MANILA, Philippines -- Making its much-anticipated Olympic debut in Tokyo, skateboarding turned out to be a showcase for the youth as teenagers ruled the street and park events in the women's side.
Two 13-year-olds -- Nishiya Momiji of Japan and Rayssa Leal of Brazil -- won gold and silver in the women's street, while the bronze medalist, Nakayama Funa of Japan, was aged 16.
Japan's Yosozumi Sakura, 19, won the women's park event, but following her was 12-year-old Hiraki Kokona, also of Japan, and Great Britain's Sky Brown, 13.
That the medalists were so young amazed and delighted Filipina skateboarder Margielyn Didal, who competed in the women's street event and placed seventh overall. Didal failed to make the podium but earned great praise thanks to her charisma and antics, and her friendship with the young Leal made her a media sensation in Brazil.
"I'm a big fan of both skaters," Didal said of the 13-year-olds who won gold and silver. "We've been competing (in) most qualifying events, kasama ko sila. We speak different languages, but I'm finding ways to talk to them, just basic words."
Didal's coach, Dani Bautista, has a theory as to why the younger skaters emerged triumphant in the Olympics, while the older, more experienced ones who are ranked higher faltered.
"In the Olympics… the nerves just get in, you know? And then you know, obviously they think about more things, they get distracted about more things," Bautista told ABS-CBN News. "But these kids, they're just there, doing exactly the same thing."
He pointed to Brazil's Leal, who was doing TikTok videos with Didal ahead of the finals of the women's street event.
"They aren't fazed about the Olympics, or anything, about the stakes, how high the stakes are. And I think that worked as an advantage for all these younger kids. They just kinda did their thing," Bautista said.
"I can't even imagine what Margie would feel, what Aori (Nishimura of Japan), what those other competitors feel, being in the biggest stage in sports," he added. "But these 13-year-olds, they don't get it. They're just there, having fun."
Didal wasn't surprised at how Leal, in particular, reacted to the moment. She recalled a competition in Rome where she bought chocolates for the young Brazilian, and how that immediately cheered up her fellow skater.
"I think that's how they think. I'm gonna skate and get some chocolates after, and I can watch anything," said Didal.
"It's amazing. The best is the TikTok before her run. Like, 'Yo Margie, TikTok first.' Everyone, they're all nervous and we're like, 'What, you're gonna do a TikTok right now?'" Bautista recalled.
"We did (the) TikTok, and even during the finals, we're just like dancing," Didal added.
While the 22-year-old Didal remains the face of the Philippine skateboarding scene, Bautista is admittedly hopeful that they can also find young skaters who can compete at the highest level like the Brazilian and Japanese youngsters.
"Right now, we're looking for them. I haven't found anyone yet in that 15-, 13-year-old category, but we're definitely looking. We're trying to find a little ripper like Rayssa and Momiji," he said.
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