New commission to help Australian skateboarders aiming for gold
Skateboarders selected to represent Australia at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will now have a new government body to support them.
Tokyo will be the first time skateboarding features in the Games, as the International Olympic Committee tries to appeal to younger generations of sports fans.
The Australian Sports Commission, the body responsible for sport funding, has launched a new organisation to support the first national skateboarding team.
Luke Pellegrini from the Australian Olympic Committee said the newly formed Skateboard 2020 Commission would support skateboarders with professional training.
"[We are bringing] these athletes together who are often competing on an individual basis, and putting some coaches, some high performance funding, some strength and conditioning frameworks [in front of them]," Mr Pellegrini said.
Up to eight Australian skateboarders could compete in the next Olympics, selected based on their world rankings, according to Mr Pellegrini.
"Whether or not that includes things like the X Games or the Park Series we're not quite sure yet, but there'll be competitions both here in Australia and also internationally," he said.
That has not put off young skateboarders like Olympic hopeful 16-year-old Victorian Hayley Wilson, who trains with the Victorian Institute of Sport.
"If I get injured, I can recover there. I've got physios, I've got doctors, I've got all the facilities I need," Hayley said.
"But now I'm just going to work as hard as I can to get a spot on that team."
Another skateboarder, 14-year-old Queenslander Keegan Palmer, is the youngest Australian to compete in the world skateboarding championships in the US.
"Dude, yeah, [a career in skateboarding] is like my goal," Keegan said.
"I want that as my career because it's fun, instead of having to study I could just study skateboarding, which is so much more fun.
"You can just scroll through Instagram and sometimes people post super-amazing stuff that you want to learn."
'We have such a strong skate culture'
As for Australia's chances of gold in the skateboarding events in Tokyo, former world cup champion Renton Millar said he was optimistic.
"We have a depth of talent that is pretty much unlike almost any other country besides, say, Brazil or America," Mr Millar said.
"We have more public skateparks per capita than any other country in the world, and we have such a strong skate culture."
Mr Millar, who is also a member of the Australian Skating Federation and judges skating competitions, said he looked for how well skateboarders used the obstacles in the park.
"The technicality of the tricks — how hard the tricks are, the variety of the tricks, and also looking at the style and the amplitude, which is how far you grind, how high you air," he said.
Broadening the pro-skating world to the Olympic Games could open more doors for sponsorship, fame and fortune — but Mr Millar said nothing would likely change the underlying skateboarding culture that goes with it.
"Everything else in skateboarding that exists is still going to stay valid. Skating a curb or a pool or a skatepark or with your mates.
"That'll all still be there, but we're just going to have the Olympics as well."