At an Olympic-standard skate park, four athletes have kickflipped over a milestone for their sport as the first to join the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS).
Chloe Covell, Haylie Powell, Rome Collyer and Tommy Fynn are at a training camp on the Gold Coast, preparing for an Olympic qualification event in Rome, Italy, next month.
Their recognition by the QAS is a significant moment for the athletes, but represents a wider shift in skateboarding, as more eyes turn to the sport and more pathways are created for young skaters.
“It’s so sick to see young people getting into it and how big skating has gotten,” Chloe says.
She is just 12 years old but Chloe has been skating for half her life.
She says the competition in Italy is a chance to start skating in bigger events.
It is a similar story for Haylie and Rome who started skating at a young age and have hopes of becoming Olympians.
“I fell in love with skating when I was about three and a half years old … my dad got me a skateboard for Christmas,” Rome, 16, says.
They are coached by Tommy Fynn, who is also competing.
“It’s crazy to juggle but I’m really enjoying it,” Mr Fynn says.
Growing bigger and better
Mr Fynn said he had seen big changes in the sport since it debuted at the Toyko Olympic Games.
“I see at the skate parks. It’s more packed. A lot more kids are coming in.”
He said new facilities, like the Gold Coast’s Pizzey Park, were also creating opportunities for skaters.
“We never had this when I was younger,” Mr Fynn said.
“This is like an Olympic standard, an Olympic level.
“This is going to help kids to try to get gold medals one day, a perfect place to practise.”
Mr Fynn said the level of support for athletes had also changed.
“There’s that support to grow it even bigger and better.”
A growing interest
QAS Senior Performance Program advisor Ian Melvin said the organisation was “really motivated” to support skating.
“I think right now, with all the excitement from last year with [Australian] Keegan Palmer’s gold medal in Tokyo, there’s great interest in skate,” he said.
Mr Palmer and Sierra Kerr, who was currently representing Australia in surfing, were also being inducted into the QAS.
Mr Melvin said involvement with QAS meant access to performance support, performance analysis, strength and conditioning and more.
“It’s about having really highly qualified professionals around them to support them to be the best version of themselves they can be,” he said.
‘The big shift’
Mr Melvin said the inclusion of action sports in the QAS was also exciting.
“It’s a really cool place for us to be right now, if you look at where the Olympics movement is moving right now, the big shift.
“We know we have really amazing things happening in the south-east corner at the moment in this space.
“We’re really excited to see where it goes, going into Paris.”
The Paris Olympics will be held in mid-2024.