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They talk a lot about resilience in primary schools. It’s important, you are told, to foster self-esteem, accentuate the positive and develop problem-solving skills rather than delivering ready-made solutions.
But such worthy words often go in one ear and out the other – easy to say, much harder to do. Sometimes you just need a champion for the message to truly resonate. Meet Sky Brown.
She’s a world bronze medallist and a recent X Games winner with the potential to deliver Team GB their biggest viral moment in these already storied Games.
She’s spent the last few days on the practice ramps at the Ariake Urban Park, giving the impression she’s just having fun with her friends. Which is exactly what she is doing.
Brown is delightfully unaffected by medal targets, performance plans and marginal gains – and rightly so.
However, just over a year ago she was lying in intensive care, her skull fractured in multiple places, her left arm broken, her fingers busted with serious lacerations to both her stomach and lungs.
It was all captured by father Stuart, the moment the camera drops to the ground as he rushes to help his stricken daughter haunting for any parent.
When Brown describes the footage as “cool”, you know this is no ordinary teen.
“After what happened, mum and dad both wanted me to stop. I think it affected them more than me, I was knocked out and don’t really remember it, they had to watch it happen, that must be really tough for a parent,” said Brown, her dad admitting at the time he feared she wouldn’t make it through the night.
“They were so scared, they were crying every day and didn’t want me to do it anymore but skateboarding is how I express myself, it’s my life.
“I think the message is you can fall but you can also get up. Bad things can happen but good things usually happen after them, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“I like being an example, that makes me proud, it makes me more proud than any medal or any win does.
“If someone is seeing this tiny girl doing the highest trick, perhaps they can realise they could do anything, too. When people tell you that you can’t do anything, that is just a chance to prove that they are wrong.”
It appears Brown lives in fortune cookie sentiments, her helmet is emblazoned with her mantra for life: “Be brave, have fun and do it cause you love it.”
Born in Japan and raised in the US by her British and Japanese parents, the occasionally excessive flag waving of the Olympics doesn’t naturally sit well for this young citizen of the world.
For some athletes, the Olympics is their Everest, a high that simply can’t be replicated once the peak is conquered.
Yet you sense Tokyo and the Olympics will simply be a chapter in the Brown story. She’s spoken about becoming a professional surfer or forming a band with her younger brother Ocean.
With over a million followers on social media, where she chronicles a sun-kissed bohemian lifestyle in California, the three S’s dominate – skating, surfing and school.
“I just skate whenever I want to skate and surf whenever I want to surf,” she says. “If I feel too hot, I like to go in the water. If I feel too cool, then I go skate.
“I don’t know what the future holds, having the accident shows you can’t plan for anything. I’d like to be dancing and singing more, maybe trying some new sports. I really want to travel, too.”
She counts Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe among her celebrity friends and Barbie have made a doll in her likeness.
She’s already a reality TV star, winning the American junior version of Strictly, and then there’s the obligatory book... the ‘perfect gift for anyone who dares to dream’.
Brown is certainly ready for the Olympics, the question of whether the Olympics are ready for Brown remains to be seen.
Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, The Streaming Home of the Olympics.