Currently, Japan ranks first in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic leaderboards with 10 gold medals, and the US and China closely follow with 9 gold medals each. The most interesting part of this storyline is that one of Japan’s gold medals belongs to 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya, who just won the first-ever women’s street skateboarding event.
Momiji Nishiya (西矢椛) is a 13-year-old skateboarder from Osaka, Japan. She has competed in several high-profile skateboarding events, including the 2019 Dew Tour and 2019 X Games, and says that she was influenced to become a skateboarder because of her older brother. Momiji rides in a regular stance and is the third-youngest Olympic gold medalist ever.
This year is the first that skateboarding will be featured as an Olympic event, with the Olympic Committee stating that “since the 1980s, skateboarding has been an essential part of street culture.” The event has been split into both street and park competitions “with equality in mind for both regular and goofy stance skateboarders as well as all genders to compete on.” The skateboarding events take on a free-flowing format that skateboarders are used to, and riders can individually decide if they would like to wear headphones, helmets, or other gear that can help them dial into their full potential. Both the men’s and women’s street competitions have already occurred, with Japan taking home the gold in both, but the park competitions are still set to occur on August 4th.
Coming into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, “Nishiya was ranked fifth in the Olympic World Skateboarding rankings,” but on Monday, July 26, she proved that she was severely underrated. Although Momiji could not stomp her first two tricks perfectly, her third and fourth tricks went on to create separation and take the gold. Her third trick, which she executed flawlessly, was a “big-spin front-board down the 8-stair” that earned her a score of 4.66. Her fourth and final trick was “a lip-slide on a totally different part of the course… [where] she launched out of a wedge, over the flat bar to the 8-stair, [and] took a huge risk and made it.” Nishiya finished with a total score of 15.26 and became one of the youngest Olympians to win a gold medal.
The women’s street skateboarding event was full of impressive individual performances. The silver medalist, Leal Rayssa, is also a 13-year-old who many believe can become the face of women skateboarding. The bronze medalist, Nakayama Funa, is a 16-year-old Japanese athlete who originally took on skateboarding as a hobby. The gold, silver, and bronze medalists of this event, all under 16 years old, out-performed 19, 21, 22, and 34-year-olds who have more than double the experience on a skateboard. When it comes to the most influential athletes in the world, the women’s street skateboarding event showcased three of them.
The world of skateboarding is drastically changing. Momiji Nishiya is a legendary athlete who will have her name in the Olympic history books forever, and her podium-mates Leal and Nakayama are proving to the world that anyone can be a highly competitive skateboarder. The Olympic Committee deciding to instate skateboarding as an Olympic event was a massively influential move for the world. As more unique sports get introduced to the Olympics, an increasing number of amazing athletes will have the opportunity to showcase their outstanding abilities.