TOKYO (AFP) – Flying Australian teen Keegan Palmer said he was “beyond stoked” after unleashing a top-secret trick to claim the inaugural men’s park skateboarding Olympic gold medal yesterday.
Palmer, 18, threw down the gauntlet with 94.04 points in his first run of the final, before incredibly bettering his score to 95.83 in his third and last run.
That stunning mark came thanks to a kickflip 540 he had been saving for the occasion, after putting “blood, sweat and tears” into practising it.
“My last run, no one had seen it until this day,” said the San Diego-based Palmer, who returned to Australia earlier this year to train for the Games.
“That was the game plan since the start of this year – just have a solid plan and make sure no one knows what’s happening. I came out swinging.”
The spectacular trick comfortably gave Palmer the gold ahead of Brazilian silver medallist Pedro Barros (86.14) and America’s Cory Juneau, who claimed bronze with 84.13.
But Palmer revealed he only managed to master it just weeks before the Games began.
“I never really got it down until I got back to America,” he said. “Just before I came here, I started putting it down on concrete. So to run away with it was pretty insane, and I’m beyond stoked about it.”
American Heimana Reynolds, the world number one and reigning world champion, did not reach the final after failing to complete any of his three rides in qualifying.
The day belonged to Palmer, who was born in the United States and moved to Australia as a baby, before returning to San Diego as a 14-year-old.
“I take myself as full Australian – my accent isn’t so strong so sorry to everyone Australian out there that hears this,” he said.
“It was where everything started – where I learned how to skate, all the hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears. It was almost like I had to bring it back for Australia and I did, so I’m so grateful.”
Luiz Francisco, one of three Brazilians to reach the final, had the best score in qualifying.
He was followed by Australia’s Kieran Woolley, who knocked over a cameraman on one run and shared a fist bump with him afterwards.
Reynolds’ American compatriot Juneau scraped through in eighth, before going on to claim the bronze.
Juneau planted a kiss on Palmer’s head as he walked past him after the medal ceremony, reflecting the good spirit in which the competition was held.
“It just feels amazing to be out here really experiencing this story – something you usually only see in fairytales,” said Barros. “All these athletes competing against each other but really cheering on each other, wanting the best for each other, sharing love.”