Olympic dream foiled by concussion: National team skateboarder developed skills in Aylmer

·4 min read

Sophie Grant was pleasantly surprised to find out she was one of 12 Canadians to be chosen for the first-ever national skateboard team. Having learned the discipline just over five years ago while residing in Aylmer, she has quickly risen to prominence in the sport.

“Skateboarding was never looked at as one of the highly appreciated sports,” said Ms. Grant. Known to frequent parks and areas where there were obstacles like curbs and rails to practice tricks on, she said skateboarders were “Always getting kicked out of spots, and the police don’t like us, stuff like that… So I feel like skaters never really thought it would be a sport in the Olympics.”

Ms. Grant was originally scheduled to participate in the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan this summer. Unfortunately, she suffered a head injury while skateboarding about two months ago while filming a video performing a skateboarding trick. Her leg went forward, and she went backward, hitting her head hard.

While originally advised she should be able to return to skateboarding by May 29, following a medical check she was not cleared for a concussion in time to attend DewTour or Italy events, and therefore will not be attending the Tokyo this summer.

“That being said, in these next three years while I train for Paris 2024, you will see a whole new skater,” said Ms. Grant in an online post.

Olympic skateboarding is separated in two divisions: street and park. Ms. Grant, 21, was to participate in the street division.

Street skateboarding involves the use of urban obstacles such as stairs, handrails, planter boxes, or park benches. Skaters perform tricks on, onto, or over these obstacles.

Park skateboarding ecnompasses a variety of substyles one would find at a skatepark, such as pool, street, and vert.

Ms. Grant picked up the sport at 16 during lunch hour while attending Parkside Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas, when she spotted a group of people skateboarding outside of school and decided to join in. The group taught her to kick flip within the hour.

“They told me that was abnormal,” said Ms. Grant. “Most people don’t really know how to ollie in the first month.”

A portion of mastering the sport is technique, she said and, “Half of it is just getting over fear, and being a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

“I think that’s what helped me a lot, because I was always so into sports.”

Other sports she enjoys include soccer, road hockey, and motocross. Ms. Grant lived in Aylmer for several years with her partner Jeremiah Krahn, who died in a collision at age 20 in 2016.

The fundamentals of her skateboarding career began in the Aylmer skate park. She grew up in London, moved to St. Thomas when was about 12, then moved out to Aylmer three years later, and back to St. Thomas at about 18. She also recently spent six months in California.

“Things started progressing in ways, and I knew that I had to make moves out to certain areas,” said Ms. Grant.

She began competing internationally when she was about 18-years-old, with her first contest taking place in Seattle, Washington. Other events have taken place in United States, Europe, and Mexico.

Each competition gains skateboarders points if they perform well. For instance, Ms. Grant earned about 300 points in the Canadian Nationals Womens Street Finals last year. She placed second at the Canadian nationals, which prompted a coach to approach her with the possibility of participating on the national team.

The international field of competitors are familiar to Ms. Grant, as many skateboarders have participated in the same contests over the past several years. “So we all know who each other are,” she said.

When she fully recovers from her concussion, she expects to practice skateboarding about eight to 12 hours daily.

While her favourite trick varies frequently, she currently enjoys backside heel slips and kick flips.

Other competitors on Canada Skateboards National 2021 Team come from mainly around Ontario (Toronto, Brooklin, Thunder Bay and Whitby) and British Columbia (Vancouver, Kamloops, Courtenay, and White Rock), as well as Montreal, Quebec.

Skateboarding is making a debut at the Olympics in Tokyo, along with five other sports, including baseball and softball, karate, climbing and surfing. The “Street” competition is scheduled for July 24 and July 25 at 8 p.m. until 12:55 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). The “Park” event is set for August 3 and 4 from 8 p.m. until 12:40 a.m. EST.

Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express

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