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Skateboarding sensation Rayssa Leal, 13, sparkles in Street League’s Salt Lake City debut

Gustavo Ribeiro bests Nyjah Huston for men’s title, with both wins determined by final trick

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rayssa Leal of Brazil acknowledges the crowd as she competes in Street League Skateboarding Championship Tour at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.

The Utah State Fairpark was transformed temporarily Saturday into a mini Maracanã Stadium, home of Brazil’s famed national soccer team. Large pockets of skateboarding fans — jammed shoulder to shoulder across both the sitting and standing planks of the metal bleachers — sported green-and-black signs and jerseys and cheered in Portuguese.

And the 13-year-old Brazilian didn’t disappoint.

Rayssa Leal, the Olympic silver medalist with 6.8 millions Instagram followers, rose to the occasion, coming from behind to win the women’s final of the Street League Skateboarding Championship Tour stop in Salt Lake City. Hours later, Gustavo Ribeiro, 20, of Portugal pulled off an even bigger upset in the men’s final by toppling SLS dominator Nyjah Huston of Huntington Beach, California.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Roos Zwetsloot of the Netherlands, competes in Street League Skateboarding Championship Tour at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Now in its 11th year, the sport’s premier competition series includes more of the world’s best skaters than ever before, with the tour roster featuring 47 athletes hailing from 11 countries, including 21 Olympians and multiple X Games medalists.

Ribero had been battling Huston, the six-time and defending SLS overall world champion, throughout the two-day competition. On his last trick of the day, Ribeiro hauled in an eye-popping 9.4 score for a 360 flip nose blunt on red rail to take the lead. Huston had one trick left to top him but had to bail and settle for second place. Alex Midler of Los Angeles took third.

It is Ribeiro’s first Street League victory.

“This is a dream – never stop dreaming,” he told the crowd. “It’s all about perseverance. Because if you practice, train and never stop believing in yourself, anything is possible.”

Leal also proved that point with an equally dramatic win.

She was in third place as she rolled to the lip of the newly built, permanent course as the final competitor in the women’s final. After raising her arms to whip the crowd into even more of a frenzy, she landed a kickflip frontside boardslide off the same red rail that Ribeiro would later ride to victory. Leal then dropped her skateboard and ran, arms spread wide and mouth agape, across the concrete course to celebrate with her team and fellow competitors on the opposite side.

The score hadn’t been announced, but she knew she had won. It was her second Street League victory and her first since 2019, when she was 11. Japan’s Funa Nakayama — the 16-year-old Olympic bronze medalist — took second and the Netherlands’ Roos Zwetsloot, 21, placed third.

Street League Skateboarding, the NBA of street skateboarding, was making its debut in Salt Lake City. The tour, which was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, will continue with a tour stop in Miami in October and the championship in Jacksonville, Florida, in November.

“It’s not just a competition, it’s like a family,” Leal said of the league. “Everyone is together, supporting one another and pushing skateboarding forward.”

The inaugural competition of Tony Hawk’s Vert Alert also took place over the weekend on a ramp set up inside the bullriding arena.

Edouard Damestoy of France won the men’s contest, followed by Jimmy Wilkins of Ohio — who won men’s best trick — and Rony Gomes of Brazil. Sky Brown, who lives part-time in Huntington Beach but competed for Great Britain in the Olympics, won the women’s competition and was also the women’s best trick winner. Bryce Wettstein of Encinitas, California, and Kihana Ogawa of Japan took second and third, respectively.

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