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Skateboard Terrain Park World Championships come to SLC, and they’ll be back

Surprises, a sweep and a monster crowd for the first-ever event in the U.S.

American skateboarder Alex Sorgente earned a silver medal in the finals of the Van Park Series World Championships at the Utah State Fair Park Saturday.
Anthony Acosta

SALT LAKE CITY — Alex Sorgente wasn’t a favorite to earn a podium at Saturday’s Van Park Series Terrain Park World Championship.

But that’s the beauty of skateboarding. A little creativity, a great atmosphere and a big prize can be powerful inspiration. In a weekend of big surprises and packed grandstands at the state’s new Vans-Utah Sports Commission Terrain Park, Sorgente proved why he is among the U.S. favorites to make the sport’s first Olympic team.

Sweden’s Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg, 22, won Saturday’s final, but the 21-year-old earned silver. It was Sorgente’s first podium on the Vans Park Series — and earning it at the World Championships was even sweeter.

Hallberg’s victory was a bit of a shock as he’s ranked 35th. Sorgente hasn’t earned a spot on the podium of the Vans Park Series, but he’s been earning medals in plenty of other contests, and it’s helped him to a No. 3 ranking. He is no stranger to the podium in the Vans Park Series World Championships, however, as he won the championship last year, and he won it in 2016.

“It feels good to be back on the podium,” he said. “These events are probably the best ones going on for park skate, for atmosphere and everything. It’s run by skaters, you know, so it’s the way skaters would want to be. ... It’s cool, mellow, relaxed. It’s a skater’s vibe.”

Sorgente took up skateboarding when a friend introduced him to it around age 6. Interestingly, it was falling on his first trip down his friend’s homemade ramp that hooked him.

“I was like, ‘This is sick,’” he said laughing. The Florida native played other sports, including football, but the freedom of skateboarding lured him away from traditional sports.

“I was kind of over it because you had to go there at a certain time, be there, a coach telling you what to do, and you have to rely on other players,” he said. “Skating is you.”

The inclusion of terrain park skateboarding in the 2020 Olympic Games has certainly raised the sport’s profile. And it’s changed the way some people approach the events, which are equal parts competition and cultural celebration.

“There are all these qualifying events, all over the world,” he said. “I had to go to China, next week I go to Brazil. There was one in Long Beach, California, over the summer, and there are so many people from all over the world. ... They’re trying to make it to the Games.”
He said there is a wide range of ability now as countries try to develop athletes who can qualify for the Games.

“Skating is all for fun,” Sargento said when asked if it had changed the way he approached competition. “We just ride our skateboards.”

Sargento is a member of the U.S. team, and he would like to represent his country in the Games.

“I’d be super honored to represent my country,” he said. “I just treat it like another contest, honestly.”

Like most skaters, Sargento relies on sponsorships and prize money to pay his bills. He said the Vans-Utah Sports Commission Terrain Park was a lot of fun for skaters.

“People in Salt Lake are going to be stoked,” he said, noting they proved themselves to be great fans in the two-day competition. “They were yelling so loud at every trick. The crowd was into it for sure.”

Taking third place in the men’s championship was Tristan Rennie, 21, from the U.S., who is ranked 13th, and then 16-year-old CJ Collins, ranked 63rd, earned fourth place in Saturday’s thrilling final. In all, six Americans placed in the top 10 of the men’s competition. The big shock of the weekend was when Brazil’s Pedro Barros, an icon and top contender, failed to qualify for Saturday’s final.

The women’s final featured a Japanese sweep of the podium. Sakura Yosozumu, 17, (ranked 23rd) won the event, while Kokona Hiraki, 11, (ranked 78th), earned the silver medal. The big surprise was 17-year-old Mama Tezuka, currently ranked No. 116, who earned a third-place finish.

The top American finisher was Kody Tamanaha, 15, who is ranked 182nd, and she earned a fifth-place finish. In all, three American women finished in the top 10, while four Japanese competitors earned top-10 finishes.

There were some injuries in the semifinals that kept some of the top or more well-established athletes from competing, according to Bobby Gascon, global director of sports marketing at Vans.

“It definitely shows the talent of the next generation that’s creeping up and taking over,” he said. “So it was already kind of a changing of the guard in the talent that we’re seeing, which is incredible.”

He said some of the athletes told him the combination of a new, very enticing park and the possibility of earning a World Championship caused many to “go all out.”

“They went all out because they love the park, they love the infrastructure, and they just tried things they’d never done before,” he said. “I knew as soon as I came out for the ribbon-cutting and saw the appreciation of the community, I knew that today would be special. The people of Salt Lake have just been so phenomenal, and we’re just so grateful to be part of the community here, as well.

And this weekend’s event won’t be the last time you see the world’s top skaters vying for its top titles.

“We’re back next year for the 2020 World Championships in Salt Lake City for sure,” he said smiling.