Female skateboarders on the rise

Street and park skateboarders from Brazil dominate the top of Olympic rankings, setting the tone for a Tokyo 2020 showdown

Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Skateboarding is set to make its debut next year in Tokyo 2020.

While the global pandemic has put a pause on skateboarding competitions this year, skateboarding's inclusion in the Games has already made a huge impact in the industry.

It has given rise to more opportunities than ever with more international competitions, prize money and more sponsorship deals for the taking. Skateparks are also booming around the world - which will likely lead to more growth in the sport, especially after skateboarding season restarts.

This new Olympic connection has subsequently pushed the bounds for women skateboarders. With more women now taking up the sport, they are now in equal footing with their male counterparts in their quest for Olympic glory.

Whilst Olympic qualifiers are currently on hold and rankings might still change, one country to keep an eye on is Brazil with eight female athletes making the current Olympic Top 10 leaderboard.

With 3 slots in street and 3 in park in contention, meet the Brazilian women who may take centre stage in Tokyo next year.

Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Pamela Rosa

Currently world no 1 in Olympic rankings, street skateboarder Pamela Rosa has 5 world X Games (including two gold medals) and won Street League London (May 2019) and Dew Tour Long beach (June 2019). Born into a low-income family in São José dos Campos, Rosa took skateboarding at the behest of her parents who thought that the street sport was much safer than BMX cycling.

After a few years of just taking up the sport, Rosa has fought her way to the top against limited resources in Brazil to become a global powerhouse that she is today. With her contest winnings and sponsorship deals, Rosa has been able to turn her and her family's life around and even send her sister to college. If the Olympic hopeful manages to remain injury-free, the 21-year-old athlete will be guaranteed to take her spot in Tokyo 2020 next year.

“It will be incredible for people to watch on TV,” Rosa said.

“When I was a kid watching even small contests, I wanted to be part of it – so now skateboarding is in the Olympics you will get so many young girls watching it and dreaming of being in the Olympics when they are older and working so hard to get there," she told Olympic.org last year.

“It’s a big, big opportunity for us.”

Rayssa Leal

Following in the footsteps of Rosa is 12-year-old sensation Rayssa Leal is already a champion having won fourth place at her first ever X Games in Norway in 2019. She is currently no 2 in the street skateboarding world ranking.

Leal isn't fazed with being the youngest athlete in her category, "I don't even remember that the other girls are older," she told El Pais Brasil back in March.

And she still looks up to some of her female Brazilian skateboarding idols.

“They were girls that I always admired and became friends. They treat me with great affection,” she added.

The skateboarding phenomenon clearly wants to make her mark in sports. During the International Day of Girls on 12 October Leal posted on her Instagram: "We can have the same dreams of those of a boy, we can go far and make come true big projects.We have the means, the will, to do whatever we wish, we deserve to be happy.

Leticia Bufoni
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Leticia Bufoni

Twenty-seven year old Leticia Bufoni is one of the most prominent female skateboarders today. Born in Brazil, Bufoni moved to South California in 2007 and has taken the skateboarding world by storm since. She has 5 X Games gold medallist and has reached Elissa Steamer's record for most gold medals in street skateboarding.

Even with the postponement of the Games, Bufoni is still very focussed on her preparations for Tokyo next year, and training even up to four hours in the gym.

"Right now, I’m focussing on skating a lot and not getting injured. That’s my focus. Because if you get injured, there’s nothing you can do. So I’m focusing on that right now: not pushing the limits, not trying anything that’s too hard. Just training every day, getting my body at 100% and just being ready. Because this season is going to start in January and it’s not going to stop until the Olympics. Your body needs to be at 100%," the no 4 world ranking athlete told SI.com last September.

Gabriela Pereira Mazetto

Currently no 8 in street, Gabriela Pereira Mazetto was into gymnastics at a very young age until she discovered skateboarding at age 13. In 2015, she competed in her first X Games and a year after finished second in the Oi Stu Open. Last year, she competed in the Dew Tour Long Beach competition and talked about qualifying for the Olympics.

“If I can go to the Olympics, it’s good. It’s my dream," she told Dewtour.com in 2019.

Mazetto is known for training up to for four to five hours a day. Recently she has been incorporating boxing and HIIT workouts as seen in her Tiktok and Instagram accounts.

Virginia Fortes Aguas

Fourteen-year old Virginia Fortes Aguas makes the top ten ranking in street. She is good friends with Rayssa Leal but maintain a friendly rivalry alongside with other Brazilian skateboarders.

Aguas was very active as a child but took up skating in a skate school near her home, whose owner was the friend of her father's. After competing for the first time in 2015, Aguas had her highest finish at 7th place in the World Skate OI STU Open Womens Street Semi-finals last year.

As Brazil can send a maximum 3 female athletes in street, Aguas is eyeing to take her place in Tokyo next year.

"All the girls have a chance," she told Terra.com.br in 2019.

But she also knows that Tokyo might not only be her only chance to compete in the Olympic Games.

"There are many athletes from Brazil, it is the first time in the Olympics, all the girls want [this] a lot, but we will have others editions," she said.

Dora Varella

Nineteen-year old Dora Varella is no 6 in park skateboarding, and is just three steps behind USA's Sky Brown.

Varella has just turned professional last year but already has two-time Pan American championships under her belt which she won at the Women's Continental Championships (2017 and 2018). In February of this year, right before skateboarding competitions took a halt, Varela became the champion at the Florianópolis stage of the Oi STU Qualifying Series.

As a role model, Varella is proud to inspire other women to take interest in skateboarding. She is already seeing a rise in interest in her country with more competitions and platforms to showcase the very best of Brazilian skateboarding.

"Now women will see that they have a path to follow, they will pull themselves, the level is rising very fast," she told Folha de S.Paulo

Isadora Rodrigues Pacheco

Top 10 in park, Pachecho has always been fascinated with skateboarding ever she was a little girl.

She started competing at age nine and made her debut in the international stage at age 11 at World Skate Circuit. Now at 15, she is also likely to book her ticket to Tokyo 2020 if she keeps her current ranking.

The women street skateboarding competitions will start on 26 July 2021. Women's park will take place on 4 August at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.


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