Semi-finals time on the WST means the welcome arrival of spectators, which here in Tokyo means lots of handmade signs and wildly enthusiastic kids keen to get an autograph and a snap with their heroes. All very wholesome and a large part of what we all do what we do, so it was just the energy injection proceedings needed after a long few days of cuts and qualifications. Men’s semi-finals bore witness to the biggest best-trick shootout of the World Skateboarding Tour so far: no fewer than 17 best tricks scored 90 or above, 7 of which came from skaters who did not in the end progress to the finals. That’s how hectic the skating was. From a field of 16 including 6 Japanese locals, half of Sunday’s 8 finalists are from our host country: Yuto Horigome carried through one of the lower run scores but came through with two 90+ best trick scores (frontside nollie fakie nosegrind frontside 180 out and nollie 270 to noseslide) to squeeze into the cut in 8th place.
Cordano Russell is so powerful he has to ride custom-developed boards and had 3 best tricks in the 90 zone- frontside halfcab kickflip over the top of the rail to front board, fakie heelflip back lip, and fakie frontside bigspin to frontside boardslide. To say he wowed the crowd is an understatement.
Ph: Atiba Jefferson
Kairi Netsuke’s unbelievable consistency saw him make 4 out of 5 best tricks including a perfect backside heelflip down the long 9 stairs and a backside ollie late bigspin all with what looked like relative ease for him. Super impressive. Above Kairi in 5th came the sublimely talented but mercurial Alex Midler, who had his best WST showing to date with two untouchable noseblunt variations in the best trick section to see him into his first final.
In 4th came street purist Braden Hoban who like Alex finds himself in his first WST final. Both he and Alex Midler have the electric quality of watchability that brings the crowd to full voice.
Top 3 spots went to the gifted Sora Shirai who is a talent on the cutting edge of creativity; prodigy Ginwoo Onodera and the master tactician Nyjah Huston who goes into the finals in the place which he has made his home: first.
Women’s semi-finals brought with it no end of talking points, not least of which was much-fancied Paige Heyn who withdrew hurt after slamming on a frontside feeblegrind just 4 tricks into her first run. Everyone on the World Skateboarding Tour wishes her a speedy recovery and we hope to see her rejoin us at the next stop in Dubai.Spain’s Daniela Terol proved the most consistent skater in the semi-finals posting two full runs and 4 out of 5 best tricks which was good enough for 12th place and a good grounding in what is required to progress beyond here going forward. Joining her just outside the cut was the mightily impressive Miyu Ito who came out swinging in the best trick with a frontside bluntslide on the hubba and a flip front board on the 9-stair rail but had left herself a mountain to climb by not completing a full run. Of the 8 women going forward to tomorrow’s final 5 are products of the Japanese skate scene which is rapidly coming to dominate women’s competitive skateboarding; what was noticeable from today’s action is the improvement not just from year to year but contest to contest on the World Skateboarding Tour- Chinese youngster Chenxi Cui posted the highest score of the day with a kickflip backside 50-50 on her final best-trick attempt at the third time of asking- having landed it first go, but been unable to roll away.
Ph: Atiba Jefferson
Despite looking incredibly sharp earlier in qualification, Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Momiji Nishiya made life hard for herself by missing 3 of her 5 best tricks, which also happened to her in the Lausanne finals when we last saw her. She will aim to improve there tomorrow. Flip Skateboards’ recent signing Liz Akama backed up a solid second run with 3 makes in a row on best trick- Barley grind, hurricane and then a front feeble frontside 180 out to continue her blow up through the Japanese ranks. Current Olympic bronze medallist Funa Nakayama backed up 2 full runs with her signature front crook and a backside overcrook in the best trick section to coast into the finals but top-ranked Japanese woman in the semis Yumeka Oda took the unusual path of duplicating her fist run on the second one before sticking a flip front board first go in best trick before adding a backside tailslide which was enough for second place.
Making sure the Japanese didn’t have it all their own way was the biggest name in women’s contest skateboarding Rayssa Leal who scrubbed her first run before dominating in best trick with a back tail, front blunt and flip front board to progress in a comfortable fourth, and Australian Chloe Covell who progresses in pole position having posted two run scores in excess of 80 and adding a groundbreaking frontside 50-50 to kickflip out and a massive last-try heelflip to end their day.
The tantalising prospect of a Women’s final where any one of the 8 finalists can potentially win awaits. Let’s do this!