See This 13-Year-Old Win an Olympic Medal

·4 min read

This year's Olympic Games have featured some major changes to the competition, many of which are a direct result of the ongoing COVID pandemic. But some updates have nothing to do with the virus: The Tokyo Olympics mark the debut of skateboarding—both street and park style—in the Olympics. Fans have been eagerly anticipating the young talent and exciting tricks that the sport would bring. At 13, one young competitor just earned the first-ever gold medal in women's street skateboarding, with other teens placing behind her with silver and bronze medals. Read on to see the young Olympian who took this sport by storm.

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Momiji Nishiya is one of the youngest gold medal winners in Olympics history.

On July 26, 13-year-old skateboarder Momiji Nishiya became Japan's youngest-ever gold medal winner and one of the youngest winners the Olympics has ever seen. According to CBS, the youngest gold medalist ever was diver Marjorie Gestring, who earned gold in 1936 at the age of 13 years and 268 days.

Nishiya told Reuters that she was "stressed out" after struggling on her first two tricks, but she ended up nailing her last three moves, leading her to victory. "I welled up in tears because I was beyond happy," Nishiya said.

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The women's skateboarding competition has been full of teens.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 26:  (L-R) Rayssa Leal of Team Brazil, winner of the silver medal, and Momiji Nishiya, winner of the gold medal, and Funa Nakayama, winner of the bronze medal, of Team Japan pose with their medals during the Women's Street Final medal ceremony on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 26: (L-R) Rayssa Leal of Team Brazil, winner of the silver medal, and Momiji Nishiya, winner of the gold medal, and Funa Nakayama, winner of the bronze medal, of Team Japan pose with their medals during the Women's Street Final medal ceremony on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Teenagers have been dominating skateboarding during the sport's first year in the Olympics. Brazilian 13-year-old Rayssa Leal earned the silver medal behind Nishiya, and 16-year-old Funa Nakayama—also from Japan—nabbed the bronze medal.

Japan seems to be a frontrunner in the skateboarding arena. Yuto Horigom took home the gold medal for Japan in men's skateboarding on July 25. While the three leaders in women's skateboarding are all teens, the men competing in Olympic skateboarding aren't as young. Horigom is 22, Brazilian silver medalist Kelvin Hoefler is 27, and bronze medalist Jagger Eaton is 20.

The winners hope that their success attracts more young girls to the sport.

The teenage girls who stood on the winner's podium together want more girls to be encouraged to join the sport. "I want more rivals, which will make skating more fun," Nakayama told Reuters. Leal pointed out the double standard of the sport. "It's not right to think, well you have to study, you can't go skating because skating is for boys," she told Reuters. "I think skateboarding is for everyone."

While the fourth-place winner, U.S.A.'s 34-year-old Alexis Sablone, isn't as young as the medalists, she agrees with them. "For a long time, there were way fewer females doing this," Sablone told Reuters. "It's taken until now for enough people to pay attention, to get enough eyes on it, to inspire more girls around the world to start skating."

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People have mixed feelings about skateboarding being included in the Olympics.

Skateboarding originated around 70 years ago but hasn't been included in the Olympic Games until now. U.S.A. Skateboarding CEO Josh Friedberg told ABC News that the Olympics will not only be about demonstrating skill in skateboarding, but also about showcasing the character that comes with the sport. "It's much more than just a sport. And I think that that shines through when you see the personalities of skaters, the Olympians, from all over the world, who love skateboarding … and they're going to compete for their countries in this new environment," Friedberg said. "I still believe that, as a culture-based sport, skateboarding has a lot to offer the world."

While many officials are optimistic about skateboarding's future in the Olympics, there have been some critics. "A lot of people were, and are still, against it because they just consider it like not to be a sport or whatever the case may be," Olympic competitor Mariah Duran told ABC News.

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