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Vancouver skateboarders zero in on Olympic shot

When Andy Anderson and Adam Hopkins first got hooked on skateboarding, never in their wildest dreams could either have imagined they’d one day be vying for a spot on Canadian Olympic team.

But pandemic willing, that’s exactly what the two Vancouver-based skaters are going after, not to mention the opportunity to make a little history with the sport of skateboarding debuting at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“It’s kind of crazy to be here at this point with Olympics being on the table,” said Hopkins, 30. “That was never something I really thought about. I was more on the road — traveling, filming videos, shooting photos, doing that kind of thing.”

“It’s really interesting,” said Anderson. “Nothing’s really changed except how much respect I get from other people. I’m still just a skateboarder, but now that this sport is in the Olympics people want to get me on the news!”

Respect hasn’t always flowed to skateboarders, especially from people who buy into some of the unkind stereotypes around the sport.

And it’s not lost on 24-year-old Anderson how ironic it is that the town he grew up in — White Rock, B.C. — had bylaws that made street skateboarding illegal.

In fact, a few years ago, while en route to receive a special commendation from the mayor for winning the world freestyle skateboard title in Japan, a fellow citizen threatened to have him arrested.

In contrast, Hopkins honed his skills in a place where skating was encouraged: the family barn in his hometown of Thunder Bay.

That’s where his dad built a vert ramp and where he laid the foundation that has propelled him to the top of the sport and his mastery of some of the biggest and most difficult tricks.

Reluctant to talk about himself — “In skateboarding you’re more humble,” says Hopkins  — he also gives credit to those who had the vision to build the Hastings Skatepark in East Vancouver, recognized as a world-class facility and key to his and Anderson’s development.

Some purists aren’t keen on the Olympic “sportification” of skateboarding, with its unavoidable emphasis on rules and judges and structure. But Hopkins sees it as a way to open doors.

“I guess it’s legitimizing for a certain segment of the population, 100 per cent. There’s a lot of benefits to that, like getting skatepark facilities, getting indoor facilities built,” he said.

The Tokyo Olympics will showcase two events for men and women: street and park, the latter being the focus for both Anderson and Hopkins.

A calendar of international qualifying events to choose 20 competitors for each discipline is still being nailed down because of the uncertainty COVID-19 has thrown into the mix. Adam Higgins, Canada Skateboard director of high performance, thinks if all goes well, Canada could qualify as many as seven or eight skaters for Tokyo.

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