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Spanish skateboarding, the ‘unknown’ and lonely Olympic debutant with 450 licenses | sports

“The fact that many children are starting to skate right now is because they are attracted to skateboarding, not because it is Olympic. What’s more, people on the street do not know that skateboarding is Olympic … This is so, until it is released in Tokyo and they don’t see him on TV, the ordinary world won’t know he’s an Olympic ”, explains Alain Goikoetxea, skateboard coach, a sport that will debut in Tokyo next summer.

Spain has about 450 licenses and four virtually classified skaters (Danny León, Andrea Benítez, Julia Benedetti and Jaime Mateu) in the absence of the tests that remain to be disputed and that were suspended in spring due to the pandemic. There are no dates to retrieve them; it is only known that the classification will close on May 31.

There has not been a call effect yet, an increase in licenses has not been noticed, as is often the case when a sport enters the Olympus of the Games. And is that skateboarding is a peculiar sport that is not governed by the same schemes as the rest. It is an individual sport, which is learned or is usually learned on the street, without approved facilities yet and which began to be regulated not long ago. There was, for example, in Spain a national circuit until 2017; no female category competition until four years ago. Talent recruitment is usually done through social networks.

“There are a large number of people who skate and we want them to compete at the regional and federal level. But it is not easy to drag them because there is no culture at the federative level yet, or at the club level. It is not like other sports that have their facilities and training venues. Here there are no clubs to join to compete: this is done outdoors, individually. Reaching these athletes is very difficult, it is our goal ”, explains Francesc Gil, technical director of the Federation. Skateboarding is attached to the skating federation because it has been established by the international.

Skaters themselves consider skateboarding a way of living and expressing themselves more than a highly competitive sport with its strict training discipline. Of the four Spaniards who aspire to be in Tokyo, for example, only one, Andrea, has a physical preparation plan (she follows it at the CAR in Madrid between two and three times a week). “Apart from athletes, they are artists. They are developing their personal style and creativity ”, the coach answers when asked about the training plans. Danny, Jaime, Andrea and Julia confirm that they do not have a strict routine; sessions depend on how inspired, motivated and creative you are; one day they can skate for half an hour, the next from sunrise to sunset.

Julia, the youngest of the group and the best positioned in the Olympic classification (there are 20 places for women and 20 for men in each modality, street and park, and there can be no more than three skaters per country) is also number 13 in the world and has only two training days a week fixed. The rest, when she has hours of study to spare or when she needs to “let off steam,” as she says. “She doesn’t have a super-strict discipline like gymnasts or swimmers. He values ​​it a lot and so do we ”, says María, his mother.

Julia, from Galicia, is also the only one of the four Spaniards with options to compete in Tokyo who is part of that new generation that has learned in a school (there are 13 right now in Spain; hers is the one in Maroña, near A Coruña ). “I am 16 years old, I started with 10. At the beginning there were six of us and we all went to the championships together in the coach’s van. Of those six, I am the only one who continues skating ”, she says by phone. She competes in park [parque], just like Danny and Jaime. It is a circuit with ramps, while the street [calle]Instead, it has curbs, railings, and stairs.

Andrea Benítez, 25 years old, from Algeciras, is the only one of the four who competes in the street mode, is studying the last year of electrical engineering (she has one subject left) and paid for the trips to compete until four years ago. “My first international championship was in Copenhagen, a European in which I finished third. I was 16 years old: I got there and slept on the ramp of the skatepark the first night; the second on the office sofa ”, he recalls. The parents of Jaime Mateu, a 25-year-old Mallorcan who trains in Santander, were not amused that he dedicated himself to that. “He didn’t really like the thing about him being hitting all day; they considered it a sport of vandals … Things changed when I started taking money home, “he says.

Claiming equality

He and Danny León do manage to make a living from this thanks to sponsors and have competed all over the world. They left Spain, in pre-Covid times, also to train. “There is nothing good here at the moment, nothing good to be at the level of the Games. Most of them are too basic ramps, ”says Danny, a 26-year-old from Mostole, with countless followers on Instagram and his own clothing brand. Your phone never stops ringing.

Andrea, who competed with the boys until 2016 because there were no women’s competitions, found it much more difficult to earn a living from skateboarding simply because she was a woman. “Inclusion in the Games has improved everything and has opened the door for us. Before it was difficult to have the same opportunities in terms of brands and financial aid because there were no women’s competitions. There were private ones and they worked with invitations ”, he explains. She assures that many more girls are already skating in the skateparks, and Julia, with a tremendous progression according to the experts, is a good proof of this.

The recruitment of new talent, in such a peculiar sport and without club culture, depends to a large extent on social networks. Technicians use them for scouting. “Alain [el seleccionador] He works in a team of rookies, the young promises that they try to control in each autonomous community. Now, if we have, for example, 20 rookies controlled, surely there are another 20 that do not participate in any competition, but skate the same or better. If they don’t go to championships, it’s hard to see them. As they play a lot with social networks, we take advantage ”, explains the technical director.

Julia, without going any further, was seen by the coach for the first time in a WhatsApp video that her coach recorded. He thought it was very good and sent it to him. The next step was to go check in a competition if he had the level to join the national team.

None of them are seen at the Games yet. Nor do they dream of an Olympic medal like any athlete. Danny says that if he qualifies, fine, but he’s going to continue skating the same because skateboarding is not going to change his life. Andrea thinks the same, but she does see it as a demand for equality: “15 years ago it was unthinkable for a woman to dedicate herself to skateboarding in Spain. Now we will be there ”.