TOKYO — Teen skaters from Japan and Britain barrelled and soared over a concrete skate park in the preliminary rounds of the women's park competition on Wednesday in the discipline's lively debut at the Tokyo Olympics.
In all, 20 skaters ranging in age from 12 to 36, are competing in four preliminary heats, with each of them getting three runs. The top eight then qualify for the final.
By the middle of the third heat, Britain's Sky Brown was leading the pack with 57.40 points for her stunning second run, which she began with a frontside 360 and capped with a 540 spin that she landed on the deep end of the bowl.
At 13, high-flying Brown is not even the youngest athlete on the course.
Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki, 12, who is likely to advance to the finals after Brown, earned a high score of 52.46 points in her second run.
"Doesn't she get nervous?" one of the Japanese TV commentators asked incredulously right after the 12-year-old finished a smooth ride that showed off a frontside nosegrind.
"I had so much fun," Hiraki told Japan's public broadcaster NHK on the sidelines of the heats. "I tried out a new trick and I can't believe I landed it," she said giggling.
Far from the empty swimming pools of Southern California where this type of skateboarding was born in the 1970s, teenagers in colourful helmets and black kneepads have so far dominated the park event.
At times, the young skaters looked impossibly tiny as they shred the grey and purple course at the Ariake Urban Sports Park that is emblazoned with the five Olympic rings.
Between runs, skaters cooled themselves under parasols as they waited for their turn as temperatures climbed to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
Japan and Brazil ruled the street skateboarding events held last week, with the host nation scooping up two golds and Brazil taking two silvers in the men and women's competitions.