American skateboarder and first-time Olympian Alana Smith has continued to inspire others both at and beyond the Tokyo Games. Smith, who identifies as non-binary shared a powerful message Monday on Instagram after they competed in the women's street skateboarding event, in which they finished last in the third heat out of four on Sunday.
"What a wild f—king ride… My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me," wrote Smith on their post. "For the first time in my entire life, I'm proud of the person I've worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling."
Smith was one of 12 athletes tapped to represent the United States in skateboarding this summer at the Olympics as the sport made its long-awaited debut. In Monday's Instagram post, Smith added that "out of everything I've done, I wanted to walk out of this knowing I UNAPOLOGETICALLY was myself and was genuinely smiling. The feeling in my heart says I did that."
In the inaugural women's street skateboarding competition on Sunday, Japan's Momiji Nishiya took home the gold, followed by Brazil's Rayssa Leal with silver, and Funa Nakayama, also of Japan, with bronze. Reflecting on their time at the Olympics on Monday, Smith — who had previously opened up about a prior suicide attempt — said they "feel happy to be alive and feel like I'm meant to be here for possibly the first time in a long time.... That's all I have ever asked for."
"Last night I had a moment on the balcony, I'm not religious or have anyone/anything I talk to. Last night I thanked whoever it was out there that gave me the chance to not leave this world the night I laid in the middle of the road," said Smith on Instagram, who then thanked all "that have supported [them] through so many waves of life."
"I can't wait to skate for the love of it again, not only for a contest, which is wild considering a contest helped me find my love for it again," they continued.
Smith was showered with love from fans on social media over the weekend, noting how they had written their pronouns, "they/them," on their skateboard. "I don't think I'll ever be as happy as Alana Smith while they're skateboarding at the Olympics," tweeted one viewer Sunday.
Alana Smith with They/Them on their board at the Olympics pic.twitter.com/a5FtWqME8g
— Jen J Walker (@MsJenJWalker) July 26, 2021
Not everything was smooth sailing for Smith at the Olympics, however, as some commentators had misgendered them while analyzing their performance. The athlete is said to have shared videos on their Instagram Stories of fans that had corrected the analysts during the Games, according to TODAY. NBC Sports has since issued an apology.
"NBC Sports is committed to — and understands the importance of — using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms," according to NBC via a statement, as reported in a press release from GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers."
In addition to Smith, more than 160 LGBTQ+ athletes from various countries are competing at the Tokyo Olympics, according to Outsports. Quinn, a midfielder on the Canadian women's soccer team, is the first openly gay transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. Laurel Hubbard, a transgender woman, is also competing for New Zealand in the weight lifting competition.
Although the Tokyo Games has been captivated by many passionate storylines already, including gymnast Simone Biles' decision to prioritize her mental health above all else, there's no question that Smith and their inspiring words have made a mark on the Olympic Games forever.