with Ryota Horigome since he was young.

They were part of a generation that only rode in the shadows of Tokyo, at a time when skateboarders were seen as noisy, dishonest renegades. a perception that is hard to break. While skate parks are popping up across Japan, it’s still rare to see skaters on Tokyo sidewalks.

Ryota Horigome was skating in a quiet corner of Komatsugawa Park, where he and his friends were building a quarter pipe under a bridge and eroding stone steps with their skateboards. Ryota Horigome is where he took Yuto as a kid. A sign there says skateboarding is not allowed.

After Yuto won the gold medal, he turned his thoughts to the house just a few miles away.

My favorite place in Koto neighborhood is Komatsugawa Park That’s where I started skateboarding,” he said. “I first visited there with my father, a former skateboarder. Now I live in the USA Sometimes when I come home I enjoy skateboarding with my friends in the park.”

The next time you see them, they may all have the knowledge that skateboarding didn’t have to go very far to make the giant leap to the Olympics.

Kim Sang-woo, Makiko Inoue, and Hikari Hida contributed to the reporting.


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