Misugu Okamoto took the skateboarding world by surprise in 2019 when she showed up for the first practice at Dew Tour. Not quite 13-years-old at the time, the Japanese tween dropped in and started blasting judo airs, varials, and the biggest 540s ever seen from a female skater.

She went on to win the semifinal by an unheard-of 15 point margin over 2nd place finisher Brighton Zeuner, then won the final by 8.16 points over 2nd place finisher Lizzie Armanto, absolutely demolishing the competition to kick off the qualifying process for the Tokyo Olympics. Shy, serious, intense, entirely humble –– and, um, 12 years old –– she didn’t know what to make of all the attention that came next, especially since she didn’t even feel as if she’d skated her best. Instead of celebrating, she bowed to thank the crowd and judges, then put her head down to focus on how to improve.

A few weeks later she was the top qualifier at X Games, then won X Games. In the coming months she went on to win the International Skateboarding Open in Nanjing, China; the World Skate Park World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and the Oi Stu Open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She’s now the top-ranked skater in the World Skate standings, by a long shot, and will be the gold medal favorite in Tokyo. Since most skateboarding fans still don’t know a lot about her, we reached out with a translation assist from Ray Takahashi to get her story.

What was it like to come over to the United States and kick off the Olympic qualification process on such a big stage at Dew Tour? Can you walk us through some of the emotions you were feeling as you arrived, started practicing, and then progressed through the semifinal and final?
There was a lot going through my head even before the contest and I was definitely nervous from the beginning. I had so much to worry about. I didn’t know if I would be able to drop in enough with such a large number of people for practice to get the tricks I wanted with the limited amount of practice. That’s always my struggle: I need to work on my ability to make small adjustments when I go to different parks. With all that in mind, when I made the finals I was super happy and was committed to give all I have with a perfect run for the finals. As a result, my commitment paid off. I was super amped to make a debut win at the Dew Tour.

Did you surprise yourself, coming to California and winning that first big contest in a major upset win over all the top skaters, or did you come into it with a lot of confidence, knowing you had the 540 and a run you felt would be strong?
Honestly, the 540 was something I practiced for over one year in a vert ramp, but aside from the vert ramp I skate every day, I didn’t do them anywhere else too much. I was concerned that the practice for the 540 would take up too much time to put it in my routine, so no confidence there! I was actually surprised to get the 540 and come through with the win. It didn’t feel real at all. Took some time to really sink in.

Rewind a little bit: can you fill us in on where you come from, how you first got into skateboarding, and how you learned the 540?
I come from Gifu Japan. I fell in love with skateboarding when my brother was skating. It was so difficult and it challenged me. I was completely hooked. From there, I skated every day at HI-5 Skatepark where the TRIFORCE crew runs their skate academy. I am now living with the TRIFORCE crew to get coaching every day. Everything that I’ve learned and will learn in the future is from the crew, including my 540s. My progression would not exist without these guys and I really appreciate them. There are some young kids, seven and 10-year-olds, that are learning new tricks including 540s with the TRIFORCE crew and it is insane to watch them progress every day. It isn’t just about tricks either. I learned everything from the basics to style with the crew.

What’s something about skateboarding, completely separate from contests and the competitive side of things, that is playful and fun for you and brings you pure joy? What do you love most about skateboarding?
I am always scared to commit to landing a trick, even outside of the contest scene. It takes a lot of time for me to overcome that fear. My pure joy definitely comes from the moment when I land something new. It’s the best feeling ever.

Last year you went on to win every single international contest you entered after Dew Tour. You’re currently the #1 ranked women’s park skater in the Olympic qualification process. But I’ve noticed that you can also be very hard on yourself, very self-critical, even as you’re winning all these contests. Where do that mindset and personal drive for perfection come from?
I actually get too excited and become satisfied too easily. If I end up there and am unguided, there would be no progression for me. I try to stay calm at all times to make the right decisions. The crew keeps me on track at times like this and without their guidance, I would not have been able to get the wins after Dew Tour, either.

What was the response like in Japan as you were winning all those contests last year? What kinds of questions do journalists in Japan ask you?
Lots of people tell me “congrats,” “saw you on the news,” “keep it up” after the wins and it always helps me to think better for the future. It really pushes me. Most of the questions from the journalists are Olympic related but it’s tough for us skaters because no one is qualified for sure until one month prior to the games, even if you’re ranked #1 for World Skate.

What’s your relationship like with some of the other Japanese skaters, like Cocona Hiraki who finished 3rd at Dew Tour, and Sakura Yosozumi who is #2 in the World Skate rankings? Is there real rivalry there, or do you feel like part of a team heading towards the Olympics together? Do you feel any additional pressure to do well knowing that the Olympic debut of skateboarding will be in your home country?
No rivalry there to be honest. It always feels good to win but my real rivalry is within myself. So the battle is internal. As for the Olympics, no added pressure for now. I try to think of it as just another contest. To be honest, I haven’t watched the Olympics too much in the past either so it helps me think it’s not a big deal, haha. I am definitely excited for it if I qualify.

What are some new tricks you’ve been working on, or specific goals you set for yourself coming into 2020, or now that you have one more year to prepare for the Olympics?
I’ve been working on some new ones for sure but can’t claim them yet until I get a contest make.

What has it meant to you to have support from some core skate companies in the U.S.?
I am super honored to be on the Santa Cruz and DC teams. I love the brands and they’ve always been my go-to since day one. My SC Minions trip to Santa Cruz was fun and I hope there are more opportunities like it in the future. I can’t wait to become more involved.

Now that all the contests have been put on hold, how have you been spending your time? Have you been skating? Are there other things that you’re passionate about besides skateboarding?
My passion goes to skateboarding 100%. Now that I have some more time I am trying to catch up on homework but there’s no passion there!

How has coronavirus affected your community at home? What’s the situation like there right now?
School has been out for almost 2 months now. With the deaths caused by the virus worldwide, I am being very cautious to stay safe and not to spread the virus. I hope we get through this soon.

Is there anything about this pause in the contest calendar that you have welcomed, or that has helped give you any new perspective on skateboarding or the world or anything else?
I feel pressured from the pause. It means I need to progress more, now that there is time. The situation has also made me realize how much I need to appreciate the access to the skateparks around the world and the interactions with all of the skaters there. I miss the skateparks and my friends.

What’s something you would like skateboarding fans to know about you that people might not already know about?
I am not alone. I appreciate the crew supporting me and will continue to progress as much as I can. I can’t wait to see what the future brings to us.


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I am super honored to receive the SKATER OF THE YEAR award at the Japan Action Sports Awards 2019. Thank you for your support🙏 @mktaxi.jp @santacruzskateboards @santacruzwmns @independenttrucks @rictawheels @bronsonspeedco @dcshoes_japan @dc_skateboarding @hi_5.skatepark @division_osaka @triforce_krew #6556skateboarding #Repost @japanasa_org ・・・ JAPAN ACTION SPORTS AWARDS 2019 「SKATER of the YEAR(WOMAN)」に岡本 碧優(おかもと みすぐ)さんが受賞しました! . 『X GAMES』などの国際大会5連勝中。スケートボードパーク部門で、今、向かうところ敵無しの13歳スケートボーダーです。 . . . @Misugu Okamoto #JASA #JASA2019 #JapanActionSportsAwards2019 #ジャパンアクションスポーツアワード2019 #アクションスポーツの日 #skateboard #スケートボード #snowboard #スノーボード #surfing #サーフィン #BMX #2020東京五輪 #2020東京オリンピック ##2020TokyoOlympics #岡本碧優 #MisuguOkamoto #OkamotoMisugu

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