SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Brazil’s 15-year-old skateboarding sensation Rayssa Leal, one of the favorites to win a gold medal in the street event at the Paris Olympics next year, won her first Pan American Games crown on Saturday. The sport is debuting in the largest multisport event on the continent.
The teenager nicknamed “Fadinha” (Little Fairy in Portuguese) has become one of the biggest names in the sport since she won a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She showcased her board flips, slides and grinds to score a total of 236.98 points in Santiago.
Her compatriot and friend Pamela Rosa finished with the silver medal, 25 points behind. American Paige Heyn, another 15-year-old, won the bronze medal.
Dressed in black, Leal looked effortless throughout the competition, spending more time on her cellphone than watching her adversaries. A different scenario awaits the Brazilian in Paris, with her most likely rival being once again 16-year-old Momiji Nishiya of Japan, the gold medalist at the sport’s Olympic debut in Tokyo.
“This does help me get more confidence for Paris,” Leal told journalists. “The Olympics and the Pan American Games are different from the tournaments I usually compete. It is less about being playful. Being here today helps me prepare better for what is to come next year.”
Leal is Brazil’s youngest-ever Olympic medalist. Three years since Tokyo, she no longer displays a braces-filled smile and doesn’t dance as much between runs. But her talents continue to spark the skateboarding frenzy among tens of thousands of teenagers back home.
In April, the Brazilian returned to Japan and took the X Games title for a second time. She is second in the World Skate rankings behind Nishiya.
Brazilian fans first saw Leal in a video when she was just a 7-year-old attempting a heel flip over three stairs while wearing a blue dress. She tumbled twice, but on the third attempt — wearing wings — landed perfectly. American skateboard legend Tony Hawk shared the clip of what he called a “fairytale heelflip” on social media.
The men’s final for street skateboarding at the Pan American Games will take place later on Saturday.
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