TOKYO — The women took the stage in skateboarding on Monday at Ariake Urban Sports Park, where the women’s street final presents several intriguing possibilities. They mostly revolve around Japan, and the chance that a 13-year-old Brazilian could win a gold medal.
But they also included Alexis Sablone, 34, the veteran from Brooklyn who is looking to punctuate her career with a memorable Olympics, if not a medal.
In preliminary heats in the morning, she grabbed the eighth and final slot in the final, just ahead of Leticia Bufoni of Brazil and Pamela Rosa, two of the sport’s biggest stars and gold medal favorites.
Neither made the final, turning the contest projections upside down.
But three Japanese skaters, all of them teenagers in a sport that is infusing the Olympics with youthful spunk, advanced. So did Rayssa Leal of Brazil, 13, who would become the youngest gold medal winner in Summer Olympics history. (The youngest in the Winter Olympics is short-track speedskater Kim Yun-mi of South Korea, who was 13 when she won a relay event in 1994.)
For Japan, Funa Nakayama, 16, Momiji Nishiya, 13, and Aori Nishimura, 19, each finished near the top of the scoreboard. Any — or all — of them could skate away with medals, after the gold medal performance of Yuto Horigome, a Tokyo native, at the same park a day earlier.
The focus in the last of the four heats turned to the powerhouse Brazil team, which reasonably expected to bring three skaters to the final and perhaps sweep the podium. But Rosa, 22, who won the world championship in 2019 and has a collection of other big-event trophies, fell three times in the tricks portion of her heat.
Bufoni, 28, one of the most famous skaters in the world, won her sixth X Games gold medal this month in California. But she needed a big score on her final trick. She landed it, but it was not enough to push her past Sablone.
That leaves Brazil’s hopes of dominance in the contest to Leal. She first gained global attention in 2017, when Tony Hawk shared her Instagram post of her skating in a bunny suit. A few days ago, Leal posted a photograph of her with Hawk, 53, at the Olympic venue, a living example of skateboarding’s unusual links to its roots and history.
This is the debut of skateboarding at the Olympics, and there are two distinct disciplines: street and park. Street, today’s event, is a playground of stairs, rails and short ramps meant to simulate something like a schoolyard or an office park. There are no compulsory moves. Athletes will perform two 45-second runs and five single tricks, and each will be judged on a 10-point scale.
The four best scores will be added together. At the end, it’s possible that the Olympics will have its youngest champion, or that Japan will have another skateboarding star.