Thirteen-year-old Cui Chenxi of China clinched gold in women’s skateboarding at the Asian Games on Wednesday, becoming the country’s youngest gold medalist as teenage girls continue to dominate the sport.
According to interviews with multiple Chinese state media outlets, Cui first began skating on roller blades at just three years old, but only took up skateboarding three years ago after being unable to go outside during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Within a year, the then-amateur was reaching podiums at professional-level provincial events.
Shandong-born Cui, who is the Chinese national team’s youngest athlete competing in Hangzhou, nailed an impressive landing off the notoriously difficult high rail during the street event – a move her competitors avoided, according to Reuters.
Afterward, she could be seen proudly parading Qiantang Roller Sports Center with the national flag wrapped around her shoulders.
“This is just the beginning,” Cui said, adding she will watch her performance back on film. “We must continue to work hard and strive to the Paris Olympics and get good results.”
Cui’s 18-year-old teammate Zeng Wenhui claimed silver, while 16-year-old Ito Miyu of Japan won bronze.
While skateboarding had already made its Asian Games debut in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2014, it exploded onto the mainstream competitive sports scene upon its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
The street event requires competitors to perform tricks on a track scattered with stairs, rails, ramps, benches and more. Skaters arrange their own routes and moves as they wish, and are scored over two runs and five tricks to determine the final score.
While the men’s sport tends to be dominated by athletes in their late teens or early twenties, women’s skateboarding has skewed increasingly younger.
In September, Cui made it to the finals of the WST Lausanne Street — a 2024 Paris Olympic Games qualifier — with a score higher than that of Tokyo 2020 Olympics bronze medalist Funa Nakayama.
Her victory on Wednesday was cheered by supporters on Chinese social media, who praised her young age and composure.
“Optimistic, outgoing, and confident girl, you’re the best! You’re honoring the nation!” one person wrote on the Twitter-like platform Weibo, while another joked that the teenage champion “reminds me that I was trash when I was young.”
Cui’s winning run follows an impressive showing from nine-year-old Mazel Paris Alegado of the Philippines on Monday. Alegado told CNN she was “proud” to be youngest finalist to qualify for the women’s park event.
Margielyn Didal, who won gold for the Philippines at the 2018 Asian Games, is still only 24 – yet she seemed like a veteran in the street event against her younger competitors, Reuters reported.
With protective equipment required for competitors under 18, Didal was the only athlete in the final not forced to wear a helmet of padding to protect her knees.
“I don’t feel old because I’m also a bit childish, I just want to mess around,” she said, after an injury in the final meant she finished last of the eight skaters, according to Reuters. “But I feel kind of left out because everyone is wearing helmets and knee pads.”
The women’s park event was ultimately won by Japan’s Hinano Kusaki, 15, while Chinese pair Li Yujuan, 20, and Mao Jiasi, 15, took silver and bronze.
Li was the oldest among the eight finalists.
Women’s skateboarding gained global prominence in Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics for the remarkably young age of its medalists — even younger than the two men’s gold medallists, who were 22 and 20.
Sakura Yosozumi, then 19, won the women’s park event, while 12-year-old Japanese teammate Kokona Hiraki and Great Britain’s Sky Brown, 13, also scored a medal. Meanwhile in the street event, Momiji Nishiya became Japan’s youngest-ever Olympic champion at 13, while 13-year-old Rayssa Leal of Brazil finished second and 16-year-old Nakayama third.
Berry Wang contributed to this report