24 Jun 2024, 10:19

'Speechless' Palmer back from injuries for Olympic skateboarding defence

SYDNEY, June 24, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Australia's Keegan Palmer said he was "speechless" after battling through a succession of serious injuries to ensure he will defend his Olympic skateboarding gold medal in Paris next month.

Palmer nailed a stunning kickflip 540 under pressure to claim the inaugural men's park title in Tokyo three years ago, but has struggled in the lead-up to Paris.

The 21-year-old told The Australian newspaper on Monday that he broke his left knee this year, then tore his right one in March, but nevertheless managed to win the final Olympic qualifier series in Budapest over the weekend.

"I have no words, no words, I am just speechless," he said, admitting he feared he may not be physically ready in time.

"I had lots of injuries this year, the last two contests I have been injured and I am just happy (to be here). I can still do it, it has been very stressful."

Skateboarding made its debut as an Olympic sport in Tokyo and has been retained as organisers attempt to reach new and younger audiences.

It features two disciplines -- park and street -- with athletes judged on the degree of difficulty, speed and range of their moves.

Japan won the other three gold medals in Tokyo, but that dominance could be threatened with Australian 14-year-old Arisa Trew winning the women's park event in the qualifier series.

"I'm just going to improve on everything," Trew said of what she will be working on over the next few weeks.

"When people see me in Paris I want them to recognise me because of my skating and my 540s and my pink helmet, and just me being me."

Japan's Olympic champion Yuto Horigome, 25, and 14-year-old Yoshizawa Coco took out the men's and women's street events in Budapest respectively to book their places.

Skateboarding will be held at Place de la Concorde in the heart of the French capital from July 27.