, Meet The Just-Announced, First-Ever USA Skateboarding Olympic Team, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Meet The Just-Announced, First-Ever USA Skateboarding Olympic Team

, Meet The Just-Announced, First-Ever USA Skateboarding Olympic Team, The Nzuchi News Forbes

After years of (literal) blood, sweat and tears preparing for this moment, we finally know which skateboarders will be representing the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics next month.

On Monday, June 21—Go Skateboarding Day—USA Skateboarding, the national governing body for skateboarding in the United States, announced the official Olympic skateboarding team that will compete in Tokyo.

The Olympic qualifying period was initially set to run from January 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020. The qualification process was, of course, interrupted by Covid-19, and instead the window ends June 29, 2021. The men and women who make up the U.S. park and street team have all mathematically qualified and locked down their spots—three for each gender in each event.

Maybe it’s because it’s Go Skateboarding Day, or maybe it’s the adrenaline that’s been keeping them going for two and a half years, or maybe it’s just that they were all together. But Monday’s announcement proved emotional for nearly everyone onstage, from partners and stakeholders to the skaters themselves.

USA Skateboarding CEO Josh Friedberg’s voice cracked more than once as he introduced the 12 members of the Olympic team. And as he passed the mic to each of the skaters for them to talk about why they love the sport, the same themes were often repeated: freedom, expression, friendship.

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The competitive element of professional skateboarding, on the other hand, was rarely brought up. That’s a cornerstone of skateboarding culture that even the Olympics won’t be able to change.

There’s an inherent tension between skateboarding and competition, women’s street skater Alexis Sablone pointed out. And while all 12 of these athletes are driven—they wouldn’t be standing where they are today otherwise—the friendship and the community are what keep them on their boards. It’s a common sight at a skateboarding competition to see someone throw down an epic run that completely knocks another skater out of medal position altogether—and yet that person will be the first to congratulate the winner.

Street skater and Osprey, Florida, native Jake Ilardi said he loves that that skateboarding “is just freedom of expression.” “You can do whatever you want, dress however you want,” Ilardi, 24, said. “We all have different personalities, but skateboarding is a common bond that brings us all together.”

The concept of skateboarding as a safe space also reoccurred throughout the event. Street skater Alana Smith, 20, who identifies as non-binary, said the sport has allowed them to prove they belong. “Skateboarding gives you the space to be able to be yourself and grow as a human and be supported throughout the entire way,” Smith said, as the other skaters onstage tapped their boards in encouragement.

Mariah Duran, the top-ranked U.S. women’s street skater, got emotional when she shouted out her two brothers, Elijah and Zeke, for making her the skateboarder she is today. Duran’s parents didn’t want her to take up skateboarding initially, but allowed her to go to the skate park with her brothers.

“It’s been a long journey,” Duran, 24, said, pausing to collect herself. “To have family by my side is amazing. My brothers are always at my contests…. We always believed in it, we always loved it, it’s amazing to see how far it’s come. We’re going to Tokyo and the Olympics. It’s not just a hobby.”

Park skater Brighton Zeuner, 16, said “you make your own rules,” in skateboarding. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t grab my first skateboard,” she said.

Zeuner’s childhood best friend and fellow Southern California native, Bryce Wettstein, 17, said skateboarding can color how we see the world. “That’s the language of skateboarding,” she said. “It makes you see the world the way you’ve always wanted to see it.”

These 12 athletes are aware that by competing in the Olympics, they are participating in something far greater than their own careers. As they show the sport to the world, they will be enlightening those who have never given it legitimacy, and they will be shaping the next generation of pro skaters.

“It’s the funnest thing on Earth; that goes for if you’re one of us about to skate in the Olympics or a kid skating in your hometown,” Nyjah Huston said.

Zion Wright, who was a surprise qualifier for the Olympic team with his statement, final-run win at Dew Tour, said skateboarding “gives me so much hope, so much joy.” “It gives me an opportunity to express who I am and and what I stand for,” Wright added.

“It’s for whoever wants it, and you make some of your most solid friendships and relationships through skateboarding,” Duran said. “It’s just this piece of wood, but it’s amazing.”

The night before Monday’s announcement, the members of the Olympic skateboarding team got to choose the pieces they wanted to wear from the Nike SB skate federation kits. Skateboarding, after all, is just as much about style and culture as it is about what you do on your board. The Nike uniforms include everything from tank tops and shorts to polos and cargos to ensure each skater is able to reflect their unique identity.

As they tried on the pieces they would eventually wear in Tokyo, the reality that they had actually qualified for the Olympics began to set in. During Monday’s announcement, that passion came out in lots of hugs and smiles and a few happy tears.

, Meet The Just-Announced, First-Ever USA Skateboarding Olympic Team, The Nzuchi News Forbes

The announcement was presented by Toyota with the support of USA Skateboarding sponsors Nike SB, Tech Deck, Jessup Griptape and ProTec Helmets.

As a mobility company, Toyota is especially focused on the ways skateboarding can provide freedom of movement for individuals, explained Toyota’s group manager of sponsorship, integration, and auto shows, Dedra DeLilli. Toyota recently announced a commitment to offer monetary support and sponsorship opportunities—totaling nearly $5 million—to all U.S. Paralympic athletes.

Adaptive skateboarding will not debut at the Tokyo Paralympics alongside skateboarding in the Olympics. The Adaptive Skateboarding World Championships will be held this fall…but next up, the sport is eyeing a debut at the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

“Through the endless dedication of the skaters and the people involved in this process we have a real shot at getting adaptive skateboarding in the Paralympics in 2028, and that’s what we’re gonna do,” said Friedberg.

The 12 skateboarders who will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics as part of the Olympic team are:

Women’s Park

Jordyn Barratt

Bryce Wettstein

Brighton Zeuner

Men’s Park

Heimana Reynolds

Cory Juneau

Zion Wright

Women’s Street

Mariah Duran

Alexis Sablone

Alana Smith

Men’s Street

Jagger Eaton

Nyjah Huston

Jake Ilardi

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