Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The debut event of Skateboarding in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was set to happen with mens street skateboarding event being held on the 25th of July 2021. Only 20 athletes from all around the world qualified to skate this event. The starting line up was filled with 20 skateboarders that could all take home gold on a good day.


The skatepark was possibly one of the gnarliest courses that skateboarding has ever witnessed. The big section consisted of a 12 stair handrail as well as a gap to rail down a big 4 block. The section right next to the big section had an 8 stair handrail and hubba. The rest of the skatepark consisted of smaller obstacles being bump to ledges, bump to bars, smaller rails both round and square as well as transition. The skatepark was mirrored so that goofy and regular skateboarders would all have an equal opportunity on the course. The park was so big that 45 seconds would be over before you know it.


The format consisted of two 45 second runs as well as 5 best trick attempts in which your 4 highest scores count. From the 20 athletes only 8 skaters would qualify through to the finals and have a shot to win the first ever Skateboarding gold medal for their country. 


As the practice sessions progressed I continued getting more comfortable and better on the course. My line was coming together and I started feeling out the big section for all my best tricks. It was the second last practice where I knew I had to attempt all my best tricks to feel them out on those obstacles. I had a great practice and finished skating within 45 minutes of the 1 hour session. When I still saw other skaters on the course I decided to get back out there and attempt a few more best tricks even though my day was already complete and I should have just chilled instead. Time was up for our session and the course manager was walking towards the big section to clear the course. I remember standing at the top of the big section with Micky Papa telling him "lets go back to back". I don't know what came over me but mentally I was thinking about how stupid it wold be to hurt myself on the final attempt of practice. Micky had no hesitation and went and did flip back lip on the gap to rail despite the gust of wind that followed as well as the course manager walking towards him. I followed him up to do my trick however all the factors that didn't seem to phase Micky were on my mind while approaching the trick. I was thinking about the wind, the course manager and how stupid it would be to hurt myself on the final attempt of practice. Law of attraction stepped into play and while I was mid flip into the rail I caught my board primo and put the grippe onto of the rail causing myself to fall from the top ropes straight to my wrist, elbow and lower back. I felt instantly that I had broken my wrist. After X rays and an MRI scan in the the Olympic Village it was confirmed that I had re broken my Scaphoid as well as my distal radius meaning I broke my wrist in 2 places.


Team South Africa doctors advised me not to skate however I continued saying I'm fine and that I only need my legs to skate. The following day was our final practice where I decided to get out there and try my best while avoiding the big section as risk management so that I didn't fall on my wrist again. The final practice session went well and I managed to land my line every single time. That practice session helped me build up my confidence again after it went completely down from injuring myself the previous day. The medical team from Japan set me up in a plaster cast so that I could still compete and represent my country at the debut event in Tokyo. 


I was set to skate in heat 3 as skater number #13 right in between Aurelien Giroud and Nyjah Huston. This heat was filled with heavy hitters including Manny Santiago, Matt Berger, Nyjah Huston, Aurelien Giroud and myself (Brandon Valjalo). The pressure and nerves kicked in when Felipe Gustavo kicked off the contest being the first ever skateboarder to drop in to the Olympics contest. After the first 2 heats our turn was up. We stepped into the course and began the contest. In practice I had never missed one big spin front board fakie to start off my run however mentally I was thinking about how I would recover if I missed the first trick which was no mental space to be in. I ended up missing my first trick and trying my best to recover from that. I did landing a 360 shut across the bump to bump and continuing my line. The conditions weren't easy out there, it was extremely hot and humid with a strong SW wind which meant that the wind was against the big section. After missing my first best trick attempt I decided that I had to just enjoy the experience which helped me skate better. I landed my next 2 best tricks being a frontside blunt down the 12 stair handrail and a 360 shuv lip on the 8 stair rail. I completely switched up my game plan from my original tricks as I was falling too much and needed to get some scores on the board. 


Despite the fact that I had a wrist that was broken in 2 places I still managed to land some tricks and do the best that I could in those circumstances. I personally wasn't to happy with my performance and believe it wasn't a true reflection of my skateboarding. I ended in 18th place with a score of 16.41 meaning that I am ranked #18 in the world in competitive skateboarding. The amazing messages of support from people all around the world telling me that I am a symbol of hope for the entire African Continent and showing everyone the tenacity I had to never give up was already a sign that I succeeded in my efforts. I am more hungry and motivated now to continue training and set my sights on bringing back a medal for South Africa at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. In the meantime I will focus on my recovery as well as giving back to the Skateboarding community in South Africa. 



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