TORONTO — The fast-approaching summer Olympics are introducing plenty of new sports, and with those sports come new Canadian stars ready for their chance at gold.
Skateboarding is one sport that has made the jump — or kick flip — into the Olympic world, debuting this year in Tokyo.
There are two styles in this year’s Olympic Games: park and street. In park, competitors will perform tricks in a basin, and in street, a straight course with rails, curbs and other obstacles have been set up to mimic a real street. Competitors will get a few runs to navigate rails, curbs and handrails, showcasing speed, power and style for the highest score in order to progress to the finals.
Canada’s Micky Papa, who currently lives in Los Angeles, has been riding since he was 11 years old.
He sees this year’s unusual games as an oddly relaxing test ground for the sport. The Olympics this year will have no spectators in the majority of the venues due to COVID-19 precautions and rising case counts in the region.
“I think it’s going to be the most low pressure Olympics, not having hundreds of thousands of people watching, so it might just feel like another day in the park,” Papa told CTV News.
He certainly would love to medal, but there’ll be another goal in his mind as well when he steps up to compete. He wants to help the sport of skateboarding to spread further.
“Inspire some people that are thinking like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll get my kids into hockey and soccer,’ but like, consider skating,” he said.
Karate, surfing and sport climbing are also being unveiled in Tokyo. Baseball and softball are being reintroduced into the Games after a 13-year absence.
Sean McColl has been training since climbing was given the nod for these Games five years ago.
“I think there’s a lot of hype,” McColl said. “I think people are excited. I do not think (fans are) going to be disappointed. And I think they’re going to love what they’re going to see.”
Canadians will rise to the challenge in the three climbing events: speed, bouldering and lead climbing. In speed climbing, climbers aim to reach the top of a climbing wall as fast as possible. In bouldering, climbers aim to solve difficult climbing pathways without ropes at a lower height. In lead climbing, climbers are trying to climb as high as possible on a wall more than 15 metres high within a fixed time.
The medalists will be determined by the scores from all three events combined, meaning sport climbing function similarly to a triathalon.
Alannah Yip qualified for sport climbing a week before the world went into lockdown. The athlete from British Columbia athlete says the sport is as much about mental fitness as it is physical.
“It’s new, it’s a challenge to figure out with your mind, it’s all about problem solving,” she said.