You might have recently seen photos and videos from the Olympic qualifiers in Rome, Italy. Last week saw the world's top-performing skateboarders gathered in one city. It was the first of three Olympic qualifiers for this year. Canadian skaters pushed themselves and their limits, setting the tone for the season.
Maddy Balt, Micky Papa, Matt Berger, Shay Sandiford, Ryan Decenzo, John Purcell, and Andy Anderson answered present. This marked the first Olympic qualifiers since the slowdown of the pandemic.
Several things changed this year. With a new scoring system, athletes must bring creativity and technicity to the mix to get higher scores. The course as well was different. Obstacles dimensions were more diverse. This made popping in and out of the obstacles more challenging, particularly the central hubba.
The new dimensions weren't the only challenge. Mediterranean weather in the summer runs hot, scorching hot. It was difficult for athletes to continuously perform in the sun, with its light bouncing off the white concrete. Thankfully, the semi-finals and finals were scheduled for the evening, providing much-needed cool for everyone.
While this wasn't the first team outing for the national team, it was their first competition together. Adam Higgins, mentions the incredible energy and tight-knit relationship within the team.
"[Rome] brought us together, and we're all looking forward to the next contest." - Adam Higgins, high-performance coach.
Performing in the women's division, Maddy Balt qualified 42. Unfortunately not high enough to pass, but it was an impressive score considering her severe car accident last year. She returns to the scene, scoring points for Paris and setting the tone for herself and what she will accomplish this coming year.
As for the men's division, Matt Berger, Shay Sandiford, John Purcell, and Andy Anderson placed 39, 51, 33, and 49th out of 140 riders. Purcell came the closest to the qualifying line with technical and switch skating. He as well set the tone for his first Olympic qualifier event
The crew saw Micky Papa and Ryan Decenzo battle during the semis and finals. Papa, who couldn't overcome his battle during the best trick attempts for the semis, placed 15th.
As for Decenzo, the semis were a tight spot as he held onto 8th place, making it to the finals with an injured ankle. That didn't stop him from pushing himself in the finals, almost dislocating his elbow and finishing 7th with a fluid run and massive tricks in his bag.
This is overall a beautiful performance by the Canadian national team for the first Olympic qualifiers. With each rider setting the tone for themselves and the team, we are excited to see them again in Rio de Janeiro this October.