Contrarian paving the way for skateboarders at the Tokyo Olympics

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A former rebellious figure skater who scorned the Olympics is now considered a defining figure in skateboarding’s successful debut at the Tokyo Summer Games.

Rieko Iwakata has let go of her aversion to the Olympics, but she remains a maverick.

For example, the 34-year-old said she hated iPhones because everyone has one. “I don’t want to follow trends,” she said.

Iwakata became Japan’s No. 1 figure skater at the age of 14 and has won 14 national competitions.

She learned her skills in the United States during her high school education and moved to Italy for training after graduating from college.

In her last international competition, Iwakata stumbled while performing dance steps.

But she didn’t regret retiring from the sport, believing she was doing all she could.

With his maverick nature and background in a minor sport, Iwakata had expressed a strong aversion to the Olympics and all media coverage of the events.

When skateboarding was added to the Tokyo Olympic program, roller skating sports, such as skateboarding and roller figure skating, were brought together under one international organization.

Given her international experience in roller figure skating, the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee offered her a job.

After accepting the offer in 2018, Iwakata said she realized that her opposition to the Olympics was perhaps her way of covering up her secret desire to be a part of the Games.

She worked as an intermediary between the skaters, who wanted to practice freely, and the organizing committee, which sought to control the training times and the movements of the competitors.

Iwakata made strenuous efforts to iron out the differences between the two sides.

She vividly remembers a foreign photographer who appreciated the way the competition was organized without ruining skateboarding culture.

“I think I could convey the charm of the sport that goes beyond winning or losing,” said Iwakata.

His contract with the committee expired in November. She now intends to devote herself to the promotion of artistic rollerblading.


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