New Zealand could be losing out on skateboarding glory in the Olympics as our best talent head overseas for more support.

Skateboarding was included as one of five new sports in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

With the Games nearing a year away, qualifying events are getting into full swing and countries are setting up national skateboarding teams ahead of the sport’s debut.

In New Zealand, it’s eerily quiet. We’ve got the talent pool and people in the scene think the country has a real chance to get into the Games – and even potential placings.

But many think the support is lacking to do that.

Australia’s also taking advantage and are keen on poaching some of our most promising. That could continue unless something changes.

At the 2020 Olympics, men and women will have two medal events each – in park (a skate-park) and street (based around obstacles like stairs, handrails and curbs).

There’ll be 20 people in each event and one athlete from each continent is guaranteed a spot.

There are different qualifying channels to the Games, including world skateboarding rankings and racking up points at global qualifying events.

Bowman Hansen and Shaun Boucher are two Kiwis heading over to the United States’ first global qualifying event, the Dew Tour Long Beach Series in California starting on June 13.

Both are funding the trips out of their back pockets and are currently living in Australia because of the better skating opportunities.

Shaun Boucher / Supplied: Caleb Smith for Manual Magazine
Shaun Boucher / Supplied: Caleb Smith for Manual Magazine

Hansen said the reason he left New Zealand was because of the lack and funding help he got for skating in the country.ADVERTISEMENT

Chad Ford is well known in the international skating scene and event director of the Bowlzilla skating competition and series.

He said the government needed to start being proactive, as riders like Bowman and Shaun have the skill but need to be able to get out to more international events and promote themselves.

“They need to get out there but it’s hard to get out there and get the funds to do those things.”

He said there was a fairly clear pathway for them to have a shot at the Olympics but the government “just aren’t there”.

Ford said it was “amazing” how quickly other governments around the world had stepped up to the challenge and put support around riders.

“Chile put together a 20-something person team, they’ve got all the administration around them to make all of that happen… there’s plenty of countries like that.”

USA and Australia have formed Olympic skateboarding teams. Great Britain also used an Aspiration Fund to fund five skaters in hopes they’ll qualify for the Games.

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Australia is eyeing up our best talent to join their Olympic team.

One is Tommy Fynn, a highly regarded international skateboarder who is currently ranked within the top 20 international street skaters.

Fynn was born in South Africa before moving to New Zealand at the age of 10, where he was first introduced to skateboarding. Seven years later he moved to Brisbane.

Ford said Fynn has New Zealand citizenship and has the potential to medal but Australia offered him citizenship, so he took it to compete within their athlete pool.

Bowman Hansen said he had also been offered full citizenship from Australia.

“It was when I put that information on the table to New Zealand they thought oh – maybe we should help our people.”

He said the country was so behind in support “it was rubbish”.

He turned down the offer from Australia.

“I’ve always wanted to back New Zealand… If New Zealand’s not going to try and help me on my Olympic campaign, I’m still going to try and find a way to fund it myself.”

Hansen had cracked ribs, was training up to 12 hours a day and wasn’t bothered about misconceptions of the sport.

“I love this sport… however somebody that doesn’t even understand what skateboarding wants to judge it from what they’ve heard… that’s their own opinion.”

Bowman Hansen / Caleb Smith for Manual Magazine
Bowman Hansen / Caleb Smith for Manual Magazine

We have the right environment to breed great skaters

Driving through every rural town or city in New Zealand, there’s always some form of skatepark or facility.

Ford said skateboarding has always resonated well with New Zealanders and they’ve always engaged with the sport.

He said it was harder for us to get out on the global stage and go further with a career because of our far away location.

“Some skaters feel because they’re in New Zealand they’re not really that great so it’s not worth having a shot at – but they are really good.

“New Zealand has put a lot of money into supporting lots of other sports that don’t really have that much of a chance [in the Olympics] but they do because it’s tradition.

“Skateboarding – they’ve got a chance. They’ve got skaters who will actually place higher than most of the athletes in any other events.

“They’re not expediting the processes to help these skaters realise their potential and try and do the best for their country.”

Will funding ramp up?

Shaun Boucher was ready to start his campaign to represent New Zealand and said it was going to be “interesting and exciting” to see where skating goes after its debut.

“I think overall it’s going to publicise it and hopefully New Zealand sport will actually get on board and back it and we actually get some funding.”

Shaun Boucher at BOWLZILLA Wellington 2019 / Supplied: Caleb Smith for Manual Magazine
Shaun Boucher at BOWLZILLA Wellington 2019 / Supplied: Caleb Smith for Manual Magazine

Ford, Hansen and Boucher said Skateboarding NZ, the controlling body of the sport, was doing as much as they could to help and try get skaters on the world stage.

Skateboarding’s currently absent from High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) funding list.

HPSNZ decide to invest in sport through different ways, like past performance, future potential and if there are any upcoming “campaigns” like the Olympics.

Scott Cresswell, general manager of performance partnerships at HPSNZ, said while they don’t provide high performance funding, Sport NZ was working with the sport.

“This includes monitoring the progress of the athletes and supporting planning towards qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”