USA Olympic skateboarding teams keeps rolling despite COVID-19 pandemic

Photo+courtesy+of+Chris+Ortiz

Photo courtesy of Chris Ortiz

Jenna Hanson, Staff Writer

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“Skateboarding is everything to me. It’s my passion,” said Maurio McCoy, 24, of Reading, Penn.

Based in Tokyo, the 2020 Olympics were set to host all the usual sporting events but with one twist this year. Skateboarding would make its games debut. For members of the inaugural team, it’s a dream deferred until next year thanks to the global COVID-19 outbreak. But, partly because they’ve never been there before, and because the virus is causing other life concerns, team members said they aren’t as upset by the delay as one might expect.

Come 2021, skateboarding fans will get an international stage for their beloved sport. Including both men’s and women’s events of park and street, there is more than enough opportunity to see the different styles each member of Team USA’s first skateboarding squad would bring to the historic event.

“Street” skateboarding is described as tricks performed in an urban setting with rails, stairs, ledges and other obstacles, according to Britannica. “Park” is described as using ramps, pools and simulating a “skatepark-like” environment. McCoy prepares to compete in the street events. Teammate, Minna Stess, 14, of Petaluma, Calif. trains for the park events. 

COVID-19 changed all those plans and dreams., The Olympics were pushed from their original date, and to begin on July 23- Aug. 8. With skateboarding kicking off with their street events on July 26. 

Just like any other sporting event, athletes are required to train in order to succeed. On the other hand, skateboarding does not require weightlifting or any specific workout regime, but practice makes perfect. McCoy is focusing on being even better prepared during the unexpected delay to his Olympic debut. 

“My training remains the same. Nothing makes you better at skating than falling and failing and learning from that,” said McCoy, “When I’m not skating, I cycle to help build up endurance.” 

But Stess said the virus isolation precautions are having an impact on her skateboarding and life beyond the sport.

Students, employees, and more are experiencing national lockdown in many different ways. For example, online classes, working from home, zoom lectures and more are taking over our means of communication. With this alteration in our daily schedules, finding ways to keep busy can be tough at times. 

“Now that I’m stuck at home, it’s eighth grade online, working out, and trying to skate as much as I can,” she said.

Each athlete is sponsored by at least one company before reaching the Olympics. McCoy has sponsorship by Santa Cruz Skateboards and Adidas footwear. Stess is sponsored by Santa Cruz Skateboards and Vans footwear. The sponsors provide a social media and financial platform for the athletes, but, in a tough time for all would-be Olympic athletes, support is also manifested within the bonds of the team itself. 

“Being on Team USA is an insane honor to me,” McCoy said. “I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the chance to compete in the Olympics for Team USA.” 

Stess first appeared in the X-Games at age 13, making her one of the youngest to ever compete on such level. A little over a year later, she is now representing her country on the national skateboarding team. 

“I’m really proud of myself because I worked really hard in my skating [career] to get good enough to compete,” Stess says, “and move up the rankings where I completely earned my own spot on the team.” 

The postponement of the Olympics seems to not be taking a toll on the athletes that make up part of Team USA for skateboarding. Each athlete has a regime they follow and personal ways of training that keep them on their board. All in all, with the Olympics not canceled, athletes still have the ability to compete, do their best, and represent their country. 

The judging panel consists of four males, but Vanessa Torres of Anaheim, CA has the opportunity of being the only female judge for the skateboarding events. With a background in skateboarding with companies like Element Skateboards and her own, Meow Skateboards, Torres has competed in the X Games in 2003, 2004, 2015, and 2016 where she has won multiple gold medals. She said there’s added pressure being part of skateboarding’s debut at the Olympics.

“There’s definitely a lot of controversy and mixed emotions around skateboarding being in the Olympics,” said Torres. “Personally, I believe the addition of skating in the Olympics opens up so many new opportunities. Especially for women.” 

Torres has a massive background in women’s skateboarding and normalizing women skateboarders. While judging both men’s and women’s events, Torres is required to follow specific, unbiased criteria that leave out any personal opinions of each athlete – including those she’s competed with and against or had personal connections to. “Skateboarding means everything to me. It has given me the most beautiful life, friends, family, experiences,” said Torres.“It privileges me with many gifts and possibilities.”