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Japan's Own Wins First Skateboarding Medal At Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — In the neighborhood where he grew up skateboarding, 22-year-old Yuto Horigome won the first ever Olympic Gold medal for skateboarding.

In the street skate competition, Horigome expertly flipped his board in the air, sailed over staircases and glided on rails. On the fourth trick of the final he accomplished a most difficult one: a "nollie 270 noseslide." After taking off, he flipped his board, then slid it down the rail on its nose.

Though he now lives in Los Angeles, Horigome won his medal in a city where skateboarding is still frowned upon and considered a renegade hobby. There are signs around Tokyo posted that read "No skateboarding."

After he won, Horigome told reporters that practicing in the streets and parks is what made him an Olympic champion.

Brazilian Kelvin Hoefler won the silver medal. "Yeah, man, I feel blessed to skate with the best," he said afterwards, adding that he's been stopped for skateboarding in public spaces before, but "now it's gonna be more chill. Hope so." Hoefler said his father is a police officer. "Back in the day when I was jumping into school yards, my daddy was with me," he said, "it was fun."

Jagger Eaton, from Mesa, Ariz., said he was "beyond stoked" to win the Bronze. "The last time I got bugged for skating I was filming my street park. We got kicked, but most of the time, the people are cool." he said. "You gotta understand that skateboarding's so much bigger than a sport, it's an art form. It's a creative outlet. A lot of people don't see it that way, and that's unfortunate, because that's how we see it."

Gold medal favorite, Nyjah Huston of the U.S., placed seventh.

The street skateboarding competition for women will be on the street course at Ariake Skate Park on Monday. And in August, park skateboarders will compete in a large skatepark built for the Games.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.