When I think of skateboarding, the first thing that comes to mind is the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series on the Playstation 2. I think of using a million cheat codes to perform impossible manoeuvres with Rancid and Alien Ant Farm songs blaring in the background. What never sprung to mind was the idea of skateboarding as an Olympic sport. Skateboarding to me was about rebellion, punk rockers skating in pools and grinding down dangerously long rails. I didn’t view it as a conventional sport like football or golf, I couldn’t imagine it being tied down to a judging system.
However, skateboarding will be making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and I wanted to get an inside track on Olympic skating. In order to understand more about what it takes to become a pro skater and what attitudes towards Olympic skating are, I chatted to Canadian skater Annie Guglia who will be competing in Tokyo. Annie will be competing in the women’s street skating at Tokyo which is sure to be one of the most entertaining events at the games. The Olympics is a great platform for introducing people to new sports and hopefully Annie and her fellow skaters will inspire viewers to pick up a board. I asked Annie a few questions about her journey and her goals for Tokyo.
What are your earliest memories of skateboarding and what motivated you to pursue it professionally?
I started skateboarding when I was 11 years old. My little brother got a skateboard for Christmas and I started borrowing it the next summer. I couldn’t figure out how to do an Ollie (the basic trick of jumping with your skateboard) and it really got me intrigued and I became obsessed with landing new trick after new trick. It was a hobby until 2015 (13 years later) when I finished my master’s thesis in business strategy on the skateboarding industry and realized I could try to qualify for the Olympics and work in the industry also. That’s when I really became motivated to do it professionally.
What do you think could be done to increase female participation in skateboarding?
Give them more opportunities and a place/time to try in a safe space. Skateboarding can be intimidating sometimes but if you have friends to do it with and an environment that’s not intimidating, it’s actually really fun! That’s mainly why I started organizing gxrls monthly skate meet-ups in Montreal. It’s welcoming, we have girls who give free lessons for 2 hours every month and girls of all ages and all abilities feel welcome to come, hang out and skate.
How will your training and preparation for Tokyo compare to other events?
To me, the Olympics are another contest. The way I changed my preparation for the whole Olympic qualification year (training outside of skateboarding, getting mental coaching, doing a lot of physiotherapy and making time for recovery, among others) is hopefully going to lead me to peak at Tokyo in 2020. At least that’s the goal.
What did you and other skaters think when skating was initially added to the Olympics? Considering that it is not traditionally scored by judges.
There’s been a backlash from the skateboarding community at first. Skateboarding is an activity that is traditionally refractory to commercialisation and outsiders, so the Olympics was really seen as negative by skaters and by most of the industry. Fast forward a couple of years into the process and we’re starting to see a shift, mainly because there’s more opportunities for athletes, more investments by brands and by governments in skateparks and programs, etc. I think it’s seen as positive by most skaters I talk to now. My point of view is that it’s not the reason why I skate. I skate because I love it and it’s my passion. The Olympics are a new opportunity that I enjoy being a part of but it’s not the why behind my practice. So I try to enjoy the process as much as possible to become the best skater I can be through this awesome new path!
What are you goals and expectations in terms of medals in Tokyo?
My goal is to be in the top 20 in global rankings for women street skateboarding in May 2020 to qualify for the Olympics. If I can do that, I’ve achieved my main goal and the competition in Tokyo will be the cherry on top! Of course, we’re all trying to skate at our best at every competition, so we’ll see how it going but I’ll be happy with whatever place I get.
What do you hope will be the legacy of skateboarding in Tokyo 2020 and do you think it will return for future Olympics?
I will be 30 years old in 2020 so I’m not too stressed with 2024. We’ll see after next year, but the future is bright for skateboarding in the Olympics, especially for women. Right now, we see dozens of girls that are less than half my age competing to qualify for Tokyo so I can’t imagine how amazing the level of skating will be in the next Olympics.I think the main legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Games will be the proof that skateboarding is for everyone. We’ll definitely see a huge rise in the performance of women in skateboarding, and also from people from countries that are not known for skateboarding yet. My hope is that it will inspire more people to start skateboarding.
You can follow Annie on Instagram at @nnieguglia and follow her journey as she prepares for the Olympics in Tokyo. Be sure to check out her account to see great videos of her skating around Montreal and entertaining crowds across Canada.