Momiji Nishiya: How The 13 Year-Old Japanese Skater Made Olympic History
The future of skateboarding is bright. The sport made its official debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and two Japanese skateboarders bagged the gold medals on home soil. For the men's street event, 22-year-old Yuto Horigome clinched the gold while 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya won the medal at the women’s event.
The winning trio at the women’s event are all in their teens with silver medalist, Brazilian Rayssa Leal also at 13 and bronze medalist and fellow Japanese Funa Nakayama at 16.
Nishiya is just one of the many young faces at the Games, particularly in skateboarding where five out of the six youngest athletes are competing. With Nishiya’s historic win—being Japan’s youngest gold medallist and the first-ever women’s skateboarding gold medalist—it will inspire a new generation of young women to take up the sport which is often seen as male-dominated or rebellious.
“I welled up in tears because I was beyond happy,” says the young Olympian when describing what she felt when she won the gold medal.
In the finals, eyes were initially on fellow Japanese skater, 19-year-old Aori Nishimura who ranks at number three with Leal at number two and Nishiya at fifth place, according to Olympic World Skateboarding Rankings. But Nishimura repeatedly stumbled when she did her tricks and placed eight overall.
The youngest Olympic champion is Marjorie Gestring at 13 years 267 days—just 63 days younger than Nishiya. Gestring won the springboard medal at the 1936 Berlin Games. But the chance to beat Gestring’s record continues with young Olympics competing such as Sky Brown, at 13 years old and Japan’s own Kokona Hiraki at 12 years old both at the women’s park skateboarding on August 4.
Bronze medalist Nakayama said that she hoped their success at the Olympics on home soil will encourage more young women to pick up skateboarding. “I want more rivals, which will make skating more fun,” she says.