TOKYO: British skateboarding sensation Sky Brown, 13, qualified second for the women's park final as she bids to become the youngest gold medallist in Olympic history on Wednesday.
Brown was flawless in the three runs of her heat to register a best score of 57.40, trailing 15-year-old Japanese Misugu Okamoto (58.51) into the final at Tokyo's sun-baked Ariake Urban Sports Park.
Japan's Kokona Hiraki placed third in the heats among an ultra-young field where only eight of the 20 competitors were out of their teens.
Both Brown, at 13 years and 28 days, and Hiraki (12 years and 343 days) can become the youngest Olympic gold medallist, breaking the record of American diver Marjorie Gestring, who won 3m springboard gold aged 13 years and 268 days at the Berlin 1936 Games.
Brown, Britain's youngest-ever Olympian, is competing just over a year after a horrific fall in training left her with skull fractures and a broken wrist and hand.
The accident would have ruled Brown, just 11 at the time, out of the 2020 Olympics if they had not been postponed for a year over the coronavirus pandemic.
Brown, born to a Japanese mother and a British father, opted to compete for Britain in 2019, preferring the more relaxed approach of the British team.
"I chose to compete for Britain because they told me 'Have fun, there's no pressure!'" Brown, then 10, said at the time.
Japan have won three of the six medals so far in skateboarding, which is making its debut as an Olympic sport as organisers try to reach new audiences.
Brown, just 11 at the time, suffered skull fractures and a broken wrist and hand in June 2020 when she took off for an air and plunged into the gap between two half-pipes, landing on her head.
The Japan-born skater, who has said her helmet saved her life, was urged to give up the sport but just over a year later she claimed bronze as skateboarding makes its Olympic debut.
Brown admitted there was a time when she did not know if she would skate at the Olympics, but that ultimately the "accident made me stronger".
"I didn't know if I would skate really. My parents were saying 'Don't skate, do something else,'" she said at Tokyo's Ariake Urban Sports Park, her bronze medal around her neck.
"But I'm so happy to be here. I honestly feel like the accident made me stronger."
Brown, aged 13 years and 28 days, was in line to break an 85-year-old record as the youngest Olympic champion, attempting to lower the mark set by American diver Marjorie Gestring, who won 3m springboard gold aged 13 years and 268 days in 1936.
The Briton was not even the youngest skater on the podium after the women's park event -- Japan's Kokona Hiraki took silver at 12 years and 343 days, behind her gold-winning teammate Sakura Yosozumi, 19.
Brown is already eyeing more glory at the Paris Olympics in 2024, when she hopes to compete in both skateboarding and surfing.
"Maybe. I really hope so, I'm definitely going to try (to compete in) surfing," she said.
Brown, however, may face a roadblock with the surfing contested in Tahiti, nearly 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) from the French capital.
- 'You've got it, Sky' -
In an unusually close-knit sport, Brown disclosed how encouragement from gold-medallist Yosozumi, a close friend, helped her recover from two falls in the final and secure her redemptive bronze.
"Sakura said, 'You've got it Sky, I know you're going to make it', and that really made me feel better," said Brown, who twice failed attempting a kickflip indy.
"I was a little nervous but I'm happy to be here and honestly, I just wanted to land my trick. I didn't really care what place I got, I wanted to land my trick."
The strong closing routine made her Britain's youngest medallist, surpassing swimmer Sarah Hardcastle, who won two medals aged 15 in 1984.
Skateboarding is one of a group of new sports aimed at promoting the Olympics among younger audiences, and the all-teenage podium certainly had a youthful feel with a combined age of 44.
Brown did not even appear to recognise International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, 67, who spoke to her before the medal ceremony.
"Sorry, who?" she said.
Brown added: "I really hope I inspire young girls. I feel like people aren't too young that they can't do it, but if you believe in yourself you can do anything.
"Anyone can do skateboarding. You don't have to be of a certain height or have to be a certain age, you can do it whenever you want. You've just got to skate and go for it."