Olympics-Skateboarding-Teen skaters from Japan, Brazil clinch top spots ahead of finals

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By Mari Saito

TOKYO (Reuters) -A roster of teen skateboarders that included Japan's Funa Nakayama and Brazilian phenom Rayssa Leal clinched top spots in the preliminary heats to advance to the women's street finals on Monday.

The street event is notable for the youth of its competitors. Japan's Nakayama and Momiji Nishiya are 16 and 13 respectively and Leal is also 13 years old.

During the heats Leal managed two flawless runs, while China's Zeng Wenhui, 16, impressed by landing technically complicated tricks that lit up the commentators.

Also making the cut were Roos Zwetsloot from the Netherlands and Margielyn Didal of the Philippines.

Japan's Aori Nishimura, who came in fifth to advance to the finals, struggled to land her first three tricks, but regained her form by nailing a backside K grind and a half cab noseslide on her final attempts.

"I'm relieved," the 19-year-old told reporters on the sidelines of the preliminaries, wearing an all-white cap over her platinum blonde hair. Nishimura said she hurt herself practicing on Sunday, but put that out of her mind during the tense heats.

Skaters from Brazil and Japan have dominated street skateboarding since the sport debuted at the Olympics on Sunday.

Japan's Yuto Horigome made history on Sunday by winning the first gold medal https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/skateboarding-horigome-wins-first-olympic-gold-skateboarding-2021-07-25 of skateboarding at the Olympics, landing a series of technical tricks while braving Tokyo's relentless heat https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/skateboarding-skaters-battle-under-brutal-tokyo-heat-inaugural-games-2021-07-25. Brazil's Kelvin Hoefler won silver in the contest.

Brazil's Leal has said her skateboarding career began in earnest six years ago after Tony Hawk shared a video of her skating in a fairy costume. The two met up earlier this week at the Olympic venue, with Leal posting an Instagram video of the two fist-bumping on the side of the street course.

On Monday athletes competed in front of empty stands without roars of approval from fans when they landed difficult moves.

The lack of spectators - enforced due to a uptick in COVID-19 cases in the capital - did affect Nishimura, but she said she accepted it as part of these unusual Games.

"Even without spectators, I'm trying to enjoy the mood here and skate my own way," she said.

(Reporting by Mari Saito, Editing by Michael Perry and Karishma Singh)

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