Sky Brown interview: ‘I could have died, now I just want to go higher’

·4-min read
 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

Sky Brown has been awake since five o’clock and is bubbling with energy.

In many ways, she is a typical 13-year-old, giggling her way through the conversation but then again she is far from the norm.

She is the youngest member of Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics, a record that would not have been possible if her parents had their way.

Dispelling any suggestion of pushy parents, mum and dad Mieko and Stu, both tried to talk her out of the Olympics a year out from the competition, and understandably so.

In June last year, she misjudged a trick on a high ramp, hit the ground, broke her wrist and hand, cracked her skull, blackened her eye, and was airlifted to hospital where she woke up 10 hours later.

“Seriously, they didn’t want me to skate anymore,” she explains of her parents’ pleas. “But that’s the thing I love. The skateboard kind of belongs to me so I can’t stop. I begged them so much but they told me to take it easy.”

But in no time at all, she was back to her old tricks – literally – and has been pushing herself well beyond the manoeuvre that had proved her downfall last summer.

Her parents’ nervousness is understandable - when she came around in hospital, she readily admits she neither knew who she was nor her parents, albeit momentarily.

“The last thing I remember is thinking ‘I’m going to make this one, just do it’,” she said. “But I didn’t and then boom. And my parents didn’t let me watch the accident originally but I was fine with it. It’s good to fall sometimes, which is why I put it out there. My parents didn’t want me to post it but I was like ‘please cos it was cool’.”

 (Getty Images for Laureus)
(Getty Images for Laureus)

Brown has the ability to make even the most unpleasant of experiences sound like fun, helped partly by the lifestyle she leads in California where she mixes skateboarding and surfing with the homeschooling brought about by Covid-19.

But rather than competing in US or the colours of Japan, where she was born and from where her mother hails, she has opted to be British, her dad’s nationality.

Explaining that decision, she said: “I really feel British. Like, I skate British because British people are chilled and I love British food, curry especially.”

Of her rendition of the national anthem, she says she “kind of” knows it, a song that could be useful as one of the medal contenders.

“I want to get gold - that would be crazy,” she said. “But any medal is good. In fact, being in the Olympics and skating is already good. My goal is to get a gold medal but more than that I want to inspire girls and boys because I feel at the Olympics everyone is watching me. I want to be the little girl going the highest, and some girls thinking if she can do it I can do it too.”

As skateboarding makes its Olympic bow, she looks likely to be its star attraction. Not just her age but her multi-nationality, and adulation from the Japanese public.

Does she have a sense of the pressure and spotlight she is under? “I don’t know, I’m just going to have fun, pretend it’s just me skating and trying my best,” she said. “I don’t feel much pressure.

“I feel like people don’t really know how cool skateboarding is, and how beautiful it can be and how creative it is because there’s not really any rules. You can add your own style, do a trick. I’m excited to show the world how cool it is.”

As for any suggestion – and hope in the case of her parents - the accident might have changed her are wide of the mark. If anything, she is adamant she is keener to push the sport’s and her own limits.

“I hope me and the girls can push the boundaries so we’re almost better than the boys,” she added. “And I like doing scary tricks, it feels better than an easy trick. I feel like when you land something super scary, it feels so good.”

Of the experience of going back on the big ramp again, “I was honestly not scared at all. It actually felt so good, like, it just made me feel alive again because it was kind of crazy how I survived the. I could have died. I’m so lucky and it felt so good to go so high again. I just want to go higher.”

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