TOKYO, Japan — Skateboarding was added to the Tokyo Games lineup as part of a wider initiative to grow the Olympics' appeal with younger audiences, by way of sports that are particularly popular in the host nation. But it probably wasn't clear just how youth-centric the sport would actually turn out to be until competition got underway.
The average age of the women's skateboarding medalists in Tokyo was just over 14; four women aged 16 or younger, including a 12-year-old, earned medals in the sport's Olympic debut. On the men's side, the average was just under 23.
Even in the competitions where the outright favorites were well into their 20s, youth prevailed.
But nearly everyone involved delivered a stunning showcase for the sport and its quirks — the hugging and use of earbuds in competition were particularly popular on social media — growing intrigue ahead of its next confirmed Olympic appearance three years from now.
Japanese skateboarding star Yuto Horigome claimed the first Olympic gold medal in the sport's history, winning the men's street competition with a score of 37.18. Brazil's Kelvin Hoefler won the silver medal with a 36.15 and American Jagger Eaton scored a 35.35, including a 9.40 on his third trick.
But the headline news, however, was that world No. 1 Nyjah Huston — the presumptive gold medalist — missed the podium, finishing seventh. Huston got off to a strong start in the final, scoring a 7.90 and 9.11 on his first two runs and a 9.09 on his first trick, but he crashed out on his next four trick attempts.
Horigome was competing shortly after winning the World Skateboarding Championships in Rome, where Huston finished second. Huston already has 18 X Games and six World Skateboarding Championship medals under his belt, but will have to wait to write his name into the Olympic history books.
The 22-year-old Horigome ended up being the oldest of the four skateboarding champions — the only one not still in his teens — crowned in Tokyo.
Gold: Yuto Horigome
Silver: Kelvin Hoefler
Bronze: Jagger Eaton
Japan's Momiji Nishiya and Brazil's Rayssa Leal, both 13 years old, turned heads when they went 1-2 in the women's street competition. Nishiya, the hometown favorite, was ranked No. 5 in the world heading into the Tokyo Games, and Leal was ranked No. 3.
Leal was briefly the youngest medal winner in Tokyo, later surpassed by the silver and bronze medalists in women's street skateboarding.
Sixteen-year-old Funa Nakayama, who also represents Japan, took home the bronze.
American Alexis Sablone, 34, was in prime position for the podium with two tricks remaining, finished fourth after falls on both attempts. Pamela Rosa, the top-ranked female street skateboarder in the world, missed out on the final with a 10th-place finish in prelims.
Gold: Momiji Nishiya
Silver: Rayssa Leal
Bronze: Funa Nakayama
Japan's Sakura Yosozumi won the first ever Olympic gold medal in women's park skateboarding. Yosozumi, 19, was the oldest medal winner by more than six years.
Yosozumi, who was fourth in prelims, but up a huge 60.09 in her first run of the final, practically sealing the win.
Japanese teammate Cocona Hiraki, 12, took silver with a 59.04. Great Britain's Sky Brown, who turned 13 less than a month before the Games, took the bronze with a 54.04.
Brown and HIraki qualified in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, out of prelims. They are now the youngest Olympic medalists since 1936.
World No. 1 Misugu Okamoto, 15, qualified first out of prelims but missed the podium in the final, finishing fourth. Her highest run score was a 53.58.
American Bryce Wettstein advanced to the final but teammates Brighton Zeuner and Jordyn Barratt missed out, finishing in 11th and 12th in prelims, respectively. Wettstein finished sixth with a 44.50 on her first run.
Gold: Sakura Yosozumi
Silver: Cocona Hiraki
Bronze: Sky Brown
Australian teen Keegan Palmer claimed the first Olympic men's park skateboarding gold medal in a hugely entertaining and suspenseful final.
The 18-year-old, who was born in San Diego but moved Down Under at an early age and turned pro at 14, entered the competition ranked No. 7 in the world. He obliterated the Olympic field, putting up a 94.04 on his first run and a 95.83 on his third. No one else cracked an 87.
American 21-year-old Cory Juneau worked his way up from the eighth and final spot in qualifying to snag bronze with an 84.13 on his best run. Juneau, a bronze medalist at the 2017 X Games, was also born in San Diego.
The silver medal went to the oldest skateboarding medal winner at these Games, 26-year-old Pedro Barros of Brazil, who scored an 86.14.
The preliminary also had some some notable participants. Danish skateboarding legend Rune Glifberg and South African Dallas Oberholzer — both 46 years old — competed, but finished in the last two spots. Additionally, two-time Winter Olympics silver medalist Ayumu Hirano, Shaun White's primary rival on the snowboarding halfpipe, finished 14th.
Gold: Keegan Palmer
Silver: Pedro Barros
Bronze: Cory Juneau
Crashes are inherent to the sport of skateboarding — and there were plenty to go around in Tokyo.
“Skateboarding is all about falling,” world champion skateboarder Ryan Sheckler told the New York Times. “It’s key to everything. If you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning. You have to hit the ground to progress.”