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At Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding teens blaze trail for women

At Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding teens blaze trail for women

Thirteen-year-old Momiji Nishiya of Japan won the first Olympic skateboard competition for womenBy JOHN LEICESTER Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 8:29 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — On the Olympic podium, three teenage girls — 13, 13 and 16 — with weighty gold, silver and bronze medals around their young necks, rewards for having landed tricks on their skateboards that most kids their age only get to see on Instagram.After decades in the shadows of men’s skateboarding, the future for the sport’s daring, trailblazing women suddenly looked brighter than ever at the Tokyo Games on Monday.It’s anyone’s guess how many young girls tuned in to watch Momiji Nishiya of Japan win the debut Olympic skateboarding event for women, giving the host nation a sweep of golds in the street event after Yuto Horigome won the men’s event.But around the world, girls trying to convince their parents that they, too, should be allowed to skate can now point to the 13-year-old from Osaka as an Olympic-sized example of skateboarding’s possibilities.The silver went to Rayssa Leal, also 13 — Brazil’s second silver in skateboarding after Kelvin Hoefler finished second on Sunday in the men’s event.The women’s bronze went to Funa Nakayama of Japan.The event was celebrated as a win for women by many of the 20 competitors.The field included Leticia Bufoni of Brazil, whose board was snapped in two by her dad when she was a kid to try to stop her from skating. There was a Canadian, Annie Guglia, who didn’t see any other girls skate during her first two years on her board.And there were plenty of others for whom the Olympic competition felt like a light at the end of a long tunnel.“It’s going to change the whole game,” U.S. skater Mariah Duran said. “This is like opening at least one door to, you know, many skaters who are having the conversations with their parents, who want to start skating.“I’m not surprised if there’s probably already like 500 girls getting a board today.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

At Tokyo Olympics, a debt to 'Back to the Future' and 'E.T.'

At Tokyo Olympics, a debt to 'Back to the Future' and 'E.T.'

TOKYO — Although the name Marty McFly won’t be on the start list for the first Olympic skateboarding competition, the “Back to the Future” character who inspired the immortal lines “What’s that thing he’s on? It’s a board, with wheels!” was a landmark personality for the sport in its groundbreaking journey to the Tokyo Games.The Olympic debut in Tokyo of BMX freestyle also owes a debt to Hollywood, because it was Steven Spielberg’s movie “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” that showcased the acrobatic sport’s wow factor to mainstream audiences.So Tinseltown, take an Olympic bow. Skateboarding starts Sunday with the men’s street competition. The men and women’s medal events in BMX freestyle are on the second Sunday, Aug. 1. Back when the movie blockbusters hit screens in the 1980s, McFly would have needed a time-traveling DeLorean to foresee that these counterculture activities would be welcomed into the Olympic extravaganza unfolding in Tokyo.“The skateboard associations and the BMX associations should be giving Bob Zemeckis, myself and Steven Spielberg lifetime achievement awards,” joked “Back to the Future” screenwriter Bob Gale in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the competitions.Gale co-created and cowrote the hit series with director Robert Zemeckis. They imagined McFly as a skateboarder to help make the character — played by actor Michael J. Fox — stand out.“Marty McFly was always supposed to be kind of this rebellious kid,” Gale recollected. “We thought it was appropriate that he might still be using the skateboard or may have decided to use a skateboard because everybody told him not to.”In one of the movie’s signature scenes, McFly uses a makeshift skateboard to outrun and outfox the villainous Biff Tannen. McFly soars on his board over a hedge and races around a town square, sparks flying. Biff and his gang of bullies are humiliated, ending up neck-deep in dung after crashing into a manure truck.Skateboarding pioneer Tony Hawk was 17 and already a pro when the time-travel movie was released in July 1985. He credits “Back to the Future” for luring a whole generation of kids to skating.“There are plenty of legendary pros that I know of that started skating because they saw that,” Hawk said in an AP interview.Skateboarding featured again as an outcast activity two years later in “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.” Hawk was part of the stunt crew that skated around downtown Toronto performing jumps and tricks for that movie.“Back to the Future” was also pivotal for Josh Friedberg, the CEO of USA Skateboarding, who is leading the U.S. team of 12 skaters in Tokyo. The movie and a friend’s return to their Kansas hometown from Florida with a skating video and a board all combined to hook Friedberg for life.“My head exploded,” he said in an AP interview. “I fell in love with skateboarding that summer and there are billions of kids my age (for whom) the same exact thing happened.“That movie was fascinating to me as a 13-year-old, with Michael J. Fox skating on his tail and making sparks and escaping the bad guys,” Friedberg added. “There is an entire generation of skateboarders that are the ‘Back to the Future’ generation.”For the movie’s makers, long before skateboarding was Tokyo-bound and plastered all over the internet and social media, one of the challenges was finding skaters good enough to carry the scenes.“The stunt guys didn’t know how to skateboard,” Gale recalled.The hunt took him on a Sunday morning to Los Angeles’ Venice Beach, a cradle for the skating culture that Olympic organizers now hope will entice young audiences to tune in to Tokyo.”Sure enough, there were these two guys that were just doing these outstanding skateboard tricks,” Gale said. “So I went up to them and I said, ‘I know you are going to think that I am full of it, but I am actually producing a movie and I need a couple of guys.’”Freestyle BMX pioneer Bob Haro had a similar experience: An out-of-the-blue phone call offering him work as a stuntman on “E.T.,” released in 1982.Among those inspired by Spielberg’s blockbuster about a stranded alien was future Olympic track cycling champion Chris Hoy. Then only 7, Hoy was instantly smitten by its thrilling chases and took up BMX racing before later switching to track, where his six gold medals made him Britain’s most decorated Olympian.In the movie’s climactic chase scene, Haro jumped his BMX bike onto the roof and hood of a police vehicle, knocking off its flashing red light.“It turned, again, millions of kids onto BMX,” Haro said in an AP interview. “Really great timing, too, because the sport of BMX was blowing up at that time and they capitalized on it in a good way.“For the younger generation, a lot of them, that’s a long time ago,” he acknowledged. “They are having their moment, which is great.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Skateboarding and the Olympics: New friends, put to the test

