Age is proving to be no barrier for Sky Brown, the 10-year-old superstar skateboarder and surfer looking to compete in both her favourite sports in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Sky Brown started skateboarding when she was just four years old and now she competes against people twice her size in competitions worldwide. Recently, in February 2019, Sky Brown won the Sister Skate Session in Estonia despite being the youngest contestant. She was also the youngest female to feature in Nike’s latest campaign, “Dream Crazier”, which highlighted fierce women dominating in sports. Therefore it’s no surprise that her next step would be to perform at the Olympics.
Sky Brown is half Japanese and half British, meaning that she could represent either country at the Olympic Games. However, she has decided to compete for Great Britain and is now one of five skateboarders being supported to qualify by the UK Sport’s Aspiration Fund. She also wants to qualify for surfing. Both sports are new additions to the Olympic Games, which will be debuting in Tokyo. She might not be representing Japan – the country she was born in – but she will undoubtedly feel some added comfort in competing on home soil.
If she qualifies, she will be competing at the age of 12
She is remarkably the pride of the globe right now. The young sporting star wants to compete while she is young and show other girls that they can do anything that they set their mind to. If she qualifies, she will be competing at the age of 12, becoming Britain’s youngest Olympian (the current one being age 13).
However, such great ambitions come with a great amount of pressure and expectation. Cate Campbell, a competitive Australian swimmer, was expected to come first in the 100 metres freestyle final at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Sorrowfully, she ended up finishing sixth and put it down to her nervousness at being made the overwhelming favourite for the gold medal. If even an experienced sportswoman in her 20s can succumb to such pressure, what hope is there for child competitors? Of course they are physically able, but a lot of what makes an elite athlete great is their mental strength. Younger athletes can feel as if they have to work twice as hard in order to be seen as worthy of competing as their older counterparts. They also may feel the blow of defeat or setbacks a lot more than an older sportsperson.
There should perhaps be more restrictions based on mental health
Selected sports in the Olympics have age restrictions for issues surrounding physical development and health and safety; diving requires the athlete to be age 14 and athletes must be age 16 to compete in gymnastics. Nevertheless, there should perhaps be more restrictions based on mental health. In 2018, UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) introduced a new strategy for dealing with mental health to help British Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Education, provision, communication and assurance are its four principles and athletes can now expect to go through a process of mental health screening. These new initiatives will be implemented and in effect at the 2020 Olympic Games. If countries provide adequate support for their sports representatives, there should be no need for age restrictions in competitive sport.
Sky Brown is eager to compete and decided to compete for Britain because they have taken a lot of the pressure off of her; she told the BBC that the Skateboarding Association reassured her, “No pressure. Just have fun and get out there”. For Sky Brown, it is all about testing her limits, enjoying herself and seeing what she can do. After all, “why should boys have all the fun?” In December 2018, Sky Brown – and dancing partner, JT Church – won “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors”. She is clearly a talented and confident girl who loves to perform and is an avid crowd-pleaser. If she is going to keep challenging herself, then she needs a bigger stage on which to showcase her abilities; Tokyo might just be that stage.