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9-year-old skateboarder makes Asian Games debut as youngest athlete

A 9-year-old skateboarder made a bold debut at the Asian Games as the youngest athlete at the quadrennial multisport tournament held in Indonesia.

All eyes fell on Aliqqa Novvery of Indonesia as she jumped over blocks and executed tricks on handrails at a crowded venue in the Asian Games co-host city Palembang.

«Competing at the Asian Games is the best feeling ever and I’m proud to be here with all my friends,» she told a group of reporters who gathered to hear what she had to say about her rare experience.

Aliqqa, who had braided hair and wore a pair of pink pants that matched Indonesia’s red uniform, rode fearlessly as she competed in the women’s street competition on Wednesday. She missed her chance to win a medal, but she settled for sixth in the eight-woman field after going through her two runs and five tricks.

«I really enjoyed it. I really did my best. The crowd was 115 percent, making me happy,» she said. «The fun part about it was meeting the other good skaters.»

She was especially pleased to meet one of her role models, Margielyn Didal of the Philippines. Didal won the contest by executing all of her five attempts in the tricks category, scoring 5.4 points ahead of Japan’s Kaya Isa.

«It felt good to talk to a person that good. We got along well,» Aliqqa said.

Many young talents hit the course at Jakabaring Sport City, as skateboarding made its debut at the biggest multisport event after the Olympics. Eleven-year-old Ian Nuriman Amri of Malaysia competed in the qualifiers of the men’s street and park events, while Aliqqa’s compatriot, 12-year-old Bunga Nyimas, won bronze in the women’s street event.

In the park competition, athletes skate on a hollowed-out course called a «combination pool» containing bowls and pools. In the street competition, skateboarders compete on a street-like course featuring stairs, curbs, slopes and rails. They go through two runs and execute five tricks, with the four-best scores added to decide on the winner.

Japanese teenagers dominated the competition at the Asian Games by winning three of four gold medals on the table.

Aliqqa only took up the sport in 2016, after getting a skateboard as a birthday present. She had begged her parents to buy her one after seeing her cousin ride a week before her seventh birthday.

Since then, she has practiced more than three days a week after school at a skateboard park about 30 kilometers from her house. After she signed up to be on the national team in April, she attended a training camp for a couple of months, where she also trained in the United States, the hub of the sport.

«What I like the most about skateboarding is you can find your own tricks and your own style,» she said. «I really want to be a pro skater later on and I really want to go to the X Games.»

She was named to the national team after finishing second in qualifiers, won by Nyimas, for the Asian Games.

Despite pulling off multiple tricks and grabbing the limelight, to Aliqqa’s mother, Nin Hardi, the skateboarding prodigy is just an average 9-year-old.

«Whenever she is motivated, she’s not afraid of anything,» Hardi said. «But to have that motivation, she has to see someone do the tricks or we have to reward her by buying ice cream or little toys.»

Hardi says she has scolded her daughter «a lot of times» for staying up too late, telling her she believes being an athlete and competing should come with great responsibility.

«Being a skateboarder of even joining the (national) team is actually all of her own decision — coming from her decisions, her own self,» Hardi said. «So I just ask her to take the consequences of that.»

«Athletes cannot be slow at eating or preparing things,» she tells her. «She likes to (go to) sleep late, and that has made me a bit angry because she has to train in the morning. I have to yell a bit for her to sleep.»

The mother says she was worried at first about her daughter joining the national team to compete at the Asian Games, but realized it is never too early to start something.

«At first, we the parents were like ‘Huh, join the Asian Games? Are you sure?’ but she really proved to us that she wants to work hard to achieve it and that she gets it,» Hardi said.

Now that the curtain has drawn on the inaugural skateboarding competition at the Asian Games, Hardi is motivated to be alongside her daughter every step of the way in her next challenge.

«So after this (games), whatever she dreams we just support it as long as she wants to work for it. We try to be supportive as much as we can.»

The 9-year-old’s next ambition is to compete at the Summer Olympics, with skateboarding being added to the Olympic program for the first time at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Two disciplines will be held at the Olympics — park and street.

«I really want to join (the Olympics) and win a gold medal,» Aliqqa said with a smile.

==Kyodo

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