Photos by Andrew Peters
Crombie hit me up the other day: ‘Reckon it’s worth doing anything about the US Olympic skate team being announced? There’s a ceremony happening over your way.’
Of course, we should be down there to cover it! This is a first in the history of skateboarding! The Olympics! Love it or hate it, it’s happening, so we should at least be there to watch it all unfold and help tell the story. There are going to be more people introduced to skateboarding than ever before, and, like everyone else, I have a lot of questions.
The Olympics is about world records, right? Shouldn’t there be Olympic standards? Every other Olympic sport is standardised: there is an ‘Olympic sized swimming pool’ and the ‘100M sprint’ etc., and those goalposts don’t move. We can return every four years and find out who the current ‘best’ is in those events and perhaps even break a few world records. But how will they structure that around something as unregimented as skateboarding?
2020 Olympic Skateboarding is broken up into two disciplines: Street and Park. Those categories are then divided into men and women. For consistency’s sake, is there going to be an Olympic-sized 12 stair or regulation height hubbas, rails and ledges on the street course? Is there going to be an Olympic standard transition on the bowl? Or are they going to make one Olympic bowl set up and keep recycling that design for years to come so that it stays consistent and comparable?
None of these questions are being answered, and I’d have thought they’d be the first questions an Olympic committee would ask of a new sport. I might be a little late, but I propose we change it so there are six categories: longest ollie, highest ollie, fastest speed (have to push into it), a vert comp (Olympic regulation-size ramp), synchronised skateboarding, and a freestyle competition (we need some more Rodney Mullens in skateboarding again). In my mind, this is the only way to make Olympic Skateboarding work; otherwise, we need a rule book, something listing all the tricks ever invented on a skateboard and their level of difficulty according to the obstacle they’re performed on… which still creates a lot of variables.
The next question on everyone’s lips—who is gonna be in the Olympics in Tokyo next year? I figured this question would surely be answered at the ceremony. The hard-working young men and women were invited on stage to receive a sort of skateboard plaque thing to announce their position on the US Olympic Skateboarding Team. I felt genuinely excited for the skateboarders being presented with plaques; these guys got into skateboarding without any hope of ever competing in the Olympics, and there is something remarkable and pure about that. Future generations getting into skateboarding may actually have gold in mind before they get their feet on a board for the first time.
I was particularly thrilled to see Louie Lopez in the lineup; I think he’s an excellent representative for skateboarding as I know and love it. After the proceedings, I went to find Louie to ask a pretty simple question: Are you excited you’re going to the Olympics? His answer threw me off. ‘Oh, this doesn’t mean I’m going to the Olympics; this is the 2019 US Olympic team. I’d have to maintain my spot on the team for a chance to go to the Olympics, but that still isn’t guaranteed.’ So, I’m back to thinking, ‘What the fuck are we all doing here?’
I went and found Poppy Starr Olsen, the 18-year-old Australian girl’s champ, and asked her when the Australian team was being announced. ‘I’m so confused,’ she said. ‘They had a meeting with a bunch of us on how it is all going to happen and who is potentially going to compete, but there was no official ceremony like this.’ I kept asking industry types around the event for some more inside information, but it turns out no one really knows anything. There are five continental regions that all submit at least one athlete from each of these zones, but that doesn’t mean your country is entitled to a spot in the final 20 competitors. Confused yet?
Basically, what I gathered from this weird 20-minute ceremony, is that these are the skaters that America has decided to back for the next year due to their current competition standings; however, anything could happen. Although it’s highly unlikely, there might not even be any Americans making a spot in the Olympics for skateboarding. And anyway, I heard right now the Chinese are training ninjas how to skate.
The ceremony did set a great backdrop for the documentaries being filmed on each athlete. It was also sponsored by Toyota, so I really hope everyone on the team gets a Prius.