Skateboarding will make its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Florent Balesta, a Technical Advisor to the Skateboard Federation and Manager of the French Skateboard Team program, talks about the upheavals caused by the advent of skateboarding as an Olympic discipline.
Will the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympic Games program upset your discipline, which is not culturally accustomed to competition?
Florent Balesta: We are indeed going through a major transitional period. Even though we have had competitions and professionals since the 1970s, many skaters were offended to see people competing against each other or taking part in championships. But we are entering a new era with the arrival of skateboarding as an Olympic discipline. These are questions that our snowboarding and surfing cousins have already asked themselves.
What does this prospect change for you?
FB: It forces the skateboarding world to structure itself: the institutions, such as the Federation or the clubs, but also our athletes… even if their sponsors have already prompted them to change their preparation methods, to adopt a framework more readily and, even if the International Federation still needs to clearly define a number of points, this sports movement will become much more important thanks to the Games and, especially, thanks to the Olympic qualification program. For example, skaters are now included on the lists of high-level athletes.
How many potential candidates do you have for the 2024 Olympic Games in France? And how are they reacting to this objective?
F.B: Overall, the skaters have generally agreed to set themselves this objective and to prepare themselves seriously for it. There are about twenty athletes who can expect to compete in the Olympic Games.
How many skaters can you select?
F.B: A maximum of 12: two events will be organized for men and the same two events staged for women; three athletes can be selected for each of the 4 events.
What does the fact of the sport’s acquiring Olympic status change for coaches?
F.B: We already have instructors in the skateboard schools, and our inclusion in the Olympic Games will help us to structure this supervision even further.
How many skateboard clubs do you have in France?
F.B: We form part of the Roller Skating Federation, which boasts some 70,000 members, but whose discipline is not recognized in the Olympic Games. We have about a hundred skate clubs with an aggregate total of 2,500 members, and nearly a million people who practice the sport.
Why did the IOC choose a discipline like yours, which has relatively few people enrolled in clubs?
F.B: The IOC has been perfectly open about it: it wants to attract a new and younger audience. That's why it focused on skateboarding, whose aficionados are young and form a tightly connected community.
What are the great skateboarding countries?
F.B: The leading countries in our discipline are, of course, the United States, Japan and Brazil.
Can France hope to win medals in Tokyo 2020?
F.B.: Anything's possible. We can hope to win medals, especially in the men's category. We still have to work on the women's sector to be more competitive.