Skateboarding: New-look Somerset Skatepark to host Asia's top athletes

19-year-old skateboarder Janiel Irishzan skates at the revamped Somerset skatepark pictured on March 6, 2020. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Shoppers at Singapore's retail district will be able to catch some of Asia's best skateboarders execute flips and ollies when the Asian Street Skateboarding Championship is held at the newly-revamped Somerset Skatepark from March 17 to 21.

Some 50 athletes from around the world will be in town for the event, which is also a qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympic Games. While the field will be confirmed only later this week, the current entries include 15-year-old Zeng Wenhui of China, who was fourth in the freestyle skating event at the 2018 Asian Games and finished 12th at last year's Street League World Championship.

Local skateboarder Feroze Rahman, who won gold at the 2011 Asian X Games, also be skating for honours. With Singapore last hosting the Singapore Extreme Championship 11 years ago, the 29-year-old said the Asian Championship is long overdue here.

"It's definitely good because these contests should ideally have happened years ago so it's a step in the right direction," said Feroze, who finished seventh in the men's street event at last December's SEA Games in the Philippines.

"It will open the eyes of the local skaters and let them experience and see the standards of overseas competitions. Going for such competitions has helped me discover where I am and what I need to do to improve after that."

The five-day event at the new skatepark is a collaboration between the National Youth Council and Millennial Events, an urban sports events company.

At least 35 local skaters will compete in the Singapore Skateboarding Championship, which is sanctioned by international governing body World Skate, for six sports in the Asian Championship.

Muhammad Kenny Kamil, 17, is looking forward to the opportunity to learn from the best skateboarders in the region.

"I'm looking forward to competing, gaining some experience, and seeing how the international people skate, their competition strategy and how fast they can do tricks in one minute," said Kenny, who took part in the Asian Youth Camp in China last July and won a bronze.

The Institute of Technical Education College Central student is also excited to compete at the revamped skatepark, which has new features such as a larger hubbas - a ledge - on the stairs, a corner pyramid with ramps and hips for better transitions between objects, as well as a new rail to test the limits of skateboarders.

Kenny, who has already skated there several times, said: "I'm happy that they've changed it and it's better because there are more people coming down.

"Before that, it was very boring, but (with the new features) we all can challenge ourselves and learn more."

The Asian Championship is one of five categories that count towards the Olympic World Skateboarding Rankings. They are the World Championships, Pro Tour Events, Five-Star Events, Continental Championships and National Championships.

Winning national championships such as the Singapore Skateboarding Championship will earn athletes 3,330 points, while top spot at the continental championships is worth 13,330 points. A victory at the World Championships awards 80,000 points.

Sixteen skaters will qualify for the July 24-Aug 9 Olympics through the world rankings, while the top three at the 2020 World Skate World Skateboarding Championship will earn their tickets to Tokyo.

Skateboarding is among five sports that will make their debut at the Olympics this year, with a total of 80 skateboarders to compete in the women's and men's street and park disciplines. The other sports are baseball/softball, karate, sports climbing and surfing.

Next week's event will adopt temperature checks for spectators and athletes as part of precautionary measures to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. Organisers told The Straits Times that entry will be denied to those who are unwell and have had recent travel history to mainland China, Iran, northern Italy or South Korea within the last 14 days. They have also recommended that those who have been placed on leave of absence should avoid attending the event.

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