Skateboarding at the Olympics: why some welcome the inclusion of the sport
For any other sport, it would be a cause for celebration. But skateboarding is not a sport like any other.
In order for skateboarding to move from the counterculture to the mainstream of sporting events, for a certain subset of skateboarders, it is sold out.
“What people are against, what worries them, is that they are going to lose some of this freedom to explore,” said Neftalie Williams, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California and visiting scholar at Yale. Schwarzman Center which studies skate culture.
Here’s why some welcome the inclusion of sport.
It expands the platform for marginalized skaters
Men, says Koenigsberg, have always had the platforms and opportunities to express themselves through skateboarding. They dominated magazine covers, managed to secure big name sponsorships, and held contests that women did not enter.
“For a very long time our history as non-traditional skateboarders has been erased in the media, so it’s really exciting right now to see this unfold at the Olympics and to have this public space,” he said. she declared. “Because for so long we have had to fight for these public spaces and all kinds of visibility.”
“It’s a really great thing to see, especially for young people who have the same feelings, where they don’t quite fit one genre or another,” said Rector.
It exposes more people to skateboarding
The Olympics also have the potential to introduce skateboarding to people who otherwise might not have participated in the sport.
For staff at Brooklyn’s iconic KCDC Skateshop, skateboarding is a way to build self-confidence, learn to overcome challenges, and express yourself creatively. That even a few more young people can reap these same benefits is a reason to applaud his inclusion in the Olympics, said store owner Amy Ellington.
“If that means a kid in a small town can be exposed to this and understand what we think of skateboarding because they saw skateboarding at the Olympics, that’s such a positive thing,” he said. she declared.
Nathan Hutsenpiller, head of the KCDC store, has no illusions about the limits of the Games. Competitive skating is only a small part of everything skateboarding is all about. He thinks that being judged on tricks and routines does a disservice to a sport as subjective as this one.
But he knows that if he was a kid right now, he would love to see skateboarding at the Olympics.
“It’s almost an honor,” Hutsenpiller added. “Skateboarding is probably more popular than baseball in America right now.”
It could change the reputation of skateboarding
“The way we experience skateboarding in the United States is not the same as we experienced in Cuba. It’s not the way we experience it in South Africa,” said Williams, who has worked as sent for skateboarding abroad.
Even in Japan, where the first Olympic skateboarding competitions were held, skateboarding was long considered dangerous and those who did were seen as rebels and misfits. Although the arrival of the Olympics has somewhat changed the country’s attitude towards skateboarding, it is still frowned upon in some public places.
Seeing the International Olympic Committee recognize skateboarding as a sport and watching skaters from all walks of life compete in Tokyo could be a game-changer for countries where skateboarding is still discouraged.
“That’s what the opportunity is: for people to gain a new level of respect for all of us,” added Williams. “Skateboarding is individual and collective. We skate individually, and as we grow we add to the collective who it looks like and the stories we have.”
This is the last frontier of skateboarding
For skateboarding as a culture to be avoided as an institution as powerful as the Olympics would go against what skating stands for: pushing boundaries and unleashing potential, he said.
“If we stopped exploring all the avenues we wouldn’t be skateboarders,” said Williams.
The beautiful thing about skateboarding, says Williams, is that it can coexist in so many ways. It can be an opportunity for elite athletes to work out their muscles, it can be a creative outlet expressed on city streets, and it can be a fun way to spend time with friends.
“The main thing is to remember that this doesn’t have to change for you,” he added. “If you don’t want to skate at the Olympics, you don’t have to skate at the Olympics.”
There may come a time when skateboarders decide the Olympics are no longer in their best interests, Williams says. But for now, these Tokyo Games offer a chance to redefine the sport and allow a wider range of skaters to see themselves represented on the world stage. And that’s, he says, the very essence of the skateboarding spirit.