After everything which has transpired in the last week it all comes down to this: from more than 200 skateboarders down to a mere 8 Men and Women each prepared to go at it one last time for the World Champion title. Before we get to that, however, it would be remiss of us not to take a moment to acknowledge our host city and her people. Without qualification I think it is fair to say this is the friendliest skateboarding event ever. The unfailingly polite and gracious local organisers and event staff have created an ambience which has been reflected in the demeanours of their guests. It would be remiss of us not to thank them collectively here, and so on behalf of everyone in attendance we would like to take the opportunity to do so here.
Now, let’s get down to business.
Much has been talked about the Japanese moment in skateboarding over the course of the last week, and nowhere has that been more evident than in the women’s contest scene. Five of the eight female finalists come from the host nation, and none of them are here by luck. In fact, it could have been an even higher percentage; Miyu Ito missed the cut by less than four points.
What can be said with confidence is that today’s World Championship saw the highest standard of competitive skating ever in both divisions.
Let’s continue with the women since we are already discussing them: first place qualifier Chloe Covell is the most-improved woman on the tour. She had a troubled run section including a rotten-luck pushing stumble which left her more than 15 points adrift going into Best Trick and still pulled out three absolute heaters: frontside 50-50 kickflip out on the hubba, heelflip and switch flip the long 9 stairs. It may not have been her day, but the future seems hers for the taking. China’s Chenxi Cui missed the backside lipslide ender on both her runs having made a dozen perfectly over the course of the week meaning she had to go all-in on her 5 single tricks and could only make the final one materialise. The experience will have done her no harm, however, and she has time on her side to regroup and return. Funa Nakayama uncharacteristically missed her signature front crook on the smaller hubba ledge during her run and although she made it and a backside overcrook in her Best Trick choices, the standard of the competition was just too high for those to leap the leaderboard as they might in years gone past. Likewise Liz Akama had a full run and added a first-try Hurricane and Barley grind on the big hubba but with no flip tricks attempted she was hoping that a pioneering frontside feeblegrind to frontside 180 out which won the Rome stop for her might deliver a podium spot but she couldn’t tame it in her last 3 attempts. Like Liz, Coco Yoshizawa had a solid showing in Best Trick with three scoring over 80- but her full run score was 13 points lower than the pacesetters and at this level that kind of gap is almost unassailable. In third place as in the 2022 World Championship came Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Momiji Nishiya who matched a first run score in the 80’s with a Suski grind and a Crooked Grind Nollie Heelflip out on the smaller stair ledge but could not improve on those scores with her final three attempts to Heelflip the long 9 stairs. Second place went to 2022 champion Rayssa Leal from Brazil, who was in the lead after the second round of Best Tricks having posted the first 90+ score of the entire women’s competition with an emphatic Kickflip Backside Lipslide and gamely tried to improve on it with a Kickflip Frontside Bluntslide which she put down twice but couldn’t roll away. Victory, however, would go to ever-improving Japanese newcomer Yumeka Oda who stole into first with the highest-scoring trick of the contest, a Kickflip Frontside Feeblegrind. A deserved victory and a new World Champion.
Japanese representation in the Men’s division couldn’t quite tip into the majority which it did in women’s, but still represented fully half the field. The other ‘tale of the tape’ for the finals was the presence of three Americans and no Brazilians, with both Braden Hoban and Alex Midler making their first WST finals in a shake-up from previous editions which brought their own particular energies to fruition here today. Braden Hoban was already out of the running by the time the run section had concluded having been unable to complete a full run, but his edge-of-control wildness brought an edge of danger to proceedings which was welcome and appreciated by the crowd- gap to Backside Nosebluntslide and Gap Kickflip to Frontside 50-50 both scored in excess of 90 and will live long in the memory. First place qualifier Nyjah Huston slammed on the first trick of his second run which he needed to establish a baseline from which to build and was effectively out of podium running before Best Trick started but still mustered two 90’s courtesy of a Caballerial Backside Nosebluntslide and a Nollie Heelflip Nosebluntslide. Youngster Ginwoo Onodera skates at such an incredible level in terms of trick difficulty that there is always a high risk of error and so it proved here- with only his first two Best Tricks counting toward his overall score (Double Flip Front Board, Front Blunt Kickflip to Fakie) he did himself proud but may rue his luck in not sticking one of his last 3 attempts at a ridiculously difficult Kickflip Frontside Bluntslide Bigspin Out which would have put him on the podium without doubt. Next time.
Above Ginwoo came Alex Midler who excelled in his first ever WST final with an 80 in the run section and both a Gap to Backside Nosebluntslide and a Backside 270 Ollie to Nosebluntlide on the handrail for a creditable and exciting 5th. Above him came Cordano Russell who had a better Semi-Final than Final but still managed a 94+ Fakie Heelflip Backside Lipslide and a Fakie Frontside Bigspin Frontside Boardslide for his highest-ever WST placing. The podium belonged to the Japanese, though, with the sublime Yuto Horigome making two full runs and 3 of 5 Best Tricks- including the highest-scoring trick ever on the WST (Backside 270 Nollie Noseslide to Backside 270 Out, worth 95.77)- for a 273-point 3rd place, and the rapidly progressing Kairi Netsuke who combined the highest run score (86.97) before opening his Best Trick account with a Heelflip Backside Nosebluntslide- which has never been done before- coming in a deserved second. Outright winner and new World Champion however, was the virtuoso Sora Shirai, who was already unbeatable by the second round of Best Trick before signing off on the entire contest with an Alley-Oop Frontside 180 Ollie Fakie 5-0 Grind Frontside 180 Out- which is right on the frontier of possibility.
We witnessed magic here in Tokyo today, and can only say Arigato to all involved.
The World Skateboarding Tour continues: next stop, Dubai!
WST Street World Championship Tokyo 2023 Women’s Results
1) Yumeka Oda
2) Rayssa Leal
3) Momiji Nishiya
WST Street World Championship Tokyo 2023 Men’s Results
1) Sora Shirai
2) Kairi Netsuke
3) Yuto Horigome