Skateboarding fans get entertaining Olympic preview at world championships at State Fairpark
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skate legend Tony Hawk delights the crowd as he drops in for a round of tricks along with other pro skaters gathered for a community skate and first look of the new Vans - Utah Sports Commission Skatepark at the Utah State Fairpark on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.
The money was certainly pretty good for the winners when the 2019 Vans Park skateboarding world championships wrapped up on Saturday. Thirty thousand dollars for the victors, in both men's and women's divisions, and $20,000 for second meant that the trip to Utah was well worth the while for some.
For others, well, money wasn't the main thing.
In a sport with one step striding into the future, as skateboarding will become an official Olympic sport in Tokyo next year, the main draw for many competitors was still much simpler.
Grace Marhoefer, a 16-year-old from Florida, was fixated with one thing — accomplishing a trick move off the Vans sign planted at the east end of the new skate park at the fairgrounds.
Three times during her last heat on Saturday, Marhoefer sped up the wall, tried to plant her board on the structure and then turn around and head back. Three times, she crashed.
Then she heartily rooted for the next competitor, Japan's Mami Tezuka, to do the same. Tezuka, after one crash, was able to complete the move on her next try to loud applause from the capacity crowd.
Sakura Yosozumi, Kokona Hiraki and Tezuka finished 1-2-3 in the women's championships for a Japanese sweep. While they were getting their ceremonial awards and accolades, Marhoefer was still completely focused on how to finish the trick herself.
“A lot of the girls are progressing and trying to hit the Vans sign. The guys can do it all the time, they’re just so good. I think the judges just love it,” said Marhoefer, who finished fifth overall. “And the crowd, too, just because it’s such a weird obstacle. I love doing this weird stuff and it gets everybody’s attention.”
The Vans pro tour series consisted of four stops (Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Montreal and Paris) before making its way to Salt Lake City. The skaters will move on to other venues, but the skatepark will stay as the “Vans-Utah Sports Commission Skatepark” next to the Days of ’47 arena on the fairgrounds.
The next time the tour makes its way back to Utah, the 2020 Olympics will have taken place in Japan.
“It’s definitely going to change the whole perspective of skateboarding,” Marhoefer said. “It’s just a chill sport. It’s going to make everyone more uptight, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This sport is so insane and it’s just going to get better and better.”
The competition started on Friday with semifinals comprised of athletes who had earned their spot through the previous four tour stops.
On Saturday, the men’s division winner was Sweden’s Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg, who dethroned defending champ Alex Sorgente from Florida. Hallberg, 22, also won the world championship in 2017.
He also had his sights on the Vans sign as Hallberg started each of his four heats by propelling himself onto the sign and then into the bowl. Two times he was unsuccessful, but the two times he was successful turned into the two highest scores of the day for the men.
“When I was skating before the contest was on, I just had a good session and a good time and that just transferred into the contest,” Hallberg said. “I was in the zone the whole time.”
It wasn’t all chill, though, for Hallberg, or at least not potentially.
When Brazil's Luiz Francisco was on the course, Hallberg's skateboard got away from him and rolled into the skating area. Hallberg scampered down into the bowl and retrieved his board and got back up just before Francisco rolled into the area.
"If it had gotten into his (Francisco’s) way, they would have let him redo it and I would have looked like an idiot,” Hallberg said. “But that didn’t happen, so I’m happy.”