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Gettin' serious about rolling into Tokyo

China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-18 09:52

For the new generation of 'urban athletes', sensible nutrition and training have replaced burgers and beer

BARCELONA - Hamburgers are out, hitting the gym is in.

With skateboarding set to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, top competitors are training furiously in a bid to qualify.

"Now we are athletes, within quotation marks, 'urban athletes'," joked 24-year-old Spaniard Danny Leon, sporting a surfer haircut, at a skateboarding competition in Barcelona.

Decked out in jeans, a loose dark shirt and the obligatory baseball cap, Leon is well positioned to fly the flag for Spain in Tokyo - and he's taking it seriously.

"Before it would be just hitting the streets with your board and skating. Now we train," said Leon.

"We exercise and stretch before and after. We take care of our bodies more, eat better ... no more hamburgers and pizzas."

Leon is one of several top skateboarders currently in Barcelona for the World Roller Games, the world's largest event encompassing all disciplines of championship roller sports.

"Right now I go to the gym a lot to improve my resistance and then I train four hours every day, repeating tricks all the time," said Portugal's Gustavo Ribeiro.

The 18-year-old is ranked No 2 in the world in "street" skateboarding and has a good chance of finishing on the podium at the Olympics.

In Tokyo, competitors will be slotted in "street" and "park" categories.

Street skateboarding features stairs or benches, intended to mirror a natural street, while park boarding takes place on a hollowed-out course, usually involving bowls that give boarders great height, allowing for more complex tricks.

"It sounds crazy that I can get a gold medal representing my country at the Olympics," said Ribeiro.

'Lazy potheads'

His excitement contrasts with the misgivings many in the skateboarding community displayed when Olympic chiefs in 2016 supported a proposal to allow the sport in the Tokyo 2020 Games.

They feared it could curb skateboarding's street-culture roots.

"If you want to do it for fun, you can go to the street, do your tricks, have fun and have some beers. But I want to take it seriously," said Argentina's Matias Dell Olio.

"I get up early, I work out at the gym, I stretch, I eat better. I have been skating since I was six. That's my lifestyle ... but it's also my job."

Peru's Angelo Caro, 19, said the inclusion of skateboarding in the Tokyo Games opened the doors for him at his country's top training center for athletes.

He hopes it will also shatter stereotypes about skateboarders.

"People who see us as lazy potheads will see that it is really a beautiful sport that involves a lot of talent and effort.

"It's a very physically demanding activity. Every day we fall multiple times. It's a real sacrifice, and we hurt ourselves," added Caro, whose body is covered with scars and bruises.

Wardrobe worries

World Skate president Sabatino Aracu said that skateboarding will bring "fresh air" and "young blood "to the Olympics.

A total of 80 boarders will compete in Tokyo - 40 in the "street "category and 40 in the "park" category.

An equal number of men and women will compete in each category, and a country can send a maximum of three representatives per category.

Qualification depends on points obtained during major international competitions.

"We work with a calculator. There are tricks that are worth eight or nine points, but if you only need seven, you do an easier trick to secure a spot on the podium," said Dell Olio.

Aside from preparing tricks, Leon is worried about one other thing ahead of the Olympics.

"How should we dress?" he said.

"I can't imagine wearing track pants. We all skate in jeans, with a cap. I hope they let us dress however we want."

Agence France-Presse

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