Paris 2024 Olympics: at 12, Thai skateboarding hopeful Vareeraya Sukasem will become one of the youngest athletes in the history of the Games

Paris 2024 Olympics: at 12, Thai skateboarding hopeful Vareeraya Sukasem will become one of the youngest athletes in the history of the Games

Vareeraya Sukasem, espoir thaïlandais du skate à 12 ans. XinHua – Song Yanhua

La skateboardeuse thaïlandaise Vareeraya Sukasem s’est qualifiée pour les Jeux olympiques de Paris. À l’âge de 12 ans, elle fera office d’une des plus jeunes sportives de la compétition.

At just twelve years old, Thai skateboarder Vareeraya Sukasem has qualified for the Paris Olympics, where she will be among the youngest athletes competing. The teenager won her ticket at the last minute to Budapest, at the end of June, despite being eliminated in the semi-final which left people fearing the worst.

"Disappointed" for a moment, Vareeraya "screamed with joy& ;quot;, when she heard the news of her draft for the Olympics. "I’was so happy", she remembers. Five years after setting foot on a board for the first time, the Thai has joined the elite of the world's best skaters, who will compete for the gold medal on the Place de la Concorde on July 28.

Skateboarding made its debut at the Games in Tokyo in 2021, under the leadership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which wanted to rejuvenate its audience. The rapid rise of the girl from Bangkok took Thailand by surprise, which is not used to being represented at the highest level.

Difficult beginnings

The few Thai hopes for a medal in Paris are concentrated on Panipak Wongpattanakit, crowned in Tokyo in taekwondo (-49 kg), and Kunlavut Vitidsarn, badminton world champion. The Olympic destiny of Vareeraya, the first Thai woman in history to qualify for the skateboarding event, was far from being mapped out in a kingdom where urban sports suffer from a lack of infrastructure.

Passionate about figure skating, the young girl had to stop due to lack of financial means. Encouraged by her mother, a former participant of "The Voice" in Thailand, and a skateboarding enthusiast, she began to frequent skate parks, but her beginnings were difficult, between injuries and a pandemic that interrupted her learning. "Vareeraya has skills that are worth following […] She possesses one of the great qualities of athletes which is concentration", says Apichat Rutnin, the vice-president of the Thai Extreme Sports Federation.

Sa "first idol" is only slightly older than her: British rider Sky Brown, who won the bronze medal in the "park" event at the Tokyo Olympics, at the age of 13. Sky Brown has also qualified for the Paris Games, but in the "park" category, which is slightly different from the "street" where Vareeraya shines.

Objective top 10

The "street", a test which takes place in two parts, is a sequence of figures in a space reproducing the street furniture (ramps, stairs, rails, benches, etc.), where the judges' scores decide between the competitors. "I try to stay calm and I do my best to be better than others, I stay focused on myself", explains Vareeraya.

For these first Games, the objective is not the medal: "Vareeraya has other Olympic Games ahead this time, being in the top 10 (out of the 22 qualified) would be great", estimates Apichat Rutnin. Imperturbable, the young skateboarder does not let herself be distracted by what she could visit during her first trip to France: "I don&rsquo ;I don't have time to think about this kind of thing", she declares before adding with a smile: "But I want to go see the Eiffel Tower".

Apart from skateboarding, Vareeraya, who put his studies on hold to devote himself to sport, likes to draw and listen to music. "Maybe one day I will return to school, after having accomplished this mission", she concedes.

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