Tokyo 2020+ In Review / Gen Z skateboarders take sport beyond competition
Misugu Okamoto sat in fourth place going into her third and last run as the last competitor in the final of the women’s park skateboarding event on Aug. 4. Bidding to move up and win a medal, the 15-year-old Japanese executed tricks one after another — until the last one, when she fell on the landing.
Sobbing as she left the course, Okamoto’s competitors came up to her one by one and embraced her in a hug, then gathered to hoist her onto their shoulders. That changed her tearful face into a smile.
“It’s magic because I have a medal on my neck, but also because I was able to write history alongside my friends,” Brazil’s Pedro Barros, 26, who won a silver medal in the men’s park skateboarding, was quoted as saying. “It’s all about making the sport a better place and a better world, sharing love and respect.
“Skateboarding is a community and lifestyle that goes way beyond just a sport.”
In the Olympics, athletes and their supporters alike have a strong tendency to expect medals and settle for nothing less. This leads to “medal supremacists” for whom results are everything.
However, the world of skateboarding draws a line with traditional sports. Videos of spectacular tricks posted on social media quickly get “likes” from around the world, which some skaters value higher than good results in competitions.
Others replay the video over and over, aiming to imitate the tricks. Their smartphone becomes their coach. By making the spectacular tricks public, it allows every skater to get better.
Skater fashion also attracts attention. At the root is likely the underlying desire to have fun in the sport.
The women’s park final consisted of eight skateboarders including Okamoto. The oldest was 23, and the average age was 17. They are members of Gen Z, a generation of digital natives in their mid-teens to mid-20s who have been exposed to the Internet from the day they were born.
They want not just to compete, but to have fun and spend time with their friends. A fresh wind is blowing through the Olympics, started by a new generation in a new sport.