Skateboarding used to be a part of events classified as Extreme Sports. Extreme Sports are recreational activities that involve some degree of risk, and bring with it speed or height, plus high levels of physical exertion. These include BMX, skydiving, windsurfing, mountain biking, motocross, and other events.
Together with these other death-defying Extreme Sports, skateboarding gained massive popularity in the past decade. Originally created as a recreational hobby for youngsters, it has blossomed into a competitive event watched by millions across the globe. Statistics will show that in the USA back in early 2000s, more kids 18-and-under played with skateboards rather than play baseball.
Marketing companies highlighted the thrills and spills, plus the breath-taking risks that go with it, ramping up interest and developing a strong following for the new sporting event. Corporate sponsorship for skateboarding as well as other Extreme Sports – made possible by ESPN – triggered off the fast-growing market for what became popularly known as the X-Games.
On the other hand, at the turn of the century, numbers would show that the popularity of the Olympics was dwindling. Interest for mainstream sports had not moved fast enough, compared to these relatively new hobbies created for the new generation. This forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to rethink their strategy, and later decide to introduce new sports into the Olympic program.
In the hope of attracting the younger crowd, BMX was introduced in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It became an immediate hit with the millennials. The success of this experiment prompted the IOC to introduce more sports, including surfing and skateboarding, for this coming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In the Philippines, this ushered the organization of a new group, the Skateboarding and Roller Sports Association of the Philippines (SRSAP). The SRSAP is now in the process of applying for a National Sports Association (NSA) status with the POC.
SRSAP is also feverishly preparing for the Asian Games. It is fortunate to have discovered 3 athletes who can immediately compete with the region’s best in the coming Asian Games. Chief among them is Margielyn Didal, a diminutive Cebuana who will be contending for the gold medal in the Women’s Street Event.
Margie is a 19-year old talent discovered in the backstreets of Lahug, Cebu City. Without the benefit of proper training and a skate park to develop her skills, but fueled only by her intense passion for the game, Margie learned skateboarding street tricks all by her lonesome self; eventually catching the attention of local and foreign supporters. Among skateboarders, she is considered a child prodigy, taking on the sport so naturally. She later got invited to the Skateboarding Training Camp in Pennsylvania, USA and joined the New Balance Asia Skateboard Team for the Asia Pacific region. Margie is considered – at the very least – a silver medal hopeful for the event. To gauge her readiness to compete against skateboarders already playing in the pro circuits around the world, she will be seeing action in the prestigious World Street League Competition in London this May 25. (See Margie in action)
In the men’s division, Jeffrey Gonzales and Mark Feliciano will represent the country. Jeff is a 30-year old veteran of the game. He has had numerous international and local competition wins in his belt. He learned his skateboarding in the States before his family returned to the Philippines a few years back. Mark is another 21-year old self-taught neighborhood kid who learned to skate in his hometown of Baler. He has championed in numerous local competitions and is ready to experience higher-level boarding. Jeff and Mark will be up against more rated boarders, with their main protagonists coming from Japan and Indonesia.
Skateboarding is a sport that doesn’t need height nor heft. What it needs is more agility, something that is readily available among our youth. Margie’s incredible development to the world ratings shows us just how much raw talent there is available for us in the country. Given proper training and coaching, plus good facilities to practice their tricks, our boarders can without a doubt compete with the world’s best.
For starters, let’s help by building skate parks in our towns. Not only will it help keep our kids away from trouble, it will promote fitness and provide a great opportunity for our kids to excel in a new sport that is now a craze the world over.