Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, wrote herself into the record books as the 13-year-old Japanese became the second-youngest gold medallist in Olympic history, winning the inaugural women’s skateboarding street competition. She also became the youngest Olympic champion for her country, breaking Iwasaki Kyoko’s record at the 1992 Barcelona Games for 200m women’s breaststroke at the age of 14.
At 13 years and 330 days, Nishiya is only behind American Marjorie Gestring, who holds the record for being the youngest Olympic champion, at 13 years and 268 days. Gestring’s records stand, even after 85 years, having set it in the 1936 Berlin Games, at the Women’s 3m Springboard Dive event.
The 13-year-old, who hails from Osaka, has been involved with sports since a young age. Nishiya had previously competed at the 2019 Summer X Games held in Minneapolis, where she went on to win the silver medal at the Women’s Skateboard Street event at the age of 11. Nishiya also took the silver medal at the 2021 Street Skateboarding World Championship, held earlier this year, in Italy, where she finished second only behind world champion Aori Nishimura. Her medal haul at the World Championships also helped her secure a birth for the first skateboarding event at the Tokyo Games.
After having qualified for the finals in second place behind compatriot Funa Nakayama in the semi-finals, a tense final saw Nishiya struggle through the halfway mark due to a couple of poor runs. With reigning world champion Aori Nishimura struggling, Nishiya turned it around with a strong finish as the Japanese teen pipped Brazil’s Rayssa Leal and fellow Japanese skater Nakayama to end up with a score of 15.26 compared to Leal’s 14.64 and Nakayama’s 14.49, which helped her clinch the gold medal.
Skateboarding, along with surfing, sport climbing, and karate made its debut at the Tokyo Games, has been extremely successful for the host nation as Nishiya’s compatriot Yuto Horigome won the men’s title also, on 25th July. But it wasn’t just Nishiya who was creating the records, the young Japanese was joined by Leal who is another 13 year old and compatriot Funa Nakayama, 16 year old, who made up the podium places, which in turn led to the youngest ever Olympic podium in its history.
For a sport that is making its debut at the Games, a young podium bodes well as the future looks strong for the sport. Nishiya herself was ecstatic after her victory, stating her desire to continue to strive for excellence. Post her victory Nishiya said “I want to be the famous one who everyone in the world knows. I want to win at Paris 2024 too.”