Japanese skateboarder claims historic Olympic gold at venue 20 minutes from his house

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TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 25: Yuto Horigome of Team Japan competes at the Skateboarding Men's Street Finals on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Yuto Horigome of Team Japan competes at the skateboarding men's street finals on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Who knows whether a packed, partisan crowd at the men’s skateboard street would have propelled or heaped pressure on local favourite Yuto Horigome.

What we do know is Horigome, 22, was out of the running for medals after falling on two earlier runs.

But then he proceeded to land four out of five tricks with some aplomb as he out-tricked his star-studded rivals to win an historic first skateboarding gold in this new Olympic sport.

With skateboarding born in California, Horigome beat off his American rivals and stole the show for the host nation.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 25: Yuto Horigome of Team Japan poses with his gold medal at the Skateboarding Men's Street Finals medal ceremony on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Yuto Horigome of Team Japan with his gold medal on Sunday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It was even more impressive given Horigome, whose taxi-driving father gave him a board as a child, grew up learning his craft under a bridge where the sport was outlawed.

Horigome was essentially skating in his own backyard on Sunday, having grown up close to the Ariake Urban Sports Park venue in the Koto City neighbourhood.

“I’m so happy,” Horigome said after the medal ceremony. “This is my home town. My house is like 20 minutes from here. I was born in Koto City and I’m just so happy to win the gold here.

Watch: The new Olympic sport of skateboarding explained

“I could not keep my composure for the whole time. When I landed my third trick, that was when I calmed down. 

"But even with the fourth trick, I was not sure about the (gold) medal. So I was very focused on landing my fifth trick, rather than the medal.”

Horigome beat Brazilian Kelvin Hoefler into silver and Jagger Eaton, the Airpod-wearing American, who won bronze with his phone in his pocket while performing his tricks.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 25: Jagger Eaton of Team USA reacts at the Skateboarding Men's Street Finals on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Airpod-wearing Jagger Eaton of Team USA at the skateboarding men's street finals on Sunday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The biggest surprise of the day came when USA’s Nyjah Huston, who has dominated street skateboarding for the past six years, finished seventh after failing to nail tricks when he needed it most.

“Man, it’s hard sometimes losing your momentum after getting a couple falls out there,” a reflective Huston said. “I was trying to stay positive, trying to tell myself I still had a chance of coming back. It’s just how it goes sometimes.

“When you’re doing tricks that are that technical, flipping and spinning your board onto a rail, it’s hard to get it right now every time.”

Watch: The extraordinary gymnast who defied a president to achieve Olympic glory

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