BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

A First Chance at First Place

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After a year-long postponement, the final countdown to the Tokyo Olympics has officially commenced. You’ve heard of gymnastics, swimming, and track, of course. But this year, the International Olympic Committee is introducing a new batch of sports, including skateboarding, surfing, karate, sport climbing (aka rock climbing), as well as the women’s canoe sprint.

Competing in these sports are a host of Olympians hungry for their long-awaited shot at gold. Below, ELLE.com asked five female first-timers what it was like to train during the pandemic—and what they’ll do if they take home a coveted medal.


SKATEBOARDING

Footage courtesy of Red Bull.

brighton zeuner

Getty Images

At just 16 years old, Brighton Zeuner is one of the country’s best skaters. She became the youngest X Games champion at age 13 and is a regular at the Vans Park Series. Now, she’s making history as one of the first female skateboarders at the Olympics—all before she can legally vote.

Before a competition I listen to

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, because sometimes I have to unleash my inner Freddie! But seriously, Queen, especially Freddie Mercury, really pumps me up and gives me more confidence.

My signature move

Maybe a back 360 over a “jumpbox.” That trick has been my go-to for a few years now. It’s basically where you grab your board and do a 360-degree rotation over, typically, a nine-foot gap or “box.”

Go-to workout outfit

Vans has been coming out with more and more lifestyle and workout pieces. Lately I’m into the bralettes and matching fitness leggings with the UltraRange EXO sneakers in different colors.

Courtesy

Vans X Chris Johanson UltraRange EXO SE

Vans vans.com

$89.95

A moment I’ll never live down

I skated on a mini mega-ramp with a bunch of boys when I was about eight years old. I fell on my butt, ripped my pants, and ran off to my mom trying to hold them shut and asked her to take me home.

The Olympian I admire most

I was always too busy skateboarding to pay attention to most other sports, but I’ve always taken notice of and am inspired by Serena Williams. Her ability to be a consistently fierce competitor, a really cool mom, and a businesswoman with her own fashion company is so great to see and aspire to.

When the Olympics got postponed

At first, I was honestly relieved. It had been a pretty stressful year with an ankle injury that took me out for six months, and all the activities some of us were doing to promote skateboarding now being in the Olympics. A break was needed—but definitely not a year-and-a-half-long break. It’s a little intimidating coming back after all this time, but better than not having some version of it. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the contests leading up to the Games. All of us skateboarders all over the world have been like a family for the past six years or more, so I’m sure it’ll be emotional.

If I win a gold medal

There will be lots of sushi and dancing. Contests are always a mental game, and coming out with a win is really rewarding because you’re a nervous wreck beforehand. One of the best feelings is pulling off a run you’ve been working on with all your hard tricks. I think that, in itself, is just as good as winning.


SPORT CLIMBING

brooke raboutou

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As the daughter of two former rock climbing champions, Brooke Raboutou, 20, seemed destined to muscle her way to the top. In 2019, she became the first-ever American climber to qualify for the Olympics, and this summer, she’s headed to Tokyo as one of just two U.S. women to represent the sport.

Catch me before a competition listening to

“We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus. I love Miley’s voice and the overall beat of the song. I also love the message, because it reminds me to keep going and not care what others think.

I work out in

I recently got this Adidas set that I love.

A moment I’ll never live down

I was seven years old at my very first Youth National Championships, and when I had finished competing, my mom told me to sit down in a chair so I could watch the rest of the competitors. I sat down, and there happened to be a puddle of water so it looked like I peed my pants. I instantly started crying. Not long after the awards were announced, I had to walk up with wet pants and tears in my eyes. It was very embarrassing.

My Olympic hero

Simone Biles, because she is powerful, graceful, and a great role model. Her elegance and sportsmanship have always inspired me.

When the Olympics got postponed

Although I completely agreed with the decision to postpone the Olympics, it was still hard not to feel upset. I was lucky enough to spend my summer climbing outdoors, which reminded me how passionate I am about my sport. It helped motivate me to train even harder. Knowing that everyone’s plans changed gave me a greater perspective of what really matters and what needed to be done to keep our community’s health as the top priority.

If I win a gold medal

You will find me on a beach vacation with my family and friends.


KARATE

sakura kokumai

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Sakura Kokumai, 28, made karate history last year when she became the first U.S. athlete to qualify for the Olympic sport—less than a week before the Tokyo Games were postponed. The Hawaii native has been training since she was seven years old for this moment. Now, finally, she’ll have a chance to score a medal in her parents’ home country of Japan.


Catch me before a competition listening to

Billie Eilish, Kelly Clarkson, Dermot Kennedy, and Justin Bieber. I switch it up depending on my mood, but those are my go-tos.

My signature move

I always like to slap my legs and arms before I go up to perform my kata.

A moment I’ll never live down

When I was young, I caught my leg during my kata performance, and I tried to stop myself from falling. But instead of catching myself, I ended up skipping backwards and almost ended up outside of the ring.

My Olympic hero

I’ve always looked up to Apolo Ohno and Michael Phelps. I love their mindset toward life and competition. As a kid, I remember reading their books and listening to their interviews. It’s amazing how they were able to bring more attention to their sports through their successes.

When the Olympics got postponed

I was shocked and upset, but relieved at the same time. It took a couple of months to adjust to the new normal, but I was able to push through thanks to my friends and host family. I created a new routine with them, including binge-watching TV shows and training online with people from all over the world. This extra year allowed me to grow as a person, and it made me appreciate little things throughout this process of training for the Olympics.

If I win a gold medal

It would be amazing to get all my friends together and celebrate. We could rent a cottage or a house in the mountains or by the ocean. The pandemic has separated me from my closest friends for a long time.

