The Olympics Just Got Cooler: Skateboarding Makes Its Debut at The Tokyo 2020 Games

Skateboarding will make its long-awaiting Olympics debut this summer

From slides and flips to airs and grabs -- Tokyo 2020 just got a whole lot cooler.

Skateboarding will make its long-awaited Olympics debut this summer.

The sport originated in the 40s on the west coast of the United States and became popular with younger generations in the 70s. In the 80s, it became an “essential part of street culture."

Fast-forward 40 years later, the competition will be designed to showcase the athlete's skills with a "youthful and cool twist" in Tokyo.

So, let's flip right in!

Both men and women will compete for gold in two different courses, both designed for all genders to perform.

Street Course

TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 14: A general view in the Women's Street event during the Skateboarding Olympic Test Event at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on May 14, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

This course will be made up of “street-like” courses that'll include stairs, handrails, curbs, benches, walls and slopes.

Judges will take into account the degree of difficulty of tricks, speed, heights, originality, and composition and execution of moves in order to award an overall mark.

Park Course

TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 14: A general view during the Skateboarding Olympic Test Event at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on May 14, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

This course will be made up of a hollowed-out course with curved, dome-shaped bowls that allows athletes to perform cool, mid-air tricks.

While speed is an important element, marks are awarded for the overall level of difficulty and originality -- overall flow, timing, consistency are also considered in judging.

Where They'll Compete

Both park and street courses will take place in the Aomi Urban Sports Venue.

Organizers say music will be a huge contributor to the overall essence of the skateboarding competitions with a vibrant, youth-focused atmosphere.

Team USA Member From the Bay Area on Sport's Olympic Debut

At just 15 years old, Bay Area native Minna Stess is the youngest member of Team U.S.A. and placed first in the 2021 U.S.A. Skateboarding National Championships.

We caught up with the teen from Petaluma, who competes in park, who talks about the effects of COVID-19 on the competition, her feelings on skateboarding making its Olympic debut, and what we should look out for in the Tokyo Olympics.

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: 14-year-old Olympic hopeful skateboarder Minna Stess poses for a portrait in her backyard on May 19, 2020 in Petaluma, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

How does it feel to have Skateboarding make its Olympic debut?

"I think it's pretty cool, I think it’s good for the skate community to get a broader scale of people seeing skateboarding and also competitions … a lot of competition skaters get kind of hated on, sometimes. I think it’s just good for skateboarding to get out there more and see that the stereotype of skaters being bad people I guess, some people think skaters are bad people, this will definitely help and I think it’s really cool for this opportunity to try to get into it."

For you personally, I know you started skating when you were super young, what does this journey to the Games feel like for you?

"It’s pretty stressful, we just started doing the qualifiers like before COVID, it was back to back to back and it was pretty stressful and then after COVID, or during COVID, I got to progress more and skate more, and I'm just getting back to the competition now but, it’s pretty fun, I met a lot of new people, but the goal is to get to the Olympics."

How does it feel to be the youngest member on Team USA?

"I mean it feels pretty normal I guess. In skating, the age doesn’t really matter, it’s just about having fun skating. But I guess it’s kind of weird to think about how I’m the youngest one. But I don't know, it doesn't really change anything."

You won first place in the 2021 U.S.A. Skateboarding National Championships. First of all, Congratulations! Can you tell me a little bit about it?

"Well it’s a point system, and so the nationals doesn't have a lot of points involved, but it does help just like everything. It all comes down to… like if you just do one competition, you’re like probably not get close at all ‘cause you have to do all of them to get all the points to add up and then you have to get Top 3 of your discipline, in gender, and country -- it’s really confusing but yeah, So I’m not qualified, it just helps with a little bit of the points and stuff."

NAPA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 03: 14-year-old Olympic hopeful skateboarder Minna Stess trains at a skatepark on June 3 2020 in Napa, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

What did all of 2020, and the postponement of the Games, mean for you as a competitor?

"I mean it was kind of frustrating, but it was actually kind of beneficial for me because I got to practice more. Just for myself and to progress and to learn new tricks for when competitions do come back and so for me, it definitely helped a lot. And it definitely worked out because I won my first contest back which was pretty exciting."

If there was one thing that you can tell or explain to people that know nothing about skating and are excited to see the competition for the first time during the Olympics -- what would it be? What should we expect?

"I don’t know, I guess it’s kind of hard to think of it from not a skater’s point of view. But yeah I don’t know, I think a lot of the people that watch it, that aren’t skaters, get really confused about the difference between park and street. I do Park which is more like bowls and traditions and street is like rails and stairs -- I guess that's a way to explain it too."

I read a lot about how skateboarding is considered a “cool” sport. Would you agree with that?

"Yeah, definitely. I think skateboarding is pretty cool and I feel like it doesn’t get a lot of recognition, like skateboarding is really hard. I feel like some people don’t think it’s that hard and they try to get on a board and they’re like ‘Whoa, this is really scary’ and skateboarders make it look so easy so it’s hard to tell but it’s hard."

Any Olympians you look up to, can be from any sport from any time?

"Definitely Simone Biles, I mean who doesn’t like Simone Biles? She's amazing. And Michael Phelps too, I always mimic his stretching thing with his arms, it’s so funny."

Favorite spots in the Bay Area?

"Definitely just like all of San Francisco. I also really like Napa Skate Park and St. Helena, all those parks are really fun."

Are you into any other sports? Fan of any Bay Area teams?

"I guess I’m a Warriors fan, I mean I don't really follow basketball much, but I've been to a couple of games. I don't really follow any other sports besides skateboarding and the Dolphins, football, cause my dad really likes the Dolphins."

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