Men’s Skateboard Street: Monster Energy’s Nyjah Huston Takes Second Place
The Men’s Skateboard Street final on Sunday was the culmination of an entire week of high-stakes competition. All eight finalists had earned their spot in the highly contested semifinal featuring 32