Skateboarding and the Olympics: New friends, put to the test

CHELLES, France — For skateboarding, a sport where the No. 1 rule is that there are no rules, the straight jacket of the Olympic Games, with its dense thickets of tradition and regulation, may not be a natural or immediate fit.So at the Tokyo Games, freewheelin’ skaters and Olympic officials are going to learn a lot about each other. Could be quite a ride. Both have plenty to gain from making a splash with their brand-new partnership. Skating is one of four debut Olympic sports, along with karate, surfing and sport climbing.The spectacle of skaters turning their boards into flying machines, soaring over obstacles, will deliver a rejuvenating injection of youthful energy to the dowdy sporting extravaganza. The youngest, Japan’s Kokona Hiraki and Britain’s Sky Brown, are just 12.With its street fashions and “all-are-welcome” inclusive culture of all genders, ages and abilities having four-wheeled fun together, skating officials anticipate that the sport will help snag future generations of Olympic fans and viewers that the International Olympic Committee needs to keep making mega-bucks from the Games.FREEDOM OR FAMEFor skaters, the powerful Olympic spotlight means global visibility and, with that, possibly better prospects of earning a living from riding and sponsorships. Skaters also hope the Olympic seal of approval will generate more funding for skate parks and bowls to train, land and invent their tricks.Some skaters fret that Olympic codification will come at a cost for the freedom, spontaneity and soul of their sport born on the streets. They argue that skating is a whole lifestyle, and worry it will be crimped and compromised by being co-opted. There were similar misgivings within snowboarding — before it went on to become one of the most riotous and popular shows at the Winter Olympics, and three gold medals turned Shaun White into a household name.SEE THAT FAKEY FIVE-O?With high-adrenaline acrobatics akin to those seen on Olympic snow — so much so that White toyed with the idea of trying to also qualify in skating for Tokyo — skateboarding promises to wow and hook both existing and untapped Olympic audiences.“The people who watch us in Tokyo are going to say to themselves, ‘This is pretty,’” predicts Madeleine Larcheron, a 15-year-old who’ll compete for France.“I’m often asked, ‘What’s the scariest trick?’ There isn’t one. In skating, everything is scary,” she said. “You go upside down, you speed along, there is always a slice of danger.”THE COMPETITIONFor its Olympic debut, skateboarding has a custom-built park on the shores of Tokyo Bay to play with.The 40 men and 40 women will be chasing medals in two events — park, where they skate in a bowl, and street, where they navigate stairs, rails, curbs and other urban furniture.The street competitions are in the first week, on July 25 and 26. The park events round out week two, on Aug. 4 and 5.Because skateboarding is so fluid and inventive, with hundreds of tricks, variants and possibilities to choose from, judging is less codified and more subjective than other sports. Judges will scrutinize the difficulty and execution of tricks and runs, how skaters use and navigate obstacles, and will be looking to reward originality and variety.As happened to White with his gold medals in the half-pipe at the Turin (2006), Vancouver (2010) and Pyeongchang (2018) winter games, the Tokyo Olympics could be a first step toward global fame for a skateboarder.With no-fear stunts and polished messaging that age is irrelevant, Brown is already a very visible 12-year-old, with a rich portfolio of sponsors and array of social media accounts. The British phenom is back from a terrifying fall last year – video of which was posted — of course — on an Instagram account managed by her parents. She’ll compete in the park event.At the other end of the unusually broad age spectrum at the inaugural Olympic skateboarding competition will be Dallas Oberholtzer. The 46-year-old hails from South Africa, where he works on efforts to introduce young South Africans to the sport.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

