Tokyo is on the minds of many athletes as the 2020 Olympics appear on the horizon, but for skating prodigies Jedd McKenzie and Poppy Olsen, the games hold a special significance.
The Summer Olympics, the 32nd entry into the Olympiad history, will be the first time skateboarding is debuted at the international competition, and Newcastle’s talents are in the mix for the historic moment.
Olsen, who often trains alongside McKenzie when preparing for tournaments and events, is excited by the possibility of being the “first generation to be appearing at the Olympics”.
“It’s history and it’s really cool,” she said. “It’s really motivating everyone in the scene to get fitter and better and more ready for everything in the future now.”
“We’re going to see a lot of new rookies in the scene that are motivated by the Olympics in Tokyo and beyond, and that’s going to be good for everyone. I think it’s a great new change and it’s really exciting that it’s all happening now.”
The change in the scene isn’t something that Olsen sees as a negative thing – she’s eager to face the new challenges.
“I’m looking forward to everything getting spiced up, I have a lot of friends that are trying out but only two are going to get in from Oceania,” Olsen said. “I really want to try and get a spot and I think everyone is vying for those places.”
“It’ll be tough to get, especially because of the limited spaces. It’s hard enough as it is now but it’s going to take it to that next level.
“All the skating athletes that want to make something out of their career now have this top thing to work towards, it’s going to be good for skateboarding because it’s going to push everyone to their limits. People will watch the Olympics and see the sport and think ‘I want to be there’ and that’s great.”
Regardless of the new blood on the scene, both Olsen and McKenzie have been around the ring a few times even at a young age, and McKenzie has his eyes set squarely on competitions in the run in to Tokyo.
“We have a few coming up, we have Bowl-A-Rama in February and the Australian Bowl-Riding Championships after that,” McKenzie said. “I’m hoping that we go alright in those to start off.”
“We have a goal to get to the Olympics, definitely. It all makes me want to get better, for sure. I’m just focusing on trying to qualify first off, and progressing from there.”
Olsen and McKenzie have already taken the first step as well, after being involved in the official Skateboard 2020 Commission launch in Melbourne last week, a trip that really opened their eyes to the potential improvements within the sport.
“It was really fun to get together and see it all laid out,” Olsen said of the southern trip. “We have a fairly good idea of what skateboarding at the Olympics is going to look like and now it’s just a matter of getting there through qualifiers.”
The next event, Bowl-A-Rama, will kick off with heats on February 17 – all participating riders have already been announced for the Bondi-hosted tournament.
From there, Olsen and McKenzie will aim for local glory as the Australian Bowl-Riding Championships are held at Empire Park on February 24-25.