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S.Africa’s skateboarding star units sights on Olympics

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Johannesburg (AFP)

As different skate boarders paused to catch their breath, South African Olympic aspirant Brandon Valjalo moved forward and sped down the subsequent ramp, slid alongside a rail and spun into the air.

Touchdown gracefully on his toes, the 22-year-old was visibly dissatisfied along with his approach and went again for an additional spherical.

A low, late autumn afternoon solar shone over the church-sponsored skatepark in Johannesburg’s prosperous suburb of Sandton.

Younger athletes, some shirtless, launched themselves skyward, spinning and slamming the concrete as a small crowd cheered from behind a meshed fence.

Valjalo, wavy blonde hair pulled again in a ponytail, was the primary attraction.

He’s simply two occasions from representing South Africa on the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the place skateboarding will function for the primary time as a medal sport.

The qualification course of, paused for a 12 months as a result of pandemic, is about to renew in Could.

Spots are assured for the world’s prime 20 — a far distance from Valjalo’s forty ninth place.

However the skateboarder remains to be “fairly assured” he’ll make the Olympics roster.

Because the primary in Africa, he’s more likely to qualify because the continent’s consultant no matter his international rating.

– ‘Dream come true’ –

Valjalo first stood on a board on the age of three, when he discovered his brother’s outdated skateboard within the storage.

At 9 years outdated he developed a ardour for the renegade sport that has thrived on American and European sidewalks for the reason that Nineteen Sixties.

Skateboarding is “the liberty of doing something that you really want”, Valjalo advised AFP.

“On a regular basis you neglect that you’re doing it, since you like it,” he mentioned with a smile.

Valjalo entered his first skilled competitors in 2013, aged 14, and gained a championship a 12 months later.

With trophy after trophy, Valjalo labored his means as much as successful the African championships in 2017, which earned him invites to compete towards the European elite.

Representing South Africa on the Olympics will likely be an “honour”, mentioned the athlete, who seems to be as much as basketball star LeBron James and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Ever since I used to be a younger child I wished to achieve the top of aggressive skateboarding,” he beamed.

“It’s a dream come true.”

– ‘Crusty’ streets –

Valjalo has educated at skateparks the world over, from California to his personal again yard.

However it’s the “crusty” South African streets that honed his expertise.

Born and raised in Johannesburg, Valjalo recalled lengthy drives round a metropolis rife with avenue crime to seek out good skateboarding spots.

He in contrast it to coaching on sand to run sooner on grass.

Skate boarders disagree on whether or not the self-discipline ought to be handled as a aggressive sport or left to the road, the place it first originated.

However Valjalo argued “inventive” avenue boarding and competitions have been each necessary, including that the Olympics would give the game extra visibility.

“They noticed this… have a lot spectator worth and (it is) so entertaining for folks to observe,” mentioned Valjalo, who has 28,000 followers on Instagram.

The video games may even erase the picture of skate boarders as “outcasts that like to go to parks and smoke weed,” he added, and provides it a stamp of approval “as an actual job”.

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