Home » Outcasts no more: skateboarders riding Australian boom to Paris Olympics

Outcasts no more: skateboarders riding Australian boom to Paris Olympics

Outcasts no more: skateboarders riding Australian boom to Paris Olympics

The Olympic gold medal-winning park skater Keegan Palmer lives an international lifestyle. He crisscrosses the globe attending glitzy skateboarding competitions, lives in San Diego, is an ambassador for the Middle East’s biggest skatepark, speaks with a US accent, and counts the Formula One driver Lando Norris as a friend.

But when the 21-year-old Australian returned home for 10 weeks this year, something had changed. “When I was growing up on the Gold Coast, it was just me and the older guys skating the bigger bowls and the vert ramp,” Palmer said. “Now, when I go home there’s this vert ramp setup for kids, there are bowls, there’s really cool stuff and it’s super sick.”

Australian skating – led by a new generation including 14-year-olds Chloe Covell and Arisa Trew – is booming.

Five Australians competed in skating’s Olympic debut in Tokyo as part of a field of 80 athletes. At the Paris Games starting this month, nine Australians from a field of 88 will take part.

Arisa Trew lands 720: Australian teen makes skateboarding history – video

Liv Lovelace said Australia was becoming one of skating’s major powers behind only traditional heavyweights the USA, Japan and Brazil. Before making her Olympic debut in Paris in park – unlike the street discipline, the format is skated in a bowl – the 20-year-old added that the improvement came down to team camaraderie and the support from local government.

“We have a good crew going on, we skate together a lot, and we’ve been hanging out and training together, which has definitely helped,” Lovelace said. “I also think councils are putting a lot of money into skate parks all across the country.

“You can go anywhere in the country, and there’s going to be a skate park within like an hour’s drive, half an hour drive, even out in the country.”

Palmer’s gold medal-winning performance in Tokyo has kickstarted a period of consistent success for Australian skaters.

In 2022 street skater Covell became the first person in history with two X Games medals before turning 13. The following year she won gold at X Games in California, which making her the youngest winner in the discipline.

A few hours later another Australian 13-year-old, Arisa Trew, won the vert competition at the same event.

Liv Lovelace will skate the park event for Australia at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Both are now 14, and Covell said younger skaters had the benefit of being quicker to recover from a stack. But she said the success of Australians was down to “hard work”.

“Everyone does get scared, like you’ve just got to try to find a way to push through it and try to block out everything and just 100% fully commit to whatever you’re doing,” Covell said.

Trew has become a pioneer on the vert ramp, landing the first 720 in women’s competition last year and backing it up with a 900 in training this year. Her achievements have received praise from the most famous name in vert: Tony Hawk. The 56-year-old posted Trew’s 900 on Instagram, saying “Glass ceilings are so 2023. Congrats.”

But the Olympics only offers park and street disciplines. It means the Australian teenager will enter the women’s park competition alongside 15-year-old Ruby Trew. Although they share the same name, the pair are not related.

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In women’s street, Covell and Lovelace will be joined in the Australian team by 18-year-old Haylie Powell. In the men’s event, the Australian veteran Shane O’Neill returns for his second Olympics as the elder statesman of the team. At 34, he is 13 years older than the next oldest member, Palmer.

Tokyo’s park winner – who will compete in green and gold alongside another returning Olympian, Kieran Woolley, as well as debutant Keefer Wilson – said the standard of skating is not just improving in Australia.

“The biggest thing that’s happened since the [Tokyo] Olympics is the younger generation,” Palmer said. “We’ve had to step up our level of skateboarding tremendously over these last three years compared with what it used to be.”

Lovelace said the team remains tight, despite their differing ages. “In skateboarding we don’t look at age. It’s not weird if you’re friends with a 14-year-old or friends with a 30-year-old,” she said. “We all ride a skateboard, so we all have mutual respect.”

And she feels that respect now extends beyond the sport. “I feel like, even before my generation, if you skated you were classified as grubby and like an outcast, but that’s slowly changing,” Lovelace said.

“I just feel like, why, as a parent, would you not want your kids to ride a skateboard? You’re outside in the sun, making friends, and you learn how to be resilient.”

Australia’s Olympic skateboarding team:

  • Chloe Covell (street), 14, New South Wales

  • Arisa Trew (park), 14, Queensland

  • Ruby Trew (park), 15, NSW

  • Keefer Wilson (park), 17, Victoria

  • Haylie Powell (street), 18, Queensland

  • Liv Lovelace (street), 20, NSW

  • Kieran Woolley (park), 20, NSW

  • Keegan Palmer (park), 21, California

  • Shane O’Neill (street), 34, California