Sky Brown became Great Britain’s youngest ever Olympic medalist this summer – now, she wants to encourage young girls worldwide to find their own success.
The 13-year-old skateboarder won bronze in the women’s park final in Tokyo, but as she basks in those happy memories, Brown is also troubled by numerous stories regarding women in sport that have emerged from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.
Both the senior and youth members of the women’s football teams have been evacuated, with one Taliban official stating that Afghan women would not be permitted to take parts in sports where they would be “exposed.”
“This is just so sad to me,” Brown told CNN Sport when asked about her work with the nonprofit organization Skateistan.
“I can’t imagine why can’t girls have fun too. We can do anything that boys can do but why can’t we have fun? That’s just really sad for me and I really want to help them.”
Targeting children in areas where they have restricted access to sport and education, Skateistan fuses skateboarding with “creative arts-based education” to “give children the opportunity to become leaders for a better world,” according to the organization’s website.
With a specific focus on girls, children with disabilities and those from low-income backgrounds, Skateistan has partnered with the British teen skateboarder and boardmaker Almost – designing a line of unique, Brown-inspired skateboards to be sold, with 20% of the proceeds going directly to Skateistan.
According to their website, Skateistan primarily focuses on efforts in Cambodia, South Africa and Jordan, but has run several projects in Afghanistan and has a Skate School in Kabul.
“I want to show the world that girls can do anything,” added Brown, who has been working with Skateistan since 2017. “Girls can do anything that boys can do but even better, and I feel like sport teaches us confidence and independence.
“I hope to do a lot more in Cambodia and Afghanistan, even in England – just everywhere.”
For Brown, skateboarding is the perfect medium to express oneself, especially since age is no barrier to participation. Having first picked up a board as a toddler, the 13-year-old loves the sport’s atmosphere.
“Skateboarding is like one big family. Skateboarding is beautiful,” Brown said.
“There’s no age – just get out there and go for it. Have fun. Enjoy because you love it, take baby steps.
“Even if you’re super old like even 80 years old – there’s people skating in Japan that I know that’s 80 years old and even Tony Hawk – he’s 50 and he’s still ripping it,” added Brown, referring to the legendary US skateboarder.
Skating quickly over the implication that 50 is old – for Hawk’s sake more than anyone’s – Brown also shed light on her remarkable Tokyo experience.
Having made mistakes in her first two runs, Brown nailed a kickflip Indy en route to a flawless final run that saw the youngster pip 15-year-old Japanese skateboarder Misugu Okamoto to a history-making bronze.
The gold medal winner was Okamoto’s compatriot Sakura Yosozumi – who Brown revealed is now one of her “best friends” after the Japanese skateboarder played a pivotal role in the Briton’s recovery ahead of the final run.
“She [Sakura] is the one who really made me feel like I actually got it,” Brown said.
“She was giving me a hug and said ‘Look into my eyes … Sky, you got it. We believe in you, we know you’re gonna get this, just stick it.’ And yeah, she just made me just want to stick it so bad.”
Brown is also an avid surfer with dreams of competing at the Paris Olympics in 2024, though the youngster’s hopes of competing across two events may be complicated by the fact that the surfing event is set to take place over 9,000 miles away in Tahiti.
“I love surfing, it’s just like skateboarding to me,” Brown said.
“Tahiti sounds really nice, I’ve never been there. The thing is in Paris, I really hope to do both. I’m going to try my best, do whatever I can to do both,” she added.
Her younger brother, Ocean, is following in his sister’s footsteps and is a talented skateboarder and surfer.
“I’m not gonna lie, he’s [Ocean] getting pretty good,” Brown said.
“He’s going little by little and it’s so cool to see my brother getting better, but I am very competitive with him, so I’m still gonna try and be better.
“That would be very sad if he gets ahead of me!”