Nyjah Huston competes in the men's skateboard street final at the X Games Minneapolis on July 22, 2018 in Minneapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS – As of the end of the 2018 X Games that concluded in Minneapolis on Sunday, a little more than two years remain before the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In some sports, it would be too far in advance to think about who might be marching in for that ceremony under the Star-Spangled Banner. But skateboarding is not one of those. Judging by the youth on display at the X Games, these are names we can expect to hear for years to come.
Take the all-American men’s skateboard park podium for example. Gold medalist Alex Sorgente and silver medalist Tristan Rennie are 20, while bronze medalist Tom Schaar is 18. They’re just three of an exciting generation of athletes who could be a part of skateboarding’s Olympic debut.
Four medal events will be held in skateboarding in Tokyo: park and street for both men and women. The park variant is perhaps ironically named, as it is actually the street course that looks more like what most people would recognize as a municipal skate park. Skateboard street takes place on a closed course with ramps and rails. A skateboard park resembles an empty swimming pool, the very thing that enterprising youth once co-opted in the early days of the sport.
In each event, competitors each make three timed runs to try and show off their best tricks. Only the top-scoring run out of the three is kept. Other events in the sport include vert, which includes the famous giant halfpipe, and big air, in which competitors launch off a huge ramp and pull off their biggest trick.
In addition to the men’s skateboard park field, youth was on display in the women’s event at the X Games Minneapolis as well. Winner Brighton Zeuner won her second gold medal at the age of just 14. She will just barely be the minimum age of 16 for Tokyo.
In men’s street, Nyjah Huston is a comparatively elder statesman among U.S. skaters at the age of 23. He took gold in Minneapolis while 17-year-old Jagger Eaton took silver.
“It just gets crazier every year,” Huston said. “It’s definitely not as easy as it once was … I feel like an old man out here.”
Huston has been the king of the street since winning his first X Games medal in 2009. His win in Minneapolis was the eighth of his career in street. On the women’s side, 21-year-old Mariah Duran earned the second X Games medal of her career. Alexis Sablone, 32 in August, showed she is still going strong by earning bronze. She’s not one to count out for Tokyo.
The vert specialists won’t be seen in Tokyo, but Team USA is well-represented on the ramp with Jimmy Wilkins, who took gold, and Mitchie Brusco, who took bronze. Wilkins won his fourth X Games medal and second gold. Brusco is a seven-time X Games medalist, not to mention an avid skydiver.
Brusco also came up big in big air, winning gold. Clay Kreiner is a triple threat, taking silver in big air and also competing in park and vert. Trey Wood rounded out a U.S. vert podium sweep.
Of course, there’s another name out there who might have something to say about Tokyo. Shaun White is most known for his work on a halfpipe covered in snow. But he’s also a five-time X Games vert medalist. His return to the sport has been speculated about ever since skateboarding was added to the Olympic program, though it would obviously have to be in something other than vert.
White gave credence to that speculation earlier this month when he released a video to fans saying he planned to pursue his “dream” of competing at a Summer Games. White was not at the X Games but plans to compete in other events to test himself against the competition.
While any of these riders are strong possibilities for Tokyo, no doubt there will be other names that emerge. Two years is a long time, but the U.S. skateboarding field is already developing.