THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
August 4, 2021 at 18:05 JST
Sakura Yosozumi claimed the very first Olympic women’s park skateboarding event on Aug. 4, which was made possible with the help of a kindly hometown sake brewer.
Yosozumi, 19, scored 60.09 to win the gold medal, followed by fellow Japanese Kokona Hiraki, 12, and Sky Brown, 13, of Britain.
“I have practiced so hard that I have no regrets, and it paid off,” Yosozumi said as she dried her tears.
She hovered in the air and landed a perfect 540 aerial trick twice in succession at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo’s Koto Ward.
She thrust both hands in the air and could not contain her delight.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced most skateboarding tournaments in 2020 to be canceled. It also affected Yosozumi’s practice environment.
Her hometown, Wakayama Prefecture, does not have a full-size skateboard park.
Yosozumi’s mother used to drive her to a park in Kobe, 1.5 hours each way, or elsewhere, every day.
Yoshimura Hideo Shoten, a local sake brewing company in the city of Iwade, established in 1915, offered to help her.
Around June 2020, Katsuhiko Yasumura, the 65-year-old owner of the brewery, heard from a real-estate company that Yosozumi was looking for a site to practice locally.
Yasumura thought a storage building, which used to be a rice mill, on the company’s premises would be perfect.
He removed stored materials, built bowl-shaped slopes inside and turned the storage area into a skateboard training park. The renovation took two months.
The new practice facility was named “Sakura Park.”
Yasumura offered Yosozumi free 24/7 use of the facility, whenever she wanted to practice, until the Tokyo Olympics.
He even held meetings to assuage the concerns of neighbors and area landlords about the potential noise.
The park is only a five-minute drive from Yosozumi’s home, saving a lot of commuting hours.
Yosozumi spent eight to 10 hours every day at the park, honing the 540 trick. She nailed the aerial maneuver for the first time at the Olympic trial held in May.
“Without the park, I would not have perfected many of my skills. I am so grateful,” Yosozumi said.
Yasumura had just one wish: To see a medalist produced from the local town.
“I want to hear Sakura-san’s joyful voice at the Tokyo Olympics,” he said before the Games began.
As Yosozumi stepped onto the medal podium on Aug. 4, Yasumura’s prayer was answered.
He saw Yosozumi hoisting her gold medal and heard her saying in an exuberant tone, “I love skateboarding. I can skateboard forever.”
(This article was compiled from reports by Hideaki Kato and Junichi Takada.)
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