In less than a week, street skateboarder Mariah Duran will board a flight, cross the Pacific Ocean, and touch down in Tokyo for her first Olympic games. "I'm definitely nervous," Duran told POPSUGAR - she gets nerves before any contest - but she's also excited to be among the first skateboarders to compete in the Games as the sport makes its Olympic debut.
But the only time Duran gets really nervous, she said, is when she doesn't feel prepared. So that's her priority right now, just a little over a week before the Opening Ceremony: to stay focused and take it day by day. "It's mainly just harder on the rest days," she said. "If I'm always doing something, it kind of helps the nerves calm down."
As she approaches a new milestone in her skateboarding career, the 24-year-old has also gotten a chance to reflect on what the sport has meant to her. She said skateboarding has given her confidence and taught her that hard work pays off, which is a big reason why she entered a new partnership with Always, encouraging girls to stay in sports through puberty, when many drop out. "When you're introduced to skateboarding, right away, it tests your confidence," Duran said. "You're introduced to trial and error."
Duran vividly remembers her first time on a skateboard. She was around 10 years old, borrowing her brother's board, and she remembered getting on . . . and falling. But she'd seen kids riding around in her neighborhood; she knew what was possible. She had to make a decision: "Am I going to keep going, or am I going to hang this up?"
Duran got back on and later fell in love with skateboarding because, for her, it encompassed both freedom and the determination to keep going even when she did, inevitably, fall. "I get to really choose how bad I want this, or how far I can push it," Duran explained. When she fell, that first day, she got back on the board. "Nope, that's not going to be the result," Duran remembered thinking. "I'm going to keep going until I don't fall." She's carried that mindset with her into her professional career. "If I fall, I'm still going to get back up."
Now, Duran is using that same determination to buckle down and prepare for her first Olympics. This close to the Games, she said she's focused on staying present mentally and keeping to her routine from the moment she gets out of bed all through the day's training. "So close to the Games, you don't want to get too ahead of yourself," Duran explained. "You don't want to overdo it, you don't want to undo it. You just want to be present throughout the process."