TOKYO, July 20 (Reuters) - Representing their country, wearing a uniform and adjusting to a team dynamic are some of the many changes skateboarders at the Olympics have to get used to, but Australian duo Shane O’Neill and Hayley Wilson are determined to rise to the challenge.
Skateboarding, one of the ultimate emblems of underground subculture, makes its debut at the Tokyo Games this year with events scheduled to be held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on Tokyo’s waterfront.
Involving equal parts individual athleticism and artistry, skateboarders perform gravity-defying tricks and spins to the beat of loud music, in a high-risk, high-reward format that has attracted a loyal and youthful following around the world.
“Fans can expect to see skateboarding in a really competitive form,” said O’Neill, who at 31 is the senior statesman on Australia’s five-member skateboarding team in Tokyo.
“We can showcase skateboarding in a good way, show everyone what we can do. It’s definitely a new experience being in a competition like this, competing with countries.
“Usually you’re doing it for yourself, but it’s cool to be a part of this. We don’t usually really have uniforms and it’s different to be a part of the team thing, but it’s super cool and I’m stoked to be a part of this.”
For 19-year-old Wilson, the opportunity to represent her country and promote the sport she first started when she was eight years old on the biggest international stage of them all is its own reward.
“It’s definitely an amazing opportunity for us skaters,” she said. “We’ve never experienced something as big as this. It’s really exciting to be in the (Olympic) Village, wear green and gold, represent our country.
“Skating is kind of an art sport, it’s so different, every run is different. You’ve got such a selection of different tricks to choose from. It’s so cool and so unique that we can show what we’ve got in our own ways.”
For the veteran O’Neill, the layout of Ariake Urban Sports Park will offer plenty of chances for the skateboarders to showcase their individual skills and entertain fans tuning in around the world.
“Each skater is going to do a different trick and (the course) really enables you to skate exactly how you want to. That’s cool for me and for the skaters to be able to do their best things in their own way,” he said.
“It makes it a really cool experience for people to watch because it’s not just everyone just skating and doing the same thing.
“I love watching other sports and their traditional ways, but with skating it’s a lot different.” (Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge)