Island skateboarder named to national team ahead of Tokyo Olympics

The Island, known as a retirement haven, continues to play against type when it comes to the hipster-type sports making their Olympic debuts this summer in Tokyo.

Canada Skateboard announced its first national team with Shay Sandiford of Courtenay named to the eight-member street squad. The other four are on the bowl, or park, team. Other skaters from B.C. selected are Ryan Decenzo and Micky Papa of Vancouver and Matt Berger of Kamloops in street and Andy Anderson of White Rock and James Clarke of Vancouver in park.

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Unlike the usual boarding Olympians from the Comox Valley — including 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games gold-medallist Cassie Sharpe — Sandiford didn’t nail his landings on the snow of Mount Washngton. He landed them on cement in skate parks all over the region and on a plywood halfpipe, completely under roof, his father constructed in the backyard of the family home.

The 23-year-old graduate of G.P. Vanier Secondary is now based in Southern California, where the sport first rose to pop-culture consciousness in the 1960s.

As a sign of the sport’s growth competitively and recreationally, a $3-million skateboard and bike park is going into Topaz Park. Sandiford did much of his formative skating in the Comox-Courtenay Outdoor Skateboard Park, the largest on the Island, and located on Lerwick Road next to Mark Isfeld Secondary School. He obviously learned well.

The qualifying process spanned 2019 and 2020, and like Tokyo Olympic qualifying in many sports, it was impeded by the pandemic. But despite the difficulties, 12 skated well enough to make Canada’s inaugural national team. The boarders who will make the trip to Tokyo will be announced in July.

Skateboarding joins surfing, wall climbing, karate, baseball and softball as sports added for the Tokyo Games. Teen-prodigy Mathea Olin and eight-time Canadian men’s champion Pete Devries, both of Tofino, the spiritual home of surfing in Canada, and Victoria born-and-raised Paige Alms, a bigwave surfer based in Maui, are in the hunt to make the Canadian surf team for the Tokyo Games.

The Island has also been on the leading edge of sport climbing. Twelve of the 40 qualifiers from around the world for the Tokyo Olympics, including Canadians Sean McColl and Alannah Yip, have trained at Boulders Gym in Central Saanich with coach Libor Hroza.

More than 75 Island or Island-based athletes are expected to compete this summer in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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