One of the four sports that made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games this year, skateboarding is all about integrating competition with the culture that the sport has always represented. What does this Olympics debut do for the massive skateboarding community? It introduces the sport to a global audience and along with this gives certain credibility and fame to it. More sportspersons will now feel encouraged to get on their wheels and reach great levels. While the sport managed to make its breakthrough this year, what does it mean to those who have been practising it for years? We caught up with some women on wheels who say the sport is a form of liberation for them.
Is skateboarding a growing sport?
Janvi has been skateboarding since the age of 9. When asked about what got the passion in her going, she says it is not you but rather your parents, mentors, guides who see the potential in you. “My parents saw the zeal in me and the potential to get myself involved in adventure and be proactive towards such dangerous tasks. My dad looked up coaches, spaces where I could train and after rigorous months of it, I went on to become the first National Roller Freestyle Champion of not just Chandigarh (my hometown) but the whole region.”
“My aim is to bring JOSH towards this sport in Indians so that they pick up not just this but more such sports, especially girls”- Janvi
This young skateboarding champion feels it is women who are stronger mentally than physically compared to their male counterparts and it is this ability that helps the human race continue. She feels proud to say that she is the first and only Indian who can roll downstairs on skates and has even tried her skills at performing bhangra (a cultural dance) on wheels.
Janvi says skating is everything to her. “It gave me the power to understand myself. I will try my level best to bring India to a level where everyone can say, “Yes INDIA can do it”. I will aim for the best for India in Skating Olympics with the hope that the Government will support me to improve my skills through international professional training.”
What does freestyle skating mean?
Freestyle slalom skating is done by the pros wherein they make their way on rollerblades through an interspersed series of cones. The space between the cones and the kind of tricks that are done by the skaters is what makes the form a technical one. Shreyasi Joshi and Swarali Joshi are champions in the sport. Shreyasi is 6 times National champion and Swarali is 5 times National champion while Shreyasi has also represented India at WRG (World Roller Games) in Nanjing, China. The sisters say it wasn’t simply freestyle skating that they started with.
“We explored several other sports like archery, swimming, rifle shooting, basketball, etc. yet nothing matched our love for skating. We both continued skating even after trying all these various sports and are seeing much more women participation in competitions and also a large number of girls taking skating lessons from a very early age.”
“Freestyle skating has taught us many important things like perseverance, hard work, determination. It is a part of who we are.” - Shreyasi and Swarali
While freestyle slalom is still waiting to be included by the Olympic committee, the sisters say it will be a dream come true when it finally happens. “All the hard work and efforts taken by skaters like us will be completely recognized only after the sport is included in Olympics.”
Speaking of the developments they would like to see in the country towards this sport, they highlight the issue of scarcity of spaces for roller skating. “Roller skating is a very popular sport among children in India. There are various private sports clubs where skating is taught. However, there are very few government rinks and tracks that are open to all since this sport requires specific equipment that has to be imported and is very expensive. It would be great if the Government would help make equipment available to the upcoming skaters. Also offering sports scholarships would motivate the young generations to practice the sport more enthusiastically and it would be a welcome move.”
Is skateboarding picking up speed in India?
From skateboarding at Carter Road, Mumbai to going places on her wheels, Sareena Coutinho feels the sport is more than simply enjoyment. “I do feel that this sport which was previously male-dominated has begun to see more participation of women.” She views her time on wheels as something to be cherished, no matter what mood she is in. Liberating and thrilling are how she describes her experience.
While Sareena is of the opinion that the sport should have gotten Olympic recognition sooner, she says like others she too was not too well versed with the sport until she engaged in it, thus suggesting that it does need more focus from the community.
“It would be great if the number of skateparks were increased in the city. This would encourage more youth and kids to get on their wheels and enjoy this liberating experience as I and so many others have. I know of some really talented skateboarders who travel from different places to the two skateparks based in Navi Mumbai and Carter Road Mumbai and even these are crowded.”