When the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo kicks off next year, there will be a new sport on the schedule: Skateboarding is making its Olympic debut in Japan. For skateboarder Tristan Rennie, the idea of skateboarding on the global stage of the Olympics is something he never anticipated.
“If you told me two years ago that I’d be in the running for the Olympic team for skateboarding, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second,” Rennie told Men’s Journal. “It’s crazy how quickly it all happened, but having skateboarding in for the first time is amazing.”
Rennie and 15 other male and female skateboarders were named to the inaugural USA Skateboarding National Team in March. However, these athletes all need to compete to officially qualify for Tokyo. Here’s how it works: The qualifying spots are based on each skaters’ three best results in World Skate sanctioned events during the 2019 qualifying season (which ran until September 15), combined with each skaters’ six best results during the 2020 qualifying season (which runs from September 16, 2019, to May 31, 2020). The 2020 World Championships is also a direct qualifier for the top 3 podium spots at each event.
For the California native, getting a chance to compete for a gold medal would be an experience like no other. “In a way, it’s tough to imagine because I’m just I’m used to the normal contests we do for skateboarding,” Rennie said. “I almost can’t really comprehend the scale of this and like how how big the impact will be on the Olympic stage. It’s a really cool thing for the sport.
Rennie spoke with Men’s Journal about skateboarding coming to the Olympics, how he prepares for competitions, and more.
Men’s Journal: What does it mean for you to see skateboarding in the Olympics and for you to be in the running for the team?
Tristan Rennie: I’ve been skating since I was five years old—skating in backyard pools, underground stuff—and now it’s grown so much, and it’s broadcast on such a huge platform. I think having it in the Olympics will do a lot for skateboarding, and it should help with building skateparks all over, which is huge. It’ll be a new perspective. For myself, it’s really awesome to be in the running. To get on this global stage would be amazing. If I get in there, I’m going to try my best to keep it pure—keep it true to the sport and what I grew up doing. It’s all I know. I can’t do it any other way.
How does it feel to be named to the USA team?
I’ve been busy, that’s for sure [laughs]. It’s wild, since there are all the Olympics events on top of the X-Games and the Vans Park series, so it’s definitely busier than it’s been in the past. It’s good to see the demand for it and it’s great to just keep skating. There are a lot of highs coming out of the Olympics announcement—being named one of the skaters on Team USA. There are a lot more people watching now.
Where are some of your favorite places to skate around the world?
Brazil and Copenhagen have some amazing skate spots. Canada also has a lot of cool spots across the country I like to skate in. Every city has its own unique vibe and parks, and it’s fun to try those out. But I’d say Brazil and Copenhagen are my favorite places to skate and visit.
How did you first get into skateboarding?
I started skating because my dad always skated. He grew up skating the original Pipeline Skatepark. When I was little, they started building a lot of concrete skateparks out here in California—ones like Chino Skatepark, Upland Skatepark, and Fontana Skate Park. So I grew up skating those my whole life, then as it progressed, more parks were getting built and more contests started being held. It’s crazy to think of how just a couple years ago I was sending emails to get into one of the Hastings Skatepark contests, and now it’s the whole worldwide series, and Olympics and X-Games. It’s been amazing to see it all grow.
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