Skate contests are usually structured in three to four rounds, each with two to three runs that last between 45 and 60 seconds. Judging is based on a 100-point scale, with five scores awarded for each run; the highest and lowest of those are dropped, and the remaining three scores are averaged for a final score. In the Olympics, it’ll be more or less the same. Eighty athletes from around the world will compete in two disciplines: park and street skating. (Park skating uses features like the halfpipe and the quarterpipe and is similar to the kind of skating seen in local parks.) Both competitions will have two rounds—preliminaries and finals—where skaters are given two 45-second runs, along with five attempts to perform their best trick. Skaters choose their own routines, which are judged on a 10-point scale for flow, timing, and consistency, as well as difficulty and originality.
Despite now being an organized sport, skateboarding has continued to push against what’s typically expected of sports and athletes, from the clothes skaters wear and their attitude toward competition to the way the tricks are assessed. Even with its arrival at the Olympics, Duran doesn’t think the sport will change from its roots anytime soon. She likens skateboarding and skate culture to a growing tree: “The cultural roots are the core of the tree, and the branches are the skaters. They can branch out as far as they want to go.” She notes, however, that she’s seen among skaters an increased emphasis on training and eating healthy to help increase endurance.
While Duran sees herself as a skater first and foremost, she does acknowledge the responsibility she has in representing female athletes, especially at her level. With its debut at the Games, Duran is hopeful that even more people will be inspired to give it a try. “It’s always intimidating to enter a new sport, but you get what you put in,” she says. “If you want to push your skateboarding to a crazy elite level, then do it. If you just want to cruise down the street, then do it. There’s no right or wrong way.”
For Duran, though, the main objective is reaching her personal best. She often brings up how important it is to be focused on the present when skating and going into a major competition. At the Olympics, Duran says the hardest part will be drowning out the external pressures and anticipation, and dedicating her attention solely to the moves in her run.
She wonders how the Games will change her own self as much as her career. “I’m excited to meet the Mariah Duran after the Olympics,” she says. “I guarantee she’s gonna go through so much.”