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Sky Brown: After one of the defining moments of the Tokyo Olympics, Team GB has its brightest new star

·4-min read
Sky Brown: After one of the defining moments of the Tokyo Olympics, Team GB has its brightest new star

Whatever happens over the last days of these Olympics, this will be one of Tokyo 2020’s defining moments.

Not just from a British perspective as Sky Brown became the nation’s youngest Olympic medallist in history.

But on a day when Tokyo was rocked by an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, it was equally seismic for the two Japanese athletes with which she shared the podium on skateboard’s Games debut.

Brown came back from the brink, falling on her opening two runs to produce a final run of maturity under insurmountable pressure which defied her 13 years. The gold, silver and bronze boasted a combined aged of 43 – older than many watching awestruck from the stands.

Sakura Yosozumi, almost a veteran of the sport at 19, won the gold with fellow Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki becoming the youngest Olympic medallist in history at 12 with silver. So youthful are Brown and Hiraki, they are currently deemed too young to compete at the Youth Olympics.

Skateboarding’s Olympic introduction is an attempt to bring new blood into the Games, more in terms of spectators. It also had that effect on an eight-woman final in which just one was born outside of this century.

This was the Olympics 2.0 with a DJ named Redbeard playing out music to accompany each run, the competitors at times unaware of the magnitude of the occasion. IOC president Thomas Bach was not, on hand to speak to Brown in the aftermath. Asked what Bach had said, refreshingly she replied “who?”

On the hottest day of these Tokyo Olympics, the heat seemed to reflect off the concrete course as each competitor defied both the temperatures and the pressure of the occasion.

At times, they made it look as those they were skating with friends at their local park, cheering for each other’s runs and embracing each other.

Ahead of Brown’s final outing, the gold medallist told her British rival “you’ve got it”, words which calmed her down.

Having topped the prelims and having not fallen in her last eight competitive runs, she tumbled twice in her two openers in the final attempting at kickflip indy.

Coming off from that second fall, her father Stu, who has been allowed to travel with her to Japan, told her simply: “It’s just a contest. If you fall, it doesn’t define you.”

This time, she landed the kickflip indy as well as two 540s. It was enough to move her into the bronze and reduce her to tears as she was mobbed by her competitors. So different is this sport’s competitive nature to other Olympic disciplines, Brown said afterwards she had been happier to land the trick than the bronze she was later awarded.

There was still a chance for Brown to be knocked off the podium by the final competitor Misugu Okamoto, a 15-year-old rival who looked to be in the midst of a run worthy of gold only to fall late on and finish fourth.

Had these Olympics not been delayed, it’s likely Team GB would have been denied perhaps its brightest new star. Attempting a new trick off a 4.5-metre ramp back at home in California, she landed heavily on her head and had to be airlifted to hospital, where she eventually regained conscious.

Initially she did not remember her name nor recognise her British father and Japanese mother, who in turn tried to persuade her to stop the sport, dispelling any possible myth about them as pushy parents.

Speaking after her bronze, she said simply that the “accident made me stronger”. And with the medal around her neck, the words of celebration were everything you might expect from a 13-year-old skateboarder – stoked, cool, insane.

But with a horde of journalists gathered round her, she also spoke eloquently about inspiring both with her age and with the sport.

“I really hope I inspire some girls,” she said. “I feel like people think I’m too young I can’t do it but, if you believe in yourself, you can do anything. I believed in myself and I’m here.

“And honestly, anyone can do it [skateboarding]. You don’t have to be certain height, be a certain age, you can do it whenever you want. Just go for it.” With her own Barbie doll, book and now bronze, the hope is she stays grounded and is allowed to grow up away from the spotlight.

On the evidence of her proud, beaming father standing next her that shouldn’t be a problem. While his daughter said she planned to celebrate by going surfing, he instead talked about going straight back to school on their return home and having a spell off social media.

She also has ambitions to double up in the surfing and skateboarding at the next Games in Paris despite their venues being 10,000 miles apart. On the evidence of this performance, anything’s possible… the sky’s the limit.

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