Why skateboarding is in Olympics

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

TOKYONot a few sports fans are wondering why skateboarding is in the Olympics while mainstreamers like bowling and billiards are ignored. Skate Pilipinas president Carl Sambrano explained the other day its all about creating a new generation of enthusiasts from the youth to build a strong foundation of followers for the future.

My mother Lynn used to be a national bowler in the early ‘90s,” said Sambrano. “So I know what its like for a sport like bowling not to be in the Olympics. But I think the IOC wanted to reach out to the younger generation so thats why skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing came in. It had to do with viewership. Olympic skateboarding was shown on primetime TV in the US and the ratings were incredible even on the Olympic channel as compared to other events. Were sure to be back in Paris in 2024 and it looks secure for L.A. in 2028. L.A. is the mecca of skateboarding with the most parks in the US so were looking at three straight Olympics for the sport.”

Sambrano said the countrys lone skateboarding qualifier Margielyn Didal, 22, was a hit here. “I dont know if shes the face of Asian skateboarding as two Japanese made it to the podium but wherever she competes, Margies the crowd favorite,” he said. “Ive seen foreigners come up to her for a photo or autograph or both. Shes an amazing ambassador. In the Olympics, she got to the final even though she was in pain. She smiled through it and won the admiration of everyone. After the final, she had an ultra-sound at the Olympic Village and found out both sides of her ankles were severely inflamed. Thats why when she arrived in Manila, she was in a wheelchair. Margie showed a lot of heart, drawing that extra power from her love of our country, no pretensions. Were proud of her. Shes now quarantining in a Tagaytay hotel with coach Dani Bautista because once theyre cleared, theyll look over the skateboarding facility that (POC president) Cong. Bambol (Tolentino) put up.”

Aside from Didal, Sambrano said the national pool lists 18 skateboarders with an average age of 23 to 24. “Our pool has seven women and 11 men,” he said. “Our senior guy is Jeff Gonzales whos 28 and our youngest are Cindy Serena and Kiko Francisco, both 18. Our SEA Games silver medalist Mark Feliciano is 26. Kiko was a SEA Games gold medalist in park. Unfortunately, skateboarding wont be in the next two SEA Games.”

Sambrano, 37, started downhill skating when he was eight. He finished elementary and high school at Don Bosco then earned a marketing and advertising degree at Asia Pacific College. Since 2015, he organized downhill races all over Luzon, coordinating with LGUs and eventually became president of the International Downhill Federation, a French-based organization that was later incorporated into the Swiss-based World Skating. To qualify for Tokyo, Sambrano accompanied Didal, Bautista and Skate Pilipinas vice president for international affairs Anthony Claravall in training camps in Barcelona and Los Angeles and two competitions in Iowa and Rome. The journey was difficult but worth it in the end.

Cong. Bambol was extremely supportive and facilitated a lot of our arrangements, including finding a way for us to get our Schengen visas when we were in the US,” said Sambrano. “Maalaga siya. Once, he even got a private plane to fly Margie from Manila to Cebu. PSC chairman (Butch) Ramirez has also been helpful with his all-out support. Our CDM (Mariano Araneta) was with us the whole way and throughout the pandemic, I updated him regularly on our qualifying progress.” Sambrano doubles up as one of three deputies of POC secretary general Ed Gastanes. The other deputies are Bones Floro for international affairs and Karen Caballero for government affairs. Sambranos involved in administration. So now that skateboarding is over, hes busy attending to his POC chores.

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