Shanghai Hosts Olympics Qualifiers for Urban Sports Following F1 Race

Breaking, sport climbing, skateboarding, and BMX freestyle were featured in a boisterous riverside venue

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17 hours ago 1 mins read

Last weekend Shanghai followed up its recent F1 race with the first multi-sports qualifier series in Olympics history. “Break. Climb. Skate. Ride” was the slogan of the day as breaking, sport climbing, skateboarding, and BMX freestyle qualifiers got underway in Huangpu Riverside. 464 athletes (including 18 previous Olympic medalists) and 552 journalists and broadcasters were invited for the festival-style event.

The qualifiers were just the latest indication of the rising profile of these sports in China. Breaking, sport climbing, skateboarding, and BMX freestyle are not exactly conventional sports that average Chinese parents would sign their children up for. On the contrary, some Chinese may even find these sports to be extreme or dangerous in nature. Their inclusion at the Olympics (breaking will make its Olympic debut in Paris, while the other sports were featured for the first time at Tokyo 2020), however, seems to have nudged urban sports out of the underground and into the mainstream in China. For example, Chinese skateboarding coach Tian Ruxin has noted that after skateboarding attained Olympic status, she observed an increase in younger Chinese children practicing the sport because the Chinese community started to value skateboarding more.

The qualifiers included a “sports initiation” section that gave budding athletes the chance to try these urban sports. Gu Weifang, head of the “initiation” section, commented “With the International Olympic Committee placing such a distinguished tournament in Shanghai, [I] hope that these four contemporary sports and their vigor can be promoted among Shanghai youths.”

Indeed, the venue rocked the five Olympic colors in bold, youthful designs. Climbing walls were dramatically framed by Shanghai’s skyscrapers, and the skate park was playfully decorated with prime colors. At the souvenir shop, young Chinese fans snatched up limited edition pins, caps, and skateboards. A nearby post office even featured Olympic stamps and custom postcards, which sold out on the first two days of the qualifiers.

China’s Sun Sibei and Yafei Zhou topped the podium in women’s BMX freestyle and women’s speed climbing, respectively. Qualification continues in Budapest from June 20th to 23rd.

Cover image of Australian’s Arisa Trew via Olympic Information Service.

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