The fearless and talented Leticia Bufoni is one of the most prominent names in professional skateboarding – a sport that will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020. A star on and off the board, the Brazilian enjoys nothing more than proving people wrong and facing every challenge head on. Remember the name.
Leticia Bufoni has spent most of her 25 years pushing hard against boundaries and challenging stereotypes. It is no surprise to find out that she was at the heart of skateboarding’s move from the fringes of mainstream sport to the biggest stage of them all.
“I was with Gary Ream (chairman of the World Skate - Skateboarding Commission) when it was announced in 2016 that we were in the Olympic Games,” Bufoni said. “I was so happy about the news. I’m just really excited to have the chance to represent Brazil in the Olympic Games.”
She was just 10 years old when she saw her friends in Sao Paulo skate for the first time. The young Bufoni eventually persuaded one of them to lend her the skateboard. She has not stopped riding since.
“Skateboarding should be enjoyed by everyone,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are competing or just having fun, it’s just great to get out there and ride.”
There were, of course, some major obstacles for the determined Bufoni to overcome. First up, all her male friends soon got bored of skating and went back to football, leaving her alone with her board. Then her father, still to be persuaded of the merits of his daughter sliding down the city’s hand rails and jumping its steps, broke her skateboard in two. His radical attempt to turn Bufoni away from skateboarding did not work and when, the very next day, he saw her calmly setting up a new board with the help of her friends, he threw his weight behind her attempts to take the sport by storm.
“I just loved it, I rode all the time,” Bufoni laughed.
The skateboard scene was in its infancy in Brazil in the early 2000s and the wildly ambitious and talented Bufoni soon persuaded her dad to take her to California for the 2007 X Games. Blown away by the level of skating, particularly from pioneering females Elissa Steamer and Lacey Baker, Bufoni relentlessly pestered her dad to let her stay. Eventually he agreed, on one condition, she had to land an inward heel flip. Bufoni nailed it on her very next attempt.
Within three years the Brazilian was ranked the number one female Street skater in the world and in 2013 she collected her first X Games Street gold medal at the championships held in Foz do Iguacu, back in her native Brazil.
“I guess I am an adrenaline junkie, it’s just fun to be out there,” Bufoni said. “I practise all the time but I also spend a lot of time working out in the gym. I believe the balance of staying in shape along with a lot of riding is what keeps me going.”
Technically skilled, Bufoni is also, like all elite riders, immensely brave, taking on fearsome challenges no matter the cost.
“Of course it is natural to be scared,” she said. “There are a lot of situations where I have been scared and I have always challenged myself to face it head on.”
“The Brazil skateboarding scene is growing,” she said. “There are a lot of events happening and so many new and exciting riders coming from all over the country.”
The 25-year-old is well aware this kind of growth will be magnified all over the world once the sport makes its Olympic bow in Tokyo in 2020. Bufoni happily hopped onboard the Olympic mission from an early stage. She joined compatriot and fellow 2015 Super Crown world champion, Kelvin Hoefler and the legendary Chris Cole in Nanjing when skateboarding made its debut as a showcasing sport at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Now she has her sights set on Tokyo 2020.
“It will have a great impact on skateboarding, inspiring people all over the world to get into the sport,” she said.
It would be no surprise to see Bufoni become the first female Olympic Street skateboard champion. After all, she cannot stop breaking those barriers.