Sport Australia's top skateboarders hit the Gold Coast for a training camp, looking ahead to Paris 2024
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A group of Australia's top skateboarders took over a Gold Coast skate park for an afternoon ahead of a training camp to hone skills for qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
It is something that will likely be seen a little more frequently in south east Queensland: top skateboarding talent and improved training infrastructure.
The sport debuted on the Olympic stage in Tokyo last year, with the Gold Coast's Keegan Palmer receiving a gold medal.
Twenty of Australia's best skateboarders — from Olympians to Olympic hopefuls — have travelled from around the country for a training camp, to regroup before looking towards qualifying events for Paris, 2024.
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"It's the first time that the team's come back together since Tokyo and also with our new nationally categorised athletes heading towards Paris 2024," said Skate Australia High Performance manager Debbie Savage.
Ms Savage said the selection criteria and Olympic qualifying event schedule was due to be released in the upcoming months.
The group included Poppy Olsen, who made the Olympic final, as well as 16-year-old Zane Hetherington, who hopes to represent Australia in Paris.
"I started skateboarding with my dad when I was three because he was a skater. I stuck with it because I love it," he said.
"The Olympics would be something that could be an amazing opportunity."
Changing public perceptions
The Elanora teenager said seeing a local win gold was huge for the perception of the sport in Australia.
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"It's given skating a big rep in general. A lot of people that didn't really respect skateboarding, it's given them a different side and shown them it's not all about being drug rats," Mr Hetherington said.
"A lot of the viewers weren't necessarily skaters themselves, so that was sick to see."
James Karageorgiou, Skate Australia High Performance Operations manager, said Australia's performance at Toyko opened the sport to a wider audience.
"The world was able to see skateboarding for the first time on the Olympics stage, which has spawned a whole new wave and generation," he said.
"We've got a short runway into Paris now so it's about bringing that next group of prospective Olympians together."
Keeping the talent in Australia
Alex Donnini was the Olympic team's head coach in Tokyo, after being the personal coach to Keegan Palmer and Poppy Olsen for many years prior to the event.
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He said Queensland wouldn't traditionally be the first choice to host a skateboarding camp, but said there has been incredible support from sporting bodies, governments and local councils.
"The Brisbane Olympics will be coming around the corner, a lot of the resources and facilities will be built up this way," Mr Donnini said.
"It just makes sense, this is going to be the new home."
He says when young athletes reach a certain level, they usually look at moving to the United States, but he hopes to see that change.
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