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Olympic hopes for Wymondham man who campaigned for skatepark as teenager

PUBLISHED: 20:50 14 April 2019 | UPDATED: 21:04 14 April 2019

Skateboarder Sam Beckett, who will represent Great Britain in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo: Skateboard England

Skateboarder Sam Beckett, who will represent Great Britain in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo: Skateboard England

Skateboard England

A man who grew up skating in Norfolk and campaigned for a skatepark in Wymondham looks set to be Britain’s best hope of an inaugural Olympic skateboarding medal in Tokyo in 2020.

(back row, left-right) Sam Beckett, 26, from Norfolk, Alex Decunha, 22 from Milton Keynes, Jordan Thackeray, 22, from Colchester and Alex Halford, 26, from Nottingham (front row) Sky Brown, 10 from Miyazaki, Japan during the Skateboard GB Team Announcement at the Graystone Action Academy, Manchester. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images(back row, left-right) Sam Beckett, 26, from Norfolk, Alex Decunha, 22 from Milton Keynes, Jordan Thackeray, 22, from Colchester and Alex Halford, 26, from Nottingham (front row) Sky Brown, 10 from Miyazaki, Japan during the Skateboard GB Team Announcement at the Graystone Action Academy, Manchester. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

Sam Beckett, 26, grew up in Wicklewood, near Wymondham, and would go to his local skatepark multiple times a week with friend - and now fellow professional skateboarder - Paul-Luc Ronchetti.

When he turned 18 Mr Beckett moved to California to focus on a professional skateboarding career and in 2016 won a prestigious X Games gold medal.

Now, as skateboarding is to be included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Mr Beckett has been tipped as Britain’s best chance at bringing home a medal.

Mr Beckett told website Skateism he got into skateboarding through “a classic mix of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and my friend’s older brothers skating”.

He said there were not many facilities in the area, and in 2006 Mr Beckett appeared in this newspaper, with Mr Ronchetti, campaigning for a skatepark in Wymondham.

“The park in Norwich closed just as I was getting into it,” he said. “Then we’d go to Great Yarmouth for sessions, after that we started driving all over to Peterborough and Birmingham.”

Even in that 2006 interview the pair were tipped as Olympic gold medal winners, when it was hoped skateboarding would be incorporated as an official event for London 2012.

At the time, a then 14-year-old Mr Beckett said: “There’s nothing I want more than to be able to compete in the Olympics, especially in Britain, and become a professional skater touring the world.”

Photo from 2006 showing Paul-Luc Ronchetti, then 13, left, and Sam Beckett, then 14, campaigning for a skate park in Wymondham. 
Photo: Denise BradleyPhoto from 2006 showing Paul-Luc Ronchetti, then 13, left, and Sam Beckett, then 14, campaigning for a skate park in Wymondham. Photo: Denise Bradley

But after years of work, and as 2020 draws closer, Mr Beckett, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, acknowledged there remains some resistance within the skateboarding community to the changes Olympic inclusion will inevitably bring.

While fame and fortune are no driving force for the sport’s current leading lights, Mr Beckett said that the increased profile skateboarding will now enjoy can only have a positive impact for future generations.

He said: “Of course there’s a bit of reluctance. Skateboarding is a hobby and a passion and it is kind of hard to see it changing in that way.

“Of course there are going to be some kids who want to go to the Olympics, but there will always be others who would rather just go out skating in a car park with their mates.

“None of us are in skating to get famous. The idea of skating just to get a gold medal and be a famous Olympian sounds kind of awful.

“But we’ve been given an opportunity to do something with skating and it’s what we’ve spent our whole lives doing.

“The bottom line is you get to spend more time doing what you love, and hopefully inspire more kids to do it along the way.”

Last month it was announced Mr Beckett was one of five skateboarders to benefit from UK Sport’s Aspiration Fund award, to help them qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Aspiration Fund will provide these five British skateboarders with the opportunity to participate in Olympic qualifying events with the aim of competing in the inaugural Olympic Games skateboarding competition.

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