Japan’s Yosozumi wins battle of teens for Olympic skateboarding

Hometown heroes Sakura Yosozumi and Kokona Hiraki clinch gold and silver, while British Sky Brown takes bronze.

Gold medallist Japan's Sakura Yosozumi, centre, silver medallist Japan's Kokona Hiraki, left, and bronze medallist British-Japanse Sky Brown, right, pose on the podium of the women's park final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Sports Park Skateboarding in Tokyo [Loic Venance/AFP]
Gold medallist Japan's Sakura Yosozumi, centre, silver medallist Japan's Kokona Hiraki, left, and bronze medallist British-Japanse Sky Brown, right, pose on the podium of the women's park final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Sports Park Skateboarding in Tokyo [Loic Venance/AFP]

Young skaters from Japan and Britain have soared to victory in the women’s park competition, with hometown heroes Sakura Yosozumi and Kokona Hiraki clinching gold and silver, while Britain’s Sky Brown took bronze.

In Wednesday’s gripping final, Yosozumi, 19, landed two 540s in her impressive first run, earning the highest score of 60.09 to vault to top place.

The result meant that Japan has so far swept three out of four gold medals in skateboarding’s Olympic debut.

The men’s park competition, the final skateboarding event in Tokyo, takes place on Thursday.

Yosozumi, whose first name in Japanese means cherry blossom, told reporters she was focused on riding three perfect runs in the finals.

“I guess you can say I’ve bloomed though, right?” the skater asked reporters with a smile.

“This medal feels unreal – it feels like a dream,” she added.

“I hope skateboarding is going to be very popular in Japan because of the strong performances of the Japanese team. Now I want to go back home and eat some delicious food.”

Fellow Japanese skater Hiraki, 12, also showed smooth runs throughout the day’s competition, beating Britain’s Brown, who was the favourite to win the event.

With her silver medal, Hiraki became the youngest Japanese medallist ever, domestic media reported, overtaking a record set just days ago by fellow skateboarder Momiji Nishiya, a 13-year-old who won gold at the street competition.

‘Unbelievable’

Japan-born Brown, who became Britain’s youngest Olympic medallist, threatened to snatch a dramatic win with a flawless closing routine but she was awarded 56.47 points to take bronze.

“It was unbelievable,” Brown said of her medal-winning run. “Even right now it feels like a dream. It’s insane.

“I’m so happy and so thankful and so proud of every one of the other girls, too.”

After her victory, Yosozumi says she hopes skateboarding will be popular in Japan [Lionel Bonaventure/AFP]

The bronze felt even sweeter, Brown said, after she suffered a life-threatening fall last year and spent the pandemic preparing for Tokyo.

“That was a hard time for my parents … so coming back is so cool and it made me stronger,” she said.

There was heartbreak for world number one Misugu Okamoto, who missed a medal when she fell on all three runs in the final to finish fourth.

In one of the most touching moments of the competition, skaters from Australia and Brazil rushed to comfort Okamoto, who went into the finals in the lead but kept failing to land one of her most complicated tricks in the finals.

After Okamoto, 15, picked herself up and walked out of the bowl wiping away tears, other skaters lifted her onto their shoulders to celebrate her runs.

“We all just really love skateboarding,” Yosozumi said.

Japan also snapped up the men’s and women’s street titles and they have bagged five of the nine medals so far as skateboarding makes its Olympic bow.

Skateboarding is one of four debut sports aimed at reaching new audiences and in an ultra-young field, only eight of the 20 competitors were out of their teens. The podium had a combined age of 44.

Both Brown, at 13 years and 28 days, and Hiraki (12 years and 343 days) were bidding to break an 85-year-old record to become the youngest champions in Olympic history.

They had a shot at bettering American diver Marjorie Gestring, who won 3-metre springboard gold aged 13 years and 268 days at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

Source: AFP, Reuters

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