08.21.21

The Tokyo Experience

We talked with the athletes that descended upon Tokyo to compete in history. Follow along with Nyjah, Pamela, Yuto, Sky, Keet, Oski, Rayssa, Shane, Hayley, Leticia, and Aori as they talk about what it was like skating on the world stage.

Yuto Horigome

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Yuto: The people who were unfamiliar with skateboarding until then, were watching us skate from all over the world. Because of that, the number of my Instagram followers skyrocketed.

SB: What will you most remember?

Yuto: Is that it happened in my hometown, Koto ward, and that I was able to skate my best there.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Yuto: What was different than I had expected, is how high profile it was. I knew that it would be an enormous event, but so many more people watched than I had expected. I was surprised that even my father’s friends at work had watched it.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Yuto: It was when I entered, that it really dawned on me that I was competing. I got to be in the same space as the people I was used to watching on TV and chat with some of them, or some would come and talk to me. It was a precious experience!

Sky Brown

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Sky: Walking into the food hall! It was crazy to see all the athletes from all different countries, come to get dinner.

SB: What will you most remember?

Sky: Receiving my medal next to my best friends.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Sky: On my third run in the finals. It was so exciting and I knew I had to make it happen.

SB: How did you spend time between practice and competing?

Sky: In Tokyo there wasn’t much time to practice skateboarding, so we spent a lot of time training in the gym. And playing table tennis and riding bikes around. 

SB: Who were you most hyped to meet?

Sky: I was so hyped to see my friends. I hadn’t seen some of them in months, because of Covid.

SB: What is your biggest takeaway from the whole experience?

Sky: Believe in yourself. If you truly believe in yourself, you can do anything.

Hayley Wilson

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Hayley: I would have to say everything! For me just being able to leave Australia was surreal. So anything after that was blessing.

SB: What will you most remember?

Hayley: It would have to be how polite the people were.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Hayley: I didn’t have any expectations. I just tried to go with the flow and take everything in.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Hayley: It didn’t hit me until the night before; it honestly felt like I was in a dream. I still feel like it is and it’s been over for weeks now.

Nyjah Huston

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Nyjah: Walking the opening ceremony.

SB: What will you most remember?

Nyjah: Unfortunately, the thing I’ll probably remember most is not landing my cab flip back lip.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Nyjah: Overall, it was more fun than what I expected. I was expecting the worst because Covid, but there were lots of good times. And we got to shred without getting kicked out, which was surprising.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Nyjah: Watching the torch being lit. I remember thinking, “Damn, we’re really here, this is crazy!”

Rayssa Leal

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Rayssa: After my last trick when I realized I was going to get on the podium. I was very emotive, very happy to be able to represent all Brazilian female street skaters. I thought about my family, my parents, and everything they did to get me there.

SB: What will you most remember?

Rayssa: I had lots of fun. I met a lot of athletes that I’ve never imagined I would meet one day. Oh, and also the heat. It was very hot there.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Rayssa: When I stepped on the stage and saw the Brazilian flag. There I thought, “My God. This is really happening.” I was very happy! Very happy!

SB: Are you intending to compete again in 2024?

Rayssa: Absolutely! I will soon start to prepare myself for 2024 and experience it all over again.

Keet Oldenbeuving

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Keet: The most surreal moment in Tokyo was probably just the whole atmosphere. Being around all the athletes from different sports and countries is really motivating.

SB: What will you most remember?

Keet: How hard we all worked to get there and how fun it was to close that chapter of our lives with everyone. We all just had a great time on the board together.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Keet: It was really intense. Especially with the whole Covid thing. Going there I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was a great and fun experience overall. Even without the audience, we could feel that the whole world was watching.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Keet: It hit me when I was walking into the stadium during the opening ceremony carrying the flag. At this moment it all just felt so surreal, but that was the first moment I realized: we are really here doing this.

Shane O'Neill

SB: Talk about skating in a stadium with no spectators besides coaches, media, and family...

Shane: Skating the contest like that felt a little weird because all of my friends weren’t able to be there. I was lucky enough to have Chris Middlebrook there with me who’s a great friend of mine, so that was nice. Plus, everyone skating in the event are friends too. As far as media and the crowd is concerned though, that wasn’t too weird. It's really for TV and that’s where it gets the most eyes, so I still knew it’d be a big show regardless of those changes.

SB: How did you approach this differently than other contests? What was the vibe on the course between countries and other skaters?

Shane: My approach was much like any other contest. I did my best to prepare the tricks and plan for the event. Unfortunately, I broke a few ribs at the World Championships a month before, so I was unable to be as prepared as I would have liked, but was lucky to skate it. The vibe on the course was great. We all had an hour or so a day to skate the course for five days leading up to the event. It was cool for us all to be skating not only for ourselves, but the countries we are from. I could tell everyone was happy to be there!

SB: What was your strategy once the course was unveiled? Did it evolve once you skated the course?


