TOKYO (AP) — WHAT’S NEW: Absolutely everything. Skateboarding is one of four sports making their Olympic debuts at the Tokyo Games, along with karate, surfing and sport climbing. As was the case when its winter sports cousin, snowboarding, joined the Olympic program in 1998, some skateboarders fear the sport is selling out. But the Olympic spotlight will introduce skating to a huge global audience and, as proved true in snowboarding, likely attract more kids to skating and encourage them to push the sport and their daredevil tricks forward.
TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: For their inaugural Olympic competition, the 40 men and 40 women have a custom-built skate park on the shores of Tokyo Bay to play with. They’ll be chasing medals in two events: park, where they skate in a bowl, and street, where they navigate stairs, rails, curbs and other urban furniture. Skateboarding will have one of the largest age-spectrums of the games, with competitors ranging from pre-teens to middle age.
ATHLETES TO WATCH: Host Japan will be looking for medals in the women’s park competition from the top-ranked Misugu Okamoto and Sakura Yosozumi, as well as 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki. British phenom Sky Brown, who’ll just have turned 13, will be trying to stop them. With no-fear stunts and polished messaging that age is irrelevant, Brown already has a rich portfolio of sponsors and social media accounts. She is back from a terrifying fall last year – video of which was posted on an Instagram account managed by her parents.
GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: The street contests are in the first week, with the men competing on July 25, followed the next day by the women. The park events round out week two, with the women’s competition on Aug. 4, with the men dropping into the bowl the next day.