Momiji Nishiya spent a lot of time in the weeks before the Tokyo Olympics on her skateboard getting in practice runs and perfecting tricks.
She was so focused, in fact, that there was something she forgot about.
“I don’t know if I have any homework to do over the summer break,” she said during a news conference Tuesday.
Nishiya might be an Olympic champion, but she’s also a 13-year-old girl and school will be starting up before too long.
For now, she can bask in her victory for a little while longer.
Nishiya made history with her win in the women’s street competition on Monday, becoming the first-ever gold medalist in the event.
“I was so happy that I cried,” she said.
Her victory came one day after Yuto Horigome won the men’s street title, giving Japan at least two gold medalists in skateboarding’s Olympic debut, with the park competition coming later in the Games.
“I think I was able to win because of the support of my family and the people around me,” Nishiya said.
Nishiya is part of a wave of young, fearless female skateboarders.
She stuck a gap to lipslide to secure the title with an overall score of 15.26 points on Monday. Thirteen-year-old Brazilian Rayssa Leal, a few months younger than Nishiya, took silver with 14.64 points and Japan’s Funa Nakayama, 16, scored 14.49 to earn bronze.
Sky Brown, another 13-year-old who was born in Miyazaki to a Japanese mother and British father, will be riding for Great Britain in the park competition, as will Team GB’s Bombette Martin, 15.
At 13 years and 330 days old, Nishiya is the third-youngest gold medalist in Summer Olympics history and the first athlete born in 2007 to win a medal.
She’s also the youngest to ever win a gold medal for Japan, taking that mark from Kyoko Iwasaki, a swimmer who won the women’s 200-meter breaststroke at the 1992 Barcelona Games at 14 years and six days old.
When told Iwasaki had said winning gold was among the happiest moments of her life, Nishiya expressed a similar feeling.
“I don’t know what my No. 1 memory was before, but this is now at the top,” she said.
Nishiya, Leal and Nakayama formed the youngest podium for an individual event in Olympic history with an average age of 14 years and 191 days.
To put it in even more perspective, no one on the podium was even alive when the first edition of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk’s eponymous video games series was released in 1999. Hawk, perhaps the most famous skateboarder of all time, was on hand for the women’s final.
The Japanese pair seemed to have the normal cares of teenagers on Tuesday. Nishiya said she hoped to eat yakiniku (grilled meat) as a treat for winning gold, while Nakayama planned to buy some manga.
Even though they etched their names in the Olympic record books, neither Nishiya nor Nakayama seemed to understand what all the fuss was about. As impressive as it is to everyone else, for the teenagers themselves, it’s just skateboarding.
“Age doesn’t really matter in skateboarding,” Nakayama said.
“I’m happy I won a gold medal at 13 years old, but as Nakayama said, I don’t think your age really means anything.”
If anything, the youth movement in women’s skateboarding has become the new normal.
“Everybody can skateboard when they are very young,” Leal said after the competition on Monday.
Nishiya and Nakayama can now return to their regular lives and take a rest before deciding on their next challenge.
Whatever that is, it will likely involve skateboarding.
“Skateboarding has become a part of my life,” Nakayama said.
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