My guilty pleasure TikTok account

All the food @thegoldenbalance makes on TikTok looks amazing. I also watch @yoleendadong, who’s so funny.


SURFING

Footage courtesy of Red Bull.

caroline marks

Red Bull

When Caroline Marks was 13, she made waves as the youngest woman to compete in a World Surf League event. Two years later, at 15, she became the youngest surfer ever to qualify for the women’s Championship Tour. Now, at 19, Marks is one of two women to represent the U.S. in surfing at the Olympics.


Catch me before a competition listening to

“The Greatest” by Sia. I love the lyrics, and it gets me especially psyched and ready to work out. Music is a huge part of my routine that really gets me in the zone and allows me to focus.

My signature surfing move

My backside top turn, which is a hard backside turn at the top of the wave where you need to have perfect timing to execute it just right. When it all comes together, it feels amazing, and it’s a high-scoring maneuver. I’m a goofy footer and anything on my backside is my personal preference.

My favorite swimsuit

I practically live in swimsuits, so this is definitely a hard one. I’ve been part of Roxy’s team since I was 13, and they’ve been such a huge part of my surfing career. Some of my biggest idols in the sport, like Steph Gilmore, are on the team, and it’s been so cool working with them and competing against each other. My personal favorite is the Roxy sporty bikini set. It looks really cute and is also very comfortable to surf in.

ROXY Fitness Sports Bra Bikini Top

roxy.com

$50.00

A moment I’ll never live down

When I was 16 and competing in a qualifying series event in Cabo, I was rushing to get ready for the contest and wound up showing up to my heat without my board—typical grom moment. I would never do that now, but it was one of those total rookie mistakes where I couldn’t help but laugh. My friends and coach still give me a hard time about it and always ask me if I brought my board on the way to contests.

My Olympic hero

Definitely Simone Biles. She is such a badass and was able to accomplish so much at such a young age. I feel like, in a way, we’re similar, but in different sports. I can only hope to take home as many medals as her someday. I came onto the World Surf League Championship Tour at 16 as the youngest to ever qualify, and like Simone, had a lot of eyeballs on me to succeed early on. I think we were both able to find our groove, focus, and achieve success while also having a lot of fun in the process. It seems like we both really enjoy what we do and want to set a good example for the next generation of young women athletes.

When the Olympics got postponed

I took the opportunity to take a step back, spend time with my family, and work twice as hard on my training in order to come back that much better this year. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster, but I was very lucky. Thankfully, the beaches stayed mostly open, so I was still able to surf and train and keep my eye on a medal.

If I win a gold medal

I’ll throw a huge dance party with all my closest friends and family. I couldn’t be where I am without them and their support, and it would be so much fun to have everyone in the same place, dancing the night away in celebration. After the year we’ve all had, I think we need dancing more than ever, and what better reason to do it than winning an Olympic medal?


CANOE SPRINT

nevin harrison

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For decades, men have competed in canoe sports at the Olympics. Now, for the first time in history, women will do the same. Representing the U.S. in the women’s canoe sprint is Nevin Harrison, 19, who became the first U.S. athlete to win a world championship in the sport in 2019.


Catch me before a competition listening to

“Came Here for Love” by Sigala and Ella Eyre. I heard the song when I was headed to one of my first training camps ever. I was nervous, and I promised myself that I would channel the energy from that song into my training for the month I’d be away. It helped me stay uplifted throughout that time. Less than a year later, it was the song that played on the loudspeakers at the 2019 World Championships right after I crossed the finish line, winning gold and qualifying for the Olympics. Since I first heard the song, it seems to have popped up in my life in big and small ways and has stuck with me ever since.

A moment I’ll never live down

In 2017, I went to my first international race in the Czech Republic. I was so excited and nervous to be representing Team USA for the first time, and I had no idea how I would do. An American had never won the race I was completing in, and it was extremely exciting when I came home with two gold medals and one silver medal. After winning my first gold, I fell back into my boat because I was so tired and got my butt stuck. I couldn’t get up from the boat, cameras were focused on me, and I fell in the water in front of everyone. I was so happy that I won, but so horrified that everyone was watching me as I was stuck.

I work out in

Lululemon everything. Because where I train is hot, I usually only wear a sports bra and spandex. My go-to is the Lululemon Align shorts and the Free to Be Serene sports bra. I tend to wear all black with some camo.

Courtesy

Free To Be Serene BraLight Support

Lululemon lululemon.com

$52.00

My Olympic hero

Growing up, I always had body image issues because I looked much more muscular than other girls. Serena Williams showed us strong girls that being strong, really strong, is absolutely beautiful. That’s not why she’s my Olympic hero though. She’s my hero because of her relentless dominance and constant fight to prove that, as female athletes, we deserve respect and equality. I like to think that because the women’s canoe sprint is making its debut in the Tokyo Olympics, after men have been in [the Olympics] for almost 100 years, being on the Olympic team is one step closer to equality.

When the Olympics got postponed

It was heartbreaking, and I definitely felt very lost. It was like all the work I had put in was without purpose, and I was terrified because the life path I had planned seemed to be completely thrown off. I couldn’t start college that fall, meaning I would have to take a gap year. But within a couple weeks of the news, I started to see it as a good thing. I had injuries that needed healing and a lot of personal growth to do before I was ready to take on an Olympic Games. I try to see it as a blessing in disguise, because I had a chance to mature and train. The pandemic has been devastating, but it has been wonderful to see the world coming together in a new way.

My guilty pleasure TikTok account

I have way too many. One of my favorites recently has been the friendship between @suedebrooks and @victoriaparisf. I love getting fashion inspiration from those two and seeing the little adventures they go on. It makes me so excited to finally experience the world and take some time off after the Olympics.


To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin July 23rd on NBC.

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