Poppy Starr Olsen first picked a skateboard age eight. A family friend gave it to her while they were walking home, and she skated all the way back.
Now she’s 19, and staring down the barrel of potentially becoming the first Australian to win an Olympic gold for skateboarding.
“I’m excited,” she told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
The Tokyo 2020 games will be the first time skateboarding is an Olympic sport, adding to the roster alongside baseball/softball, karate, sports climbing and surfing.
“I think it’s pretty cool they’ve have accepted [skateboarding],” Olsen said. “It was never really mainstream, and I liked that about it, too. But people are seeing it a little bit differently now, which is cool.”
Starr’s competition of choice is park (the other skateboarding comp is a street course), in which she’s currently ranked fourth in the world.
“There’s a lot of Japanese girls out to win it,” Starr said. “They’re amazing skateboarders. Then probably the Americans and Brazilians are the main competition.”
Her competition includes 11-year-old Great Britain champ Sky Brown and Japan’s Misugu Okamoto, 13, and Sakura Yosozumi, 17. But she’s not super worried: the Newcastle-based Aussie already has a slew of wins and places to her name, including becoming the World Champion in her age group for the first time when she was 14, and placing third at the World Skate World Championships in China last year.
Like so many sports, skateboarding is traditionally male-dominated, with Poppy often being one of the few women either competing or in her local skatepark. As a tiny bb skater, she was even taught by the middle aged male skaters, because they were the only ones hanging out at Bondi’s bowl with her.
But that’s changing, she says, with more and more women being drawn tot he sport.
The Olympics is just the next step.
“Every competition that wants to be an Olympic qualifier has to at least equalise the payment with men, so it’s been really great for girls who want to make a living out of it,” she said.
“As of late, the prizes have been the same, but it’s always been a big struggle. It’s started changing, but there’s always been bigger opportunities for men.”
When it comes down to it, Starr will be competing against women she’s skated with and against her whole life. The international skateboarding community is close knit one, Starr said, with familiar faces running into each other at competitions around the world or heading off to make videos in far-flung locations.
But when she’s not training for the Olympics – which is mostly a mix of skating, gym and running – Poppy is dabbling in either jewellery (she launched a business to fund her international travel), motivational speaking (she gave a TedX talk in 2014) or building her Instagram audience (she was recently featured in Instagram’s A-Z trend report).
So how on earth does this teenager manage to fit so much in?
“I think it’s motivation and a love for it,” she said.
“And just, seeing the end result, the whole process has been really fun for me to. I’ve made some of my best friends through this, we’re always having fun and a great time. It’s never been a miserable process or anything. You have to work hard and be motivated, but it’s fantastic.”
Also – guess training is a bit easier when you have a literal skate ramp in your bedroom. NBD.