Alana Smith and Alexis Sablone are leading the charge for LGBTQ representation in skateboarding for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, which debuts the sport at the Summer Games this year.
Sablone is a queer artist from Brooklyn and the rare athlete who can justifiably claim that making the Olympic squad is only one of several fascinating aspects about her life. She first caught the eye of the skating world as a 16-year-old in 2002 as the only female featured in a famous video entitled “P.J. Ladd’s Wonderful, Horrible Life.”
Despite the difficulty of establishing herself as a woman in skateboarding, Sablone blazed her own trail and eventually took the X Games by storm, racking up three gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes.
“Whenever I was met with that hostility, I feel like that fueled me,” she revealed to GQ’s Noah Johnson. “I liked it because I wanted to prove them wrong.”
Outside of her sport, Sablone earned a Master’s Degree in Architecture from MIT and found work designing skateable public sculptures in Sweden and Brooklyn.
She has also created a lambda-patterned and rainbow-accented Pride skate shoe in partnership with Converse.
Looking ahead to Tokyo, Sablone tried to strike a balance between excitement and keeping a level head.
“After so much build-up and anticipation, a big part of me was looking forward to going, doing my best, and — maybe this sounds weird — getting it over with,” she told GQ.
Her teammate Smith impacted the sport by entering their name in the history books at a young age. As a 12 year old, they took home the silver at X Games Barcelona in 2013, becoming the youngest skateboarder to win a medal in the competition’s history.
Smith, who identifies as bisexual, has also made it their mission to blur gender lines within the sport itself. As early as 2013, an ESPN profile by Isabelle Khurshudyan referred to them as “learning the sport at a younger age than most girls and, as a result, skating with a style that’s more like the boys’.”
“A lot of girls have this same sort of style,” admitted Smith’s skateboarding peer Lyn-z Adams Hawkins Pastrana, “and [Smith] definitely doesn’t. [They] skate like a dude, and that’s a big compliment.”
Stylistically, Smith has broken barriers as the first woman to land a McTwist and the first to perform a backflip in competition. Yet despite those history-making moments, they don’t want to be defined by their gender.
“I don’t want to be known as a good female skateboarder,” Smith declared to USA Skateboarding, “I just want to be known as a good skater, someone that made a difference. Gender shouldn’t matter.”