OQS Budapest: Semifinal Results!

Written by Niall Neeson

We now find ourselves at the business end of this whole global journey, and the way you can tell that is by the reactions of those who’s skateboarding dreams and aspirations for the Paris Olympic Games beginning next month either live on beyond Budapest, or wither on the vine here.

Sora Shirai and Mickey Papa WST Street WCH OQS Budapest Kenji Haruta 8877

The disappointment can be hard to watch, and doubtless harder to personally experience. As you will likely be aware, qualification for Paris is not a ‘first past the post’ affair since there are what are known as country quotas, meaning each nation can only put through their top grip of skaters. What that means is although it remains to be seen who will ultimately form the final 22 in each discipline going into Paris, the national dimension means some skateboarders already know that they can’t make it.

Those overlapping extrapolations certainly made for many different storylines but not all of them had a happy ending for the skateboarders involved.

Hinano Kusaki 540 2 WST Street WCH OQS Budapest Bryce Kanights 8568

The curveball which began today’s drama was the threat of a storm the likes of which are far from uncommon in landlocked central European nations at this time of year. Morning’s schedule was a write-off, and as a result, both Men’s Street and Women’s Park Semis were run simultaneously.

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In Women’s Park, the difference of 24 hours was nowhere more evident than in the performance of OQS Shanghai winner Arisa Trew. Having made it through from Prelims in 7th place, she returned to her outstanding form today and proceeds in first having posted the only 90+ score of the day with a run which included a pioneering frontside cab noseslide, a trick which must be done totally by feeling and not sight.

At the other end of the cut, both current Olympic champion Sakura Yosozumi and Bryce Wettstein missed out by less than half a point. THAT is how close the difference between progressing and missing out is at this level. As I said: hard to watch, much less experience personally one might imagine.

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Men’s Street was no less tense in that regard. Big story there today was Yuto Horigome’s frankly insane ongoing comeback from being on the ropes  almost since his Tokyo victory three years ago. Having only made a single podium on the Road To Paris since ( third at 2023 WST Tokyo World Championship), he needed the performance of a lifetime here today and when he went down clutching his knee after his second Best Trick attempt it looked like his opportunity was over.

Then he made a backside nollie to switch front feeble and frontside 270 nollie to switch back lip-back to back- and didn’t even need to take his final attempt in order to qualify in first. An unbelievable turn of events even by his gifted standards.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum there came Aurelien Giraud, who was 25 points off the pace by the end of the run section and still only missed the cut by less than 4 points, and Cordano Russell, who despite looking like a potential winner, had a wheelbite nightmare on several near-makes in Best Trick and was crestfallen come the end.

Although it will be cold comfort to him now, he is a star already and has a huge future ahead of him.

As we have observed before and will no doubt have to again: great though skateboarding clearly is, it can also be cruel.

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Men’s Park began with a rousing intro for Andy Macdonald from what has been one of the best crowds of the Road To Paris so far. Although edged out of the cut, his backflip over the jumpbox (see yesterday’s missive for a list of alternative names, there) just for fun was a highlight of the session. Another crowd favourite was the incredibly balanced Brazilian Augusto Akio who left it until his third and final run to really gel, but also followed up that superb showing by juggling while rolling back and forth in the goulash bowl. Think about that level of co-ordination for a second.

The third crowd darling was Marseille’s Vincent Matheron, who was honoured with the biggest cardboard sign so far, fully obscuring the view of everybody holding it up. He was superb, creative and flowing right from the drop and the finals tomorrow will be better for him being there.

Jagger Eaton had to choose whether to enter Street or Park since the early weather problems condensed the schedule and elected to enter Park but could not progress, there.

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Women’s Street closed out the tumultuous day with both good news and bad. The good was a superb showing from a poised and confident Chloe Covell who progresses in first place, followed by and absolute raft of Japanese rippers. The bad news was that among their number was not current Olympic gold medallist Momiji Nishiya who will now not defend her title in Paris. Paige Heyn, who broke her ankle at WST Lausanne back in September last year, made tomorrow’s finals despite having a Run score lower than 60- which is no small achievement, and familiar Chinese finalist Chenxi Cui did just enough to make it into contention one more time here in Budapest when everything is reset one final time.

Tomorrow is a new day: the day when skateboarding’s Paris Olympians will finally be decided.

Join us then.