Olympics-Skateboarding-Battle of the teens as park skating makes Olympic debut

TOKYO — Teen skaters soared through the preliminaries of the women’s park competition on Wednesday, with Japan’s Misugu Okamoto and Britain’s Sky Brown advancing to the finals in top spots as the discipline makes a lively debut at the Tokyo Olympics.

Okamoto, 15, will enter the finals at first place with a high score of 58.51 after she showed off three outstanding runs landing three 540s, which she capped with a flip indie in her final ride.

Wearing a black helmet and a baggy orange shirt, Okamoto looked shy but said she was satisfied with her early runs.

“I feel nervous but I’m going to try my best,” she told Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Okamoto, who won the park event at the 2019 X Games in Minneapolis, is one of several high-profile Japanese athletes that have dominated skateboarding’s introduction at the Tokyo Olympics.

On Wednesday, Japan cinched three of the top eight spots to advance to the finals, which starts at 12:30 p.m. local time.

But Okamoto is likely to run into steep competition from Britain’s Brown, a skateboarding prodigy who has skated since she was 3. Brown earned 57.40 for her second run, where she also landed 540s with ease.

“It feels insane. It’s just unbelievable to be here, and getting a good score and getting up high on the rankings is just crazy,” said Brown. “I’m just so happy,” she added.

At 13, Brown is not even the youngest athlete at the park.

Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki, who came third in the heats, is just 12. She earned a high score of 52.46 points in her second run and is sitting at third place.

Far from the empty swimming pools of 1970s Southern California where this type of skating was born, skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo marks a turning point for the sport.

At times, the young skaters looked impossibly small against the giant grey and purple ramps and bowls at the Ariake Urban Sports Park that is emblazoned with the five Olympic rings.

Between runs, skaters cooled themselves under parasols as they waited for their turn as temperatures climbed above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Japan and Brazil ruled the street skateboarding events held last week, with the host nation scooping up two golds and Brazil taking two silvers in the men and women’s competitions. (Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Lincoln Feast. )

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