Sky Brown says she wants to take baby steps. It seems a remarkable statement from the 11-year-old skateboarding prodigy who is the third-best on the planet and who this year featured in Nike’s “Dream Crazier” campaign alongside Serena Williams and Simone Biles.
“It’s been a really fun year,” says Brown. “It’s really cool that I’m ranked third in the world. It’s fun because I get to be with my friends. I just want to take baby steps and try to push the limits of other girls skateboarding.”
“Baby steps” is the mantra Brown’s British father, Stewart, and Japanese mother, Mieko, are happy to repeat over the next seven months as their daughter – the world’s youngest Nike-sponsored athlete – prepares to tear up the record books and become Team GB’s youngest-ever Olympian next year in Tokyo. Until then, one wonders if Brown will run out of precious storage space for her growing number of skateboards.
“I keep them all under my bed,” says Brown. “I don’t know how many are there. I don’t know how many I’ve got, but I like to keep them for the memories. They’re all different colours.”
She clutched a baby pink one when she received the BT Sport’s inaugural Rising Star award on Monday night. Looking every inch the coolest kid on the block, sporting a denim jacket and knee-high socks, it seemed fitting that she picked up the accolade only a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park in Stratford. Despite compere Clare Balding’s best efforts, Brown seemed to have little recollection of London 2012, when she would have been just four.
Instead, she sweetly offered up her own comparison for good measure. “Lady Gaga released a song the year I was born, in 2008,” Brown gleefully told the audience, “It’s called Just Dance. And I like to dance.”
She forgot to mention how she won the American equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing for children – Dancing with the Stars: Juniors, in December last year – which her 439,000 Instagram followers no doubt kept track of, along with her third-place finish at the Skate Total Urbe open park skateboarding final in Rio de Janeiro last month.
Brown seems to be acutely aware of her growing profile. After her podium finish in the Brazilian capital, she donated her prize money to Make Life Skate Life, a grass-roots skate charity which is hoping to host a summer camp at the capital’s Mare Favela Skatepark. The project provides a safe place to skate for children and young people from across the city’s slums, known as favela communities.
“A favela is a place where there’s drug dealers, guns and violence,” explains Brown, one of The Telegraph Tokyo Eight whose progress will be covered over the coming months. “For them, it’s just normal. It was really scary the first time [I went there]. I was there quite a bit. It was scary, but it got better.
“I met this little girl called Emmanuelle at the skatepark there. She was like six or seven and she wanted to hold my hand the whole day. It was really sad when I went back to my hotel, because I thought, ‘I have to live in this and they have to live like that’. It made me think a bit. I asked my parents if I could do it and they said yes.”
Brown’s busy timetable means it is unlikely she will revisit Mare Favela when the project comes to fruition because of the small matter of the Olympics. Her bronze at the World Skateboarding Championships in September means she will be seeded for next year’s qualifying events for the Games. In the meantime, she has the ambition to act as a flag-bearer for women and young girls in the skatepark. “I think about the Olympics a lot, but I think of it as a place where I can show girls that it if you see this little girl do this trick, that maybe they can do it, too,” says Brown, who splits her time between California’s Huntington Beach and Japan.
“I feel like, some girls, they’re scared to do it. Hopefully, if they see me, this little girl and crazy chick, ‘They’ll be like, I can do that’. There’s a lot of girls skateboarding now, which is pretty cool. Before, there wasn’t any. I was the only girl at the skatepark, but now there’s at least one girl at the skatepark.”
When asked whether she is fine-tuning any new moves, her face lights up in a broad smile.
“I have a lot of tricks I’m working on,” she says. “But I’m trying to take baby steps. I have some secret ones. Maybe we’ll see them in 2020.”