More public skateparks needed to fuel skateboarding's rise

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2021 11:20 AM

Margielyn Didal of Philippines in action. Toby Melville, Reuters.
Margielyn Didal of Philippines in action. Toby Melville, Reuters.

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipina skater Margielyn Didal and her team are optimistic that her recent stint in the Tokyo Olympics will prompt a shift in people's mindset regarding the sport, and spur more investment as well.

Didal advanced to the final of the women's street event in the Tokyo Olympics, eventually finishing in seventh place. Though she didn't make the podium, Didal earned fans globally with her display of charisma and character.

In an Instagram post after her Olympic campaign, Didal said she hopes for more good skateparks in the Philippines, "so that I can share how fun skateboarding is."

For her coach, Dani Bautista, having more skateparks is just the first step towards sustaining the gains made by skateboarding in recent years, which Didal helped spark with her triumphs in international events including the 2018 Asian Games.

"I think we should have public skateparks. That's definitely something that we need, for skateboards to progress, and for more skateboarders to get into the sport. " Bautista said in a recent interview. 

"That's the way where you can have younger skaters, where parents can be comfortable bringing their kids to a safe place to skate," he explained.

They are hoping to get help from the private sector in this regard, similar to how one of Didal's sponsors built a skate park for her in Cebu so that she could train before the Olympic qualifiers. 

"In the future, we're gonna find a way (to build more skateparks), and Red Bull is always down to support us with whatever, and they're always down to support skateboarding," said Bautista.

Aside from having more public skateparks, Bautista said Skate Pilipinas is determined to grow the sport at the grassroots level as well. This means having skateboarding clinics for the youth, and giving them the equipment they need to start in the sport.

Also part of their plans is to hold more international events in the Philippines that will shine an even bigger spotlight on skateboarding.

"Other than skate parks, we do have a facility, and we do plan to do small clinics. We're working with other organizations outside to get mga donations so we could have more kids get into skateboarding. Give out skateboards to cities, mga towns outside the city that don't have access to skateboarding," Bautista said.

"(We need) funding for the grassroots programs, the clinics, getting coaches, organizing workshops, and equipment to give away, to give out. We're looking into that direction. Yes, we're looking for sponsors, for sure to make this a reality, for sure," he added.

For Didal, the hope is that these steps will not only boost the growth of the sport, but also change how people view skaters. The Cebuana has memorably said she and her friends used to be chased by local security when they tried to skate around their city.

She has gone a long way from there and is now considered as one of the country's Olympic heroes -- something she hopes will inspire others to take up the sport.

"The skate scene is really big," Didal said. "But now, it's getting bigger, especially since they included skateboarding in the Olympics."

"I hope to spread all the good vibes from the Olympics," she added. "I hope nakita na, especially here in the Philippines, there's a really big chance in the Olympics."