Skateboarding has started it Olympic qualifying period. Street skating has had two qualifying events, London a few weeks ago and Long Beach California on 12-14th June 2019.
Skaters need to compete in specific events to earn ranking points to qualify for the Olympics. These events have seeding, which means if you are one of the top 15 ranked skaters in the world, you get seeded in the Quarters or Semi Finals. Everyone is focusing on the top 12 skaters in the world, but they get a free pass to the Semi Finals, what about skaters who are not ranked and have to start in the open qualifiers or as a wild card. These skaters battle like it is a knife fight, their survival and Olympic dream depends on skating every day, in every round.
That brings us to Sora Shirai.
Sora is a 17 year old skater from Kanagawa, Japan. At the London qualifier he started from the bottom, battled his way into the final and came 7th. We wrote about Sora and how he made it into the final.
Next Five Star qualifying event was last weekend at the Dew Tour in Long Beach California. Sora is not ranked, so he has to start in the qualifying round with everyone else.
He is consistent, not winning each round, but doing enough to proceed through the tournament. By the quarters he is matching it with Sheckler, Eaton, Ortiz and fellow countryman Yukito Aoki. He makes it through to the Semis.
Here he is dropping hammers with Olympic gold medal favourites like Nyjah Huston, Aurelien Giraud and Felipe Gustavo. Sixth in the semi final means Sora makes the final.
He is easy to pick in the final, and it is not because he is Japanese. Soro is 17 years old, which means he has to wear a helmet. He is the only skater in the final wearing a helmet!
And yes he slays some of the sports great street skaters to come 2nd, narrowly beaten by Aurelien Giraud from France.
We all know skateboarding will debut in the Olympics next year in Tokyo. America probably thinks they will be sending the dream team who only have to show up to win. No one is talking about young skaters like Sora Shirai. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.
What happens if a 17 year old Japanese skater qualifies to skateboard in his home Olympics?
According to The Boardr, he has no skate hardware sponsors. No sponsors for deck, trucks, wheels, bearings etc. If you are brand, now is the time to find your Olympic skaters.
Watch this space. The world's media will discover Soro Shirai in July 2020 when he starts his journey to the Street Skating final. In front of a home crowd, with all that tournament experience getting him there, he could be a national hero and an unlikely first gold medalist in Olympic Skateboarding.