Junior high school student and street skateboarder Momiji Nishiya puts herself in record books as youngest Japanese athlete ever to win gold medal.

Karate is a medal event for the first time at the Tokyo Games, which seems appropriate given that the martial art is part of Japan’s cultural heritage. However, another sport making its Olympics debut, skateboarding, is one that most people don’t necessarily associate with Japan.

Perceptions might be changing, though, thanks in no small part to Japanese skateboarder Momiji Nishiya, who just became the youngest Japanese gold medalist ever.

Nishiya is currently in her second year of junior high school (equivalent to the eighth grade in the U.S. school system), and is only 13 years old. But while she’ll have to wait until August 30 to celebrate her 14th birthday, she’s got something else to celebrate right now. On Monday afternoon, the Osaka native hopped on her board at Tokyo’s Ariake Urban Sports Park to compete in the 2021 Olympics Street Skateboarding finals, and her historic performance has made her the first female gold medalist ever for the event.

▼ Nishiya in action, and her bright-as-gold smile when she sees the judges’ scores

The Japanese women’s team came close to sweeping the event. Out of the eight competitors who advanced to the finals, three were Japanese: Nishiya, 16-year-old Funa Nakayama, and 19-year-old Aori Nishimura. Nakayama, who was ranked first after qualifying, ended up securing the bronze medal, while Brazil’s Rayssa Leal, who’s also 13, won silver.

This wasn’t Nishiya’s first time on an international stage, as she competed in the 2019 Summer X Games while still in elementary school, where she won the silver medal. This is definitely the biggest accomplishment of her young career, though she’s not planning on it being her last. “I want to become a skater so famous that there’s no one in the world who doesn’t know who I am” she said following the event

Reactions online in Japan, along with a steady chorus of “Yes!” and “Congratulations!”, have included:

“Can’t wait to see what she does in future.”
“The combined age of all three medalists is 42. That’s incredible.”
“I’m really liking the skateboarding event. The announcers are laid back, and the athletes all look so cute and happy competing in T-shirts.”
“I’ve never seen a sport like this where even competitors cheer for each other when they pull off a trick!”
“Some people think of skateboarders as delinquents, but you can’t say that after seeing Nishiya’s smile.”


Nishiya’s win come one day after Yuto Horigome grabbed gold for Japan in men’s Street Skateboarding, and fans now no doubt have high expectations for Team Japan in the separate Park Skateboarding competition, coming up later in the Games. Though Nishiya won’t be competing in that event, Kokona Hiraki, who’s only 12 years old, will, giving Japan’s young athletes another chance to grow their skateboarding legend.

Sources: NHK News Web, Twitter/@gorin
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