AP PHOTOS: On patrol with police in Paris' tough suburbs

AP PHOTOS: On patrol with police in Paris' tough suburbs

By JOHN LEICESTER Associated PressJune 19, 2021, 6:26 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleVILLIERS-LE-BEL, France — Both fuming and bragging, the man told the police officers that he used his car as a weapon during the street battle in a northern suburb of Paris, ramming the vehicle into a fighter from a rival group.“I destroyed him,” the man said. “For certain, he’s at the hospital. He’s got a cut on his skull, he’s got a cut on his mouth.”For the veteran police major called out to deal with the aftermath of another bloody brawl, the eye-opener this time was the sheer brutality, the clear intent on both sides to gravely wound and perhaps permanently maim.On a national level, such disorder is translating into polarized and politicized debate about violence ahead of France’s presidential elections next year and local elections this month. President Emmanuel Macron’s opponents are using the perennial hot-button issues of crime and policing to attract votes.Violent rivalries have long been part of the policing geography in the rotting high-rises of tough Paris-region neighborhoods where inequalities and hardship are often more common than good jobs and opportunities. But police say that fighting over turf or differences of race, religion and cultures wasn’t always as savage as it increasingly is now.“It’s more and more violent,” the police major said as he worked to reconstruct this week’s chain of events, from a clash in a pipe-smoking bar to a full-blown brawl between opposing groups from Pakistani and North African communities.“In a fight that perhaps 20 years ago would have been sorted out with fists or kicks, we now see people being run over with cars,” he said. “The population is increasingly violent. It’s no longer simply fighting. They absolutely have to win, even if that means leaving someone in agony on the floor.”From the police perspective, recent years have been difficult. Like other Western nations, France has seen large and angry protests over fatal cases of police brutality and allegations of law enforcement racism singling out Black people and other minorities.Police are also increasingly the targets of violence. Most recently, the murders of two police officials in April and May — one in a stabbing, the other in a shooting during a drug bust — reinforced officers’ concerns that enforcing the law in France is an increasingly perilous profession.One measure of their anxiety is that officers like Major Nicolas, the 46-year-old called out to the Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel for the street fight, refuse to be identified by their full names.Officers say they’re scared of being tracked down at home. They’re under orders to change into civilian clothes when they finish shifts, to avoid being readily identifiable as police officers. Nicolas said he also keeps close watch of his rear-view mirrors on his drive home so he isn’t followed.Attacks on Paris-region police stations with noisy fireworks, stones and other projectiles have fed tensions. The station in Sarcelles, the Paris suburb where Nicolas is assigned to lead night patrols, was targeted in February.But out on patrol with Sarcelles officers, it also is evident that their presence is appreciated or, failing that, at least tolerated by many residents.The family in neighboring Villiers-le-Bel that called for help after the brawl was clearly grateful that officers and rescue workers sped over, lights flashing, to assist injured relatives.One man seemingly severely beaten in the fight groaned as rescue workers lifted him onto a gurney. Major Nicolas quickly determined that another injured family member had been hit by a car.Questioning witnesses, the major and his colleagues started piecing together how the conflict spiraled.“They got calls from their cousins saying, ‘Come quick, we’ve run into trouble over there.’ Everyone rushed over there. Full-on fight,” the major said.Experience also told him that the enmity likely wouldn’t end there and that another grudge-match was probably brewing.“They’ll surely have another go at each other,” he said.