Cory Juneau competes at the X Games Minneapolis on Aug. 4, 2019 in Minneapolis.
Skateboarder Cory Juneau began the second season of Olympic qualifying in perfect style Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.
Scoring the only 90 in the men’s park competition, Juneau led a 1-2-3-4-5 American sweep in the Oi STU Open in Rio. The competition was the first event of the second qualifying season for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where park and street skateboarding will make their Olympic debut.
Juneau was one of four Americans to reach the podium. Jake Ilardi finished second in the men’s street finals.
Juneau, a two-time Dew Tour winner who entered the competition seventh in the Olympic rankings and third among American men, nailed his second run in the finals with a score of 90.5 to grab the win ahead of 15th-ranked Jagger Eaton.
Eaton had two of the top three runs in the finals, 89.0 and 89.25, but he couldn’t top Juneau. Ben Hatchell, who finished second in the semifinals, placed third in the finals with a top run of 85.0.
Completing the top five were Americans Thomas Schaar and Alex Sorgente, who finished first in the semifinals and then captured a fifth-place finish in the finals with an 84.25 score on his final run.
Sunday’s battle for the podium showed precisely how intense the American battle is for two Olympic berths in men’s park. Heimana Reynolds, who was in first place in the Olympic rankings entering the competition, didn’t make the finals. Six of the eight in Sunday’s finals were Americans. Olympic qualifying goes through June 2020 with the next major competition being the Dew Tour in May in the United States.
Ilardi, who was 18th in the Olympic street rankings entering this weekend, boosted his hopes by scoring a cumulative 35.24 for his runner-up finish behind Japan’s Sora Shirai’s winning score of 35.34. A score of 9.19 on his fourth trick in the finals moved Ilardi up to second.
Nyjah Huston, who was the Olympic rankings leader, made the finals and settled for a seventh-place finish. Dashawn Jordan was fourth with a score of 34.38, missing the podium by one-hundredth of one point.
Brighton Zeuner nearly made the podium in women’s park, finishing fourth with a cumulative score of 51.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.