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Asia's young riders ramping up skateboarding's appeal

By XING WEN in Hangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-27 07:34
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Japanese skateboarder Hinano Kusaki competes in the women's park final on her way to gold at the Asian Games on Monday. [Photo/Xinhua]

On a breezy Monday morning, the rhythmic echo of skateboards gliding over the cement blends harmoniously with the sporadic cheers and applause from the stands.

Skateboarders soar up and down the bowl, each trick showcasing their youthful invincibility, and in turn, captivating the hearts of spectators at Qiantang Roller Sports Centre, where Chinese skaters Li Yujuan and Mao Jiasi clinched Asian Games silver and bronze respectively behind Japan's Hinano Kusaki.

Li used to practice martial arts but switched to skateboarding in 2017.

"After just one month I fell in love with it because it was so thrilling," said Li, who psyches herself up for competition by listening to pumping music in her headphones.

"I felt good and I executed all three rounds pretty well," she added.

The bowl competition featured the youngest competitor at the Games — 9-year-old Filipino Mazel Paris Alegado.

Proudly sporting many pins on her outfit, the chatty kid said with a beaming smile: "I like skateboarding because it's really fun. You can hang out with your friends, and you can be any person you want."

She finished seventh in the final.

Speaking about her introduction to the sport, she recalled: "We were at my cousin's house, and I saw my brother skateboarding. I was like, 'Can I try, can I try?', and I got on the board, and I just loved it."

As for her aspirations in the sport, the young girl said: "I don't really think about it too much, I just want to have fun."

For 17-year-old Nyimas Bunga Cinta, of Indonesia, the stakes are higher, but her enjoyment of the sport has not diminished.

"Traveling to compete around the world has allowed me to meet other skaters and make new friends from different countries. It has also given me a better opportunity to experience the world," said Bunga, who in 2018, at the age of 12, became the youngest medalist at the Jakarta Asian Games, where she won bronze in the women's street event.

"In skateboarding competitions, you need to be mentally strong. After such events, I can work on improving my tricks. When I saw Japanese riders flying so high in the bowl event, it inspired me. I wanted to learn and try those tricks one by one."

Bunga, who took up skateboarding aged 8 after watching videos of the legendary Tony Hawk in action, plans to make a living from the sport.

"I want to go to the Olympics, and I also want to buy a house," she said. "I'll do my best in skateboarding."

Skateboarding is popular throughout Indonesia, with skateparks in plentiful supply in major cities, according Sandra Erawanto, an official with Indonesia's National Olympic Committee.

"As you see, Bunga is an Indonesian Muslim who wears a hijab. It's not a restriction for her to practice skateboarding. Regardless of gender or religious faith, we support everyone to enjoy sports," he added.

Since the Jakarta Asian Games, skateboarding has been recognized as an official sport of the Asiad and has been steadily growing in popularity among the public.

At the Hangzhou Asian Games, all the athletes selected for the Chinese skateboarding team were born after the year 2000. The youngest among them is Cui Chenxi, a 13-year-old girl who is also the youngest athlete in the entire Chinese delegation. Cui finished second in her group in the preliminary street competition on Tuesday and advanced to the final.

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