Skateboarder Rayssa Leal’s victory at the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, made the country proud of the 13-year-old girl who brought home the silver medal. Alongside Letícia Bufoni and Pâmela Rosa, Leal represented Brazilian female skateboarding. But the sport shows that the reality of skaters in the country is not just flowers.
:: Tokyo Olympics starts with anti-racist demonstrations and fight against covid; see photos ::
In an interview with Brazil in fact, skateboarder Vitória Mendonça, champion of the 2017 Brazilian Women’s Skate Championship and member of the Brazilian Women’s Street Team in 2018, spoke about her career, the Tokyo Olympics and how to follow the profession of skateboarding in Brazil is still a challenge, mainly for women.
At 21, 14 of them dedicated to skateboarding, Mendonça is now part of the official Latin American team at Adidas Skateboarding, where he continues to practice skateboarding. street, after having participated in several regional championships.
Check out the full interview:
Brasil de Fato: What was your reaction watching Rayssa Leal’s victory in women’s skateboarding?
Vitória Mendonça: I was very happy, because I have followed Rayssa’s trajectory since she was very young and she is always the same child she always was, always having fun, always humble, talking to everyone. It’s very gratifying, I was really happy, because it’s the future.
The new generations of skateboarding and I see that the sport is in good hands. Just for the interview she gave praising the women who came before her generation and being grateful for that… So it’s in good hands, I was really happy. I don’t think it could have had a better result.
We saw Pamela Rosa, Letícia Bufoni and Rayssa Leal go to Tokyo to represent Brazilian women’s skateboarding, masterfully, despite all the adversities that Brazil imposes on the sport. The Bolsa Atleta includes 80% of the modalities. In other words, 18 of the 33 modalities, with skateboarding being out of this group. How do you assess the skateboarding scene in the country? Is there a lack of incentive? What is missing?
I hope now that you have more encouragement. With Bolsa Atleta there are people who have been benefited, I think Cool because it’s helping a lot. But most skaters can’t afford it. Sometimes, we spend on bus tickets, subway, eating on the street, because sometimes we spend all day on the street. So there has to be minimal conditions to do what we like to do.
The marks are missing. I don’t even say government issue either. Obviously, there is little the government is doing. But, in general, I think there’s a lack of incentive for skateboarding. For other sports I see that there is much more incentive. Skateboarding lacks much more encouragement. Totally different football. There are girls who were there in the Olympic race, who participated in the events to be able to get there at the Olympics, and many did not go to Tokyo because they didn’t have the money to compete abroad.
I saw Virginia’s father [Fortes Águas] posting on social networks about the lack of support in their city, Niterói, because the girl is there, she has already won several championships outside Brazil, and was unable to go abroad. It’s very complicated, there’s a lot of support, incentive for skateboarding.
Besides that everything is expensive, R$ 300 a shape. There is still a lot of encouragement, especially now the dollar as it is. Skateboarding is political too, it’s all involved. The dollar rises, and prices go up.
If you don’t have support, it’s very difficult to go to the regionals. If you don’t have the minimum conditions for a championship in another city, how are you going to compete in a championship outside Brazil? Then you kind of let it go too. It ends up getting discouraged too. It’s a very long road for the guys who enjoy championships to be there.
Skateboarding was an extremely marginalized sport and still carries some stereotypes. It was even banned in São Paulo, for example, in the 1980s, by the then mayor Jânio Quadros. Do you believe that this factor also enters into this lack of incentive?
The police took the skateboard and threw it in the van and that was it. The guys didn’t see the skateboard anymore. Inside the car there were many skateboards, there was no way to arrest someone and put them there, because there was no space. I had to go to the police station to get it. That’s if they did. This went on for some time. Until Erundina came in and ended that ban. Thank you Erundina.
But to this day, cops hate skateboarding. In the Anhangabaú Valley [centro de São Paulo] straight away we are walking there and then the police pass by, commenting ‘a bunch of bums’. They wait for any slight hesitation to get there and give us a hard time or say something nonsense.
Sport is also a sport played mostly by men. How important is it to have women and girls like Rayssa Leal in the Olympics? Remembering that we didn’t have black women on female skateboarding in Tokyo. Do you expect the Olympics to bring a new look to women’s skateboarding in Brazil?
I went for a walk the day after Rayssa’s victory and I’ve seen a lot of girls skateboarding. This is a lot of mass, it only grows and that’s what we most want. And our fight is to have more women skateboarding. Also because when there was an event, a championship, we didn’t have our female category until recently.
And even today there are championships that don’t make the female, and then when we ask questions they say that there are no girls. But no, there are a lot of girls walking around. Then it solves this, then the guys come up with other excuses, that there is no prize or the prize for men is money and for women it is just a piece, when there is a piece. This is recent stuff. In 2019, there was even a situation like this, in a big skateboarding event here in São Paulo, which is held every year. So you can see how far this reality is.
There are no black women skateboarders participating in the Olympics. So it’s obvious that I believe that there could be more opportunities for these things to happen and they don’t, because it’s very expensive to compete in another country, for example. The lack of accessibility makes us, even more black people like me, who came from poor realities, unable to reach these places.
It makes us always have to be twice as good, give our blood, everything we have and still need to be achieved.
You once said skateboarding can take you to places you never imagined. What places?
I say this not only in the way that I have traveled because of skateboarding, to places that financially my family could never afford. However, I also say in a figurative sense. Skateboarding makes us have very crazy experiences. We’re on the street, so we end up witnessing many things, it’s a surreal union. There’s a lot of sharing sneakers, shape… We are always getting stronger. I believe that many things I learned, my character, my ideals, were what skateboarding brought. I don’t say the skateboard, the wood and the wheels, I mean the union. Skateboarding as a culture, the skateboarding culture brought this to me, my ideals.
So I say that skateboarding has taken me to amazing experiences, not only having traveled, I’ve also traveled a lot. In this tour from Adidas, we went to Mexico, Argentina, Barcelona, United States. I can’t wait to end the pandemic and be able to travel again.
Edition: Vivian Virissimo