Welcome to the show: It's Horigome Yuto's world, and we're just living in it

As he continues to light the way for his sport in Japan, the first-ever Olympic street skateboarding champion is set to start on his path towards Paris 2024 from Rome.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And Horigome Yuto will tell you the same goes for skateboarding’s place in Japan.

But if Horigome’s climbing popularity is of any indication, it might not be too long before the sport becomes a fixture of the Japanese mainstream.

“In Japan, it’s only just starting to gain recognition as a competition so we need to keep plugging away”, Horigome said during a recent talk show.

“Organise events in town, hold schools for little kids - do the work to get skateboarding going”.

It’s been two months since the first-ever Olympic men’s street champion added the title of X Games champion to his curriculum vitae.

Splitting his time between Los Angeles and Japan, the 23-year-old Tokyo native has been keeping busy, his profile seemingly increasing by the day.

Horigome Yuto throws out the first pitch of the Los Angeles Angels' game against the Seattle Mariners on 24 June.
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Rise to stardom

Check into his Twitter or Instagram account and you’ll see him rolling with celebrities on either side of the Pacific, from his pal and fellow Olympic gold medallist Hirano Ayumu; Pharrell Williams; and the world renowned artist Murakami Takashi.

You’ll see him ringside at an MMA fight at Tokyo Dome, rooting for his good friend Nasukawa Tenshin. And on Friday (24 June), Horigome threw out the first pitch of a Los Angeles Angels baseball game, the team of superstar Ohtani Shohei - the most popular athlete in Japan at the moment.

While skateboard has a long way to go to catch up with baseball in Japan, that Horigome even shared the pedestal with Ohtani speaks volumes about where both he and the sport are heading.

“I got to be on the mound where Ohtani-san pitches all the time”, said Horigome, who missed the plate by a country mile throwing to Andrew Velazquez.

“He must be under incredible pressure all the time but despite that, Ohtani-san fights and finds a way to perform, which is amazing.

“As a countryman, he always motivates me. Ohtani-san has been unbelievable on the world stage and he makes me want to work harder all the time”.

That appears to be evident. When he’s not being a sponsor’s dream or hobnobbing with the stars, Horigome works at being the world’s No. 1 street skateboarder as well as the sport’s top salesman, trying to proliferate it around Japan.

In May, he finished building a private practise park - just in time for the World Skate Street Skateboarding Championships starting this week in Rome, which is an Olympic qualifier for Paris 2024.

Japanese skater Yuto Horigome performs during the Men’s Skateboard Street Elimination at X Games Chiba in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture on April 23, 2022. 
Picture by Yomiuri

A three-peat at LA 2028?

A lot will be on the svelte shoulders of the 1.70-metre tall Horigome for Paris. Hopes and expectations will be sky high, particularly in his homeland where Olympic champions are heralded like demigods.

But he appears to be up for it. Just like Ohtani showed the baseball world that one can be an everyday hitter and a rotation pitcher at the same time - and at an elite level - Horigome wants to break ground.

From Rome, Horigome will take his first steps towards Paris where he hopes to top the podium once again, this time with a bull's eye on his back. Barring the unforeseen, and given his magical ability with a board, there's no reason to believe he cannot sling a second gold medal around his neck.

And already, he is looking further down the road - six years down the road to be exact, in his home away from home.

“I want to focus on skateboarding and with some new tricks, make it two in a row at the Paris Olympics in two years”, Horigome said.

“I’m thinking as far ahead as a three-peat. I’ll be 29 by the time LA rolls around.

“The competition is getting tougher and tougher so I’m not saying I’ll definitely be there, but that’s my hope and that’s what I’m skating towards”.


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