By Carlos Meneses
Sao Paulo, Aug 7 (EFE).- The trio of silver medals won by Brazilian skateboarders at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo has fueled a craze for the sport in their homeland.
Only host nation Japan did better than Brazil in the debut of skateboarding as an Olympic discipline, grabbing five of the 12 medals available across the four events.
Kelvin Hoefler and Pedro Barros took silver in the men’s street and men’s park events, respectively, but Rayssa Leal’s second-place finish in the women’s street competition has had the biggest impact in Brazil.
The 13-year-old popularly known as “Fadinha” (Pixie) managed to unite right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and his arch-foe, former head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in acclaim for her achievement.
Online sporting goods platform Netshoes reported a nearly 80 percent increase in sales of skateboards and accessories in the days following Leal’s silver medal performance.
On July 26, the day of the women’s street final in Tokyo, Brazilian e-commerce giant Mercado Libre sold a record number of skateboards.
And those sales quickly translated into a dramatic rise in the number of skateboarders on the streets of Brazil’s major cities.
Pedro de Souza, 12, said that watching Fadinha in action on television inspired him to hit the streets in Brasilia.
“It seemed really brilliant to me that they do those turns, slide down the railing without falling, go up the ramp and do those tricks,” he told Efe. “I saw it and it made me want to learn to show my friends.”
Brazil’s skateboarding academies have also benefited from the “Fadinha effect.”
“Demand has grown by 35 percent,” pro skateboarder and instructor Felipe Ribeiro told Efe, adding that most of the new students are girls.
Ribeiro offers individual instruction at Aterro do Flamengo, the largest park and recreation complex in Rio de Janeiro, where new pupil Ana Liz de Souza, 8, showed up for her lesson with a helmet and knee- and elbow-pads.
“I saw so many people doing such cool maneuvers that I wanted to do them too,” she said.
But it’s not just kids, Ribeiro said, saying that he has heard from “many adult women” who want to take up skateboarding now because they weren’t allowed to as children.
“Sometimes because of sexism a father tells his daughter that she can only have roller skates because she’s a girl,” he explained.
Leal, who also had to contend with that attitude, “never listened” to people who told her that skateboarding was just for boys, Ribeiro said.
Though there are still more male than female skateboarders in Brazil, women are making inroads.
Julia Carvalho, a 22-year-old medical student, was the only woman among the skateboarders honing their skills on Wednesday at Roosevelt Plaza in downtown Sao Paulo.
“I joined for the adrenaline,” she told Efe about taking up the sport a year ago. “It’s something that takes heart.”