In an Olympic-grade skate park, four athletes have reached a milestone for their sport as the first to join the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS).
Chloe Covell, Haylie Powell, Rome Collyer and Tommy Fynn are at a training camp on the Gold Coast, preparing for an Olympic qualifying event in Rome, Italy, next month.
Their recognition by the QAS is an important moment for the athletes, but marks a broader shift in skateboarding as more eyes turn to the sport and more roads are created for young skaters.
“It’s so sick to see young people getting into it and how big skating has become,” Chloe says.
She is only 12 years old, but Chloe has been skating half her life.
She says the competition in Italy is an opportunity to go ice skating at bigger events.
It’s a similar story for Haylie and Rome who started skating at a young age and hopes to become Olympians.
“I fell in love with skating when I was about three and a half years old… my father gave me a skateboard for Christmas,” says Rome, 16.
They are coached by Tommy Fynn, who also participates.
“It’s crazy to juggle, but I really enjoy it,” says Mr. Fynn.
Getting bigger and better
Mr Fynn said he had seen big changes in the sport since it debuted at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I see it in the skate parks. It’s busier. There’s a lot more kids coming in.”
He said new facilities, such as the Gold Coast’s Pizzey Park, also created opportunities for skaters.
“We never had this when I was younger,” said Mr Fynn.
“This is like an Olympic standard, an Olympic level.
“This is going to help kids get gold medals one day, a perfect place to practice.”
Mr Fynn said the level of support for athletes had also changed.
“There’s that support to make it grow even bigger and better.”
A growing interest
QAS Senior Performance Program advisor Ian Melvin said the organization was “really motivated” to support skating.
“I think now, with all the excitement of last year with… [Australian] Keegan Palmer’s gold medal in Tokyo, there’s a lot of interest in skating,” he said.
Mr. Palmer and Sierra Kerr, who currently represent Australia in surfing, were also inducted into the QAS.
Mr. Melvin said involvement in QAS meant access to performance support, performance analysis, strength and conditioning and more.
“It’s about having really highly qualified professionals around them who support them to be the best version of themselves they can be,” he said.
‘The great shift’
Mr Melvin said the inclusion of action sports in the QAS was also exciting.
“It’s a really cool place for us to be right now, if you look at where the Olympic movement is going right now, the big shift.
“We know that really great things are happening in the southeast corner of this space right now.
“We’re really excited to see where it goes, going to Paris.”
The Paris Olympics will be held in mid-2024.