MILWAUKEE — For the first time ever, skateboarding is an Olympic sport. Skating came a long way from its start in the 1970s, and now it is being featured on the world's biggest stage.
In Milwaukee, this is a point of pride for long-time skater, Jeff Gozdowiak.
“They’re out there working as hard as anybody else in any other sport that’s out there," Gozdowiak, the owner of Four Seasons Skate Park in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley neighborhood, said. “Everything those guys do, are things I will never ever, ever accomplish, so to me even seeing the guy that finished last like it’s, you know, it’s amazing.”
Gozdowiak said he has a seen a decline in overall attendance at Four Seasons. The Tokyo Olympics could be a way to get more people skating at his park.
"I'm hoping that it gets more kids in general just fired up to what skateboarding is. And to me, it's a community. It's about being with your friends. It's the place where you fit in, where you maybe, you don’t fit in other places," he said.
This isn't to say that skating is on the decline. After all, it's officially an Olympic sport now. However, he doesn't see the same fervor that the late 90s and early 2000s had.
However, the Olympic effect might already be working.
Weston Teska, 9, was at a skate camp at Four Seasons Monday morning.
"It's really awesome. I really want to learn how to skateboard," he said.
Teska said he wanted to watch the skateboarding events, but he missed them. Still, he wants to learn how because of what he has seen as his friends pick up the sport too.
Skateboarding's introduction to the Tokyo games has made an impact on both experienced and beginner skaters. In a sense, it legitimizes the sport too. No longer is skateboarding a "punk" or "angsty" teen thing to do. Around the Milwaukee area, there are at least six skate parks in Brookfield, Wauwatosa, Oak Creek, Milwaukee, Delafield and West Allis.
"To see it so accepted is still wild to me," Gozdowiak said.
These are Olympians after all. They are elite athletes with strict diets, workout routines, work ethics, impeccable technical ability, stamina, and so much more that qualifies them as elite athletes.
Skateboarding has come a long way since Alan Gelfand and Rodney Mullen invented the ollie back in the 1980s.
"New kids look at the guys older than them. They take their stuff and put their spin on it, so it's always going to keep escalating," Gozdowiak said.
The sky is the limit for skateboarding now.