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Athletes ready to skate, battle and roll

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-15 07:07
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Shanghai will showcase four all-action sports, as the inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series kicks off on Thursday. The four-day event will thrill fans with a combination of adrenaline-pumping competition, culture, art and music. The series will conclude with a final leg in Budapest in June to decide the final points tally — and who gets a golden ticket to Paris, Sun Xiaochen reports.

A fun pastime and trendy commuting choice almost everywhere around the world, skateboarding's popularity has exploded in Asia since its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, with millions of participants and fans drawn to the awe-inspiring ability of athletes in the discipline to flip, spin and grind across ramps, rails and courses in both street and park settings, and at high-level competitions.

The Olympic qualifier in Shanghai will bring the world's finest skateboarders to one of China's most dynamic, fashion-conscious and international urban audiences. They will undoubtedly be "oohed" and "aahed" by the city's cool kids, who will surely gather in their droves to watch the skaters show off their slickest of tricks.

Unlike other events, where some of the quota of Olympic places for Paris 2024 will be directly up for grabs at the qualifiers, the total 80 places for skateboarding will be decided by the Olympic World Skateboarding Ranking by June 24, with performances at the Shanghai and Budapest qualifiers contributing heavily to the final rankings.

The street discipline will see a close battle in Shanghai, with a noticeable power shift reshaping the sport's landscape since qualification began in 2022.

Men's reigning world champion Aurelien Giraud of France and Japanese star Shirai Sora, who both had disappointing campaigns at Tokyo 2020, have come back with a vengeance, while newcomers such as Oda Yumeka, Japan's defending women's world champion, and Australian prodigy Chloe Covell are primed to make their presence felt in Shanghai.

Led by teen sensations Cui Chenxi (15) and Zeng Wenhui (19), the host is preparing a competitive women's street team of five riders to vie with their more accomplished international rivals for the points that will get them to Paris.

In the other three events — women's park and men's street and park — Chinese riders remain far from world class, as they embrace this home qualifier as a learning curve for the future.

Format: freestyle: street, park

Number of athletes: 176

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