A 13-year-old girl from Japan made history Monday when she clinched the gold medal in the first-ever women’s skateboarding competition — and became the second-youngest champion in Olympics history.
Momiji Nishiya, an Osaka native with cropped hair and a penchant for baggie jeans and t-shirts, blew away her competition at the Ariake Urban Sports Park and beat some of the world’s best with a series of tricky moves during the early afternoon event.
Near the end of her performance, Nishiya flawlessly glided over a series of stairs, rails and ramps constructed for the competition — the Olympic version of the typical playing grounds of skateboarders, a city park — and scored a 15.26.
The tricks put her ahead of Brazil’s Rayssa Leal, a pre-games favorite, also 13, who snagged the silver medal with a score of 14.64, and 16-year-old Funa Nakayama, who won the bronze with a score of 14.49.
“I didn’t think I could win, but everyone around me cheered me on so I’m glad I was able to find my groove,” said the teen skater, who solidified Japan’s command of the sport a day after Yuto Horigome won the gold in the men’s competition, Kyodo News reported.
“I wasn’t too worried about getting a medal. It was like, it’d be nice if I can get one.”
Nishiya’s win made history in Japan and across the world.
Not only did she become the youngest champion in the country’s history, eclipsing Kyoka Iwasaki who won the 200-meter breaststroke at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics at age 14, she became the second-youngest Olympian worldwide.
Aged 13 years and 330 days, Nishiya is second only to American Marjorie Gestring, who was 13 years and 268 days when she won the gold medal in the women’s 3m springboard diving competition at the 1936 Berlin Games.
Nishiya’s performance — which included several falls and a series of complicated, high-scoring tricks to make up for the loss — beat out clear favorites like the reigning world street champion, Japan’s Aori Nishimura, who finished eighth, the Guardian reported.
Margielyn Didal, a 22-year-old Filipino skater who came in seventh, said she was happy to skate beside the next generation of the world’s best.
“All the medallists are super young, imagine that?” she said, according to The Guardian.
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“It’s history, and I’ve just witnessed it. First-ever Olympics and I was able to skate with them.
“For those young kids or just for girls or for everyone out there that wants to start skating I want to tell them to just skate and enjoy it. Keep safe, wear some safety gear. Nothing is impossible.”