Shane:
My plans from when we saw the course on paper, to when we were actually there, changed a lot. The obstacles on the course were a lot bigger than we’ve ever seen at any of the events before, so I had to switch it from trying some of the easier tricks I generally do on the biggest stuff there to doing harder tricks on the medium sized obstacles.

SB: Are you intending to compete again in three years?

Shane:
I do plan on it, yes. I plan on working towards a much better result and aiming for the podium. I did what I could for this event, but I also took a lot from how things went and will apply them for the coming years.

SB: What is your biggest takeaway from the whole experience?

Shane:
Biggest takeaway was how much I really appreciated the Japanese people for putting on the event and all of the volunteers for keeping everyone safe in such a crazy time. A lot of countries around the world are currently locked down, so to have Japan successfully host was incredible.

Pamela Rosa

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Pamela: The best moment for me was to wear the national uniform. Serving my country is an honor.

SB: What will you most remember?

Pamela: The friendship among skaters, the joy, and everyone’s resilience.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Pamela: I got hurt so I could have done way better without it.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Pamela: When I did the check in at the airport with the Brazilian team and the airplane took off. It came to my mind all the situations I’ve been to, and everything was amazing.

Oski Rozenberg-Hallberg

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Oski: The first three days of walking around, familiarizing and adjusting felt like a dream. The best comparison I can make from it is the feeling I had the first time I traveled to the USA. Observing the new territory with a lot of anticipation and trying to take it all in. Anytime I experience something in real life, which prior to that experience have made up this detailed image in my head of what it should be like, it is a bizarre feeling.

SB: Was it overwhelming?

Oski: Those first couple of days were filled with so many positive impressions. Regardless of how good or bad of a representation of skateboarding this huge contest is, there’s no denying that on a personal level, being there and getting to experience it first hand is an amazing thing. So many different people from so many countries. All ethnicities, all ages, everyone having something in common. As a skateboarder that was something new to me because I’ve never really felt that I have much in common with athletes from other sports. Most skateboarders live a completely different lifestyle and have a different approach to the activity of riding a skateboard than the approach most athletes have to their sport. Also, we have never been part of the “sports” world before and the dimensions that our own world of skateboarding are built up with are so different to the rules that uphold most of the traditional sports. I don’t think that skateboarding should become more like other sports because what we have going on is, in my eyes, completely unique and different from a lot of other sports. What’s the point of going in that direction now when we have created something so amazing by going in the complete opposite direction for so long? One of the most unique things about skateboarding is that our community doesn't necessarily praise results and points over style, creativity, personality and uniqueness. It’s probably also something that the world is not very used to, but also something necessary. Personally, I think we need to be very careful about how we portray skateboarding to the larger audience and make sure we include those aspects of our sport while showcasing it. Otherwise, the contest will become less relevant to most skateboarders since it’s not a realistic representation to what makes skateboarding so unique and special. I would be saddened to see the highest form of competition skateboarding drift off and become something that most skateboarders don’t really care about because it lost touch with the actual world of skateboarding and no longer represents the message of the sport.

Skateboarding leaves so much room for people to be open minded and choose their own route. You don’t have to be the fastest, strongest or most technically advanced and could still become one of the most influential skateboarders of all time. When I was a 9-year-old kid and went from playing football to riding a skateboard, I could almost from the very first day see and appreciate all of those things that differentiates the world of skateboarding to the world of sports. I had to sit on the bench during football practice and endure getting teased by other kids during school breaks for not being like everyone else. It wasn’t until I tried to ride a skateboard that I felt like “not being like everyone else” was celebrated and where I was encouraged to progress in whatever direction felt natural to me. Not what felt natural to someone else. Some kids can have an amazing time playing football and running track, while other kids who don’t really feel like they fit in with those activities can ride a skateboard and find happiness through that.

I was one of those kids who luckily found skateboarding. I became obsessed with it because all of the musts I so far had encountered with sports was taken away and replaced with a whole bunch of possibilities and options to do things my way, all while meeting a bunch of inspiring people.

SB: What will you most remember?

Oski: The genuinely respectful & friendly Japanese culture.

Aori Nishimura

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Aori: It was surreal to be able to see and interact in the same environment as the other professional athletes that I usually have no relation to.

SB: What will you most remember?

Aori: The heat in Tokyo was insane.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Aori: I thought it was going to be more active and lively but it was very quiet and calm. Also the rooms were very simple and minimalistic, which I did not expect.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Aori: It really hit me that this was really happening on the morning of the contest day. But when I got to the course, it was the same skaters that I'm always competing with so that made me feel that it was the same as any other contest and all I was thinking of was doing the best that I could at the moment.

Leticia Bufoni

SB: What was the most surreal moment during your time in Tokyo?

Leticia: Training with other athletes at the gym.

SB: What will you most remember?

Leticia: All the experiences and the day to day life.

SB: How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Leticia: All the experiences were way better than I could ever imagine.

SB: When did it hit you, “this is really happening” and what went through your mind?

Leticia: When I put on my uniform to go to the airport and travel that’s when I realized it was real and was really happening.

EXPLORE MORE

Load MoreLoad More