Shandong-born Cui Chenxi has become the youngest medallist at the Hangzhou Asian Games after clinching gold in street skateboarding at just 13 years old.
Cui faced off against a host of other Gen Z competitors at the Qiantang Roller Sports Centre on September 27, including fellow Chinese Zeng Wenhui, 18, and Japanese Miyu Ito, 16, who took home silver and bronze. The oldest competitor was defending champion 24-year-old Margielyn Didal from the Philippines, who placed last in the final due to injury.
To rack up points during the street final, each skater performs two “runs” and five individual “tricks” in the obstacle course, which is designed to mimic an urban environment with railings and other street furniture. To calculate the final score, each competitor’s highest scoring run and two highest scoring tricks are added together.
“My tactic was to be conservative on the first run, to get some points on the scoreboard, then make a push for it on the second run,” Cui said.
Asked if she was nervous before the game, she said “My dad told me to stay relaxed, enjoy the competition and showcase my skills. As long as I give it my all, I have no regrets.”
Remarkably, Cui only took up the sport in 2020 when COVID restrictions prevented her from enjoying her usual pastimes. Her dad, who is a skateboarding enthusiast himself, encouraged her to try it and it was “love at first sight” according to Cui.
China snagged three out of four possible gold medals in the discipline, losing the gold in women’s park skateboarding to Japan’s Kusaki Hinano. Alongside park and street skateboarding, the roller sports category at this Asian Games also includes artistic roller skating, inline freestyle skating, and roller speed skating, which are set to take place from September 30.
Next up, Cui has her sights set on qualifying for the Paris Olympics next year, which will be the second Olympic Games to feature the sport.
Speaking on the three gold medallists, Wei Yong, secretary-general of the Chinese Roller Skate Association, said, “The remarkable achievement has bolstered our confidence in the sport’s development, and validates the effectiveness of our preparation approach.”
In China, skateboarding has transformed from a niche subculture to a highly coveted streetwear aesthetic over the past few years. From Anta’s dedicated skateboarding line, to Gucci’s collaboration with London-based skateboarding brand Palace, the sport has been practically ubiquitous in brands’ China-focussed marketing this year.
Renton Miller, a professional skateboarder who now coaches Chinese talent, told Jing Daily that skateboarding’s rise in China has just begun. “It is big! It is just developing. There are great skaters in China, they are very disciplined. I think there will be some world-beaters coming! The skateparks are very good, and there is an industry as well as a population to sustain it.”