Skateboarding made its stunning debut on the programme of the first World Beach Games, Doha 2019, a multi-sports competition that brought together around 100 National Olympic Committees. Some of the world’s best skateboarders were taking part, including current world champion Heimana Reynolds, who is excited at the idea of competing at the Tokyo Games next year.
The show, the entertainment, the pace, the impressive tricks: skateboarding thrilled the spectators at the World Beach Games in Doha in a white concrete “bowl” that looked like it was made out of marble. While, in the women’s competition, Japan’s Sakura Yososumi and Kihana Ogawa demonstrated that they were ready for the Olympic Games next year, it was an American from Hawaii, Heimana Reynolds, who won the men’s gold medal in the park event, validating the World Championship title he won just a few weeks earlier in São Paulo, Brazil.
Ideally placed in the ranking for the Olympic qualifiers, Reynolds is heading towards his major goal, which is to compete at the Tokyo Games. Of Tahitian origin on his grandparents’ side, he had even considered competing for France (he has a French passport), where the competition is weaker than in the US. Now in the no. 1 spot, he doesn’t have far to go to qualify. “It has always been a dream since I’ve skated. To be so close is already a dream come true. It’s the reason I will continue to keep pushing, to keep fighting to be part of the team. Here is already a good taste of what the Olympics could be like. It is already awesome to be part of it with all these sports and athletes. I’m so glad to be part of it.”
Skateboarding was invented by Californian surfers in the 1950s. It has become an urban sport that is regularly practised by about 20 million people worldwide, most of whom are in the United States. It has its own culture and dress code: baggy pants, skate shoes and caps worn backwards. The competitors keep hold of this original spirit.
Having been successfully trialled at the Youth Olympic Games, skateboarding will now join the programme of the Olympic Games in Tokyo as an additional sport. It has also been chosen by the Paris 2024 Organising Committee to be included on the programme of its edition of the Games.
Street and park
Two disciplines have been selected for 2020: street and park. Twelve medals will be awarded (men’s and women’s), with 20 competitors in each category.
Street is practised on a course that replicates urban architecture, with inclines, stairs, curbs, park benches of various sizes and handrails. “Skateboarders do two 45-second runs on the same course, the five best tricks; and then they take the four best scores for the run or tricks to draw up the ranking,” explains Florent Balesta, the Technical Director of the French Roller Sport and Skateboard Federation. “The elements are marked out of 10 and the score is therefore out of a maximum of 40 points.” The “nine club” (skateboarders who have obtained a score of 9) is a very exclusive club and it is no mean feat to join it.
Park is practised in a “bowl”, like an empty swimming pool, comprising curves and ramps of various heights. Athletes can use the curb-stones and the tubular metal rails installed on the curb stones to perform tricks. It is important to make use of the whole course. “The scores take into account speed, execution, height, the technical quality of the tricks and the quality of the landing,” says Balesta. The skateboarders have three runs in each round of the competition, and only the best one counts. It is sometimes a strategic move to play safe when completing the first run in order to take more risks in the next two. A fall practically render the run null and void.
The Olympic qualifiers will take place over two seasons: 2019 and 2020. The two best results from the 2019 seasons and the best five from the 2020 season will be counted. The 2019 and 2020 World Championships offer the largest points coefficients. The top three in the ranking from the World Championships organised in May 2020 (in Nanjing, China, for park and in London, UK, for street) will qualify directly for the Games. Each country can put forward a maximum of three athletes per event, and there will be a minimum of one representative per continent.
There’s no doubt that the Olympic spotlight on skateboarding and the impressive tricks on show will help boost the credibility of the sport. And almost certainly encourage more people to get skateboarding…