February 01, 2020 08:32
At just 13 years of age, budding skateboarding star Cho Hyun-ju is one of five athletes training to represent Korea in the sport at this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Standing just 150 cm tall and weighing only 33 kg, Cho, a sixth grader, has big dreams of standing on the Olympic podium.
Given the relatively small number of highly skilled female skateboarders around the world, Cho has high hopes of competing in Tokyo, where skateboarding will make its Olympic debut.
Cho skateboards for five hours after school each day. She replaces her skateboards every month because her intensive practice routine wears the wheels out. She began skateboarding when she was in the second grade and improved her skills by watching YouTube videos and asking older skateboarders for tips.
Like any athlete, she cannot escape injuries and practically lives with them, but says nothing can shake her passion for the sport. Even when she hurts herself, "I still want to skateboard the next morning," she said. "It's scary and difficult, but that makes it even more fun. It feels great when I master a technique after falling down a hundred times."
The International Olympic Committee decided to include skateboarding in official events for the quadrennial sports gala in a bid to appeal to younger spectators. Skateboarding, often viewed as a rebellious street sport, is now making its way into the mainstream world.
Cho became a national team member in 2018 and now ranks 53rd out of 80 skateboarders in terms of Olympic points. Her ranking is still low because last year she was able to compete in only one world event that awarded Olympic points. She hopes to compete in three or four more competitions before the Olympic roster is finalized in May.
A total of 80 spots are allocated to skateboarding at the Olympics -- 40 each for men and women, with 20 in both the street and park competitions for each gender. And each country is allowed to send a maximum of three skateboarders.
Cho said, "Even if it's not this year, I really want to compete at the Olympics and show Koreans what skateboarding is."
She said she hopes more girls and women will take up the sport in Korea. Some of her friends wanted to learn, but quit after a few attempts. "I want to tell them it's not that hard if you master how to fall. It gets easier if you start with simple techniques and move on to harder ones. It will give you a break from hard schoolwork, and you might even get to compete in the Olympics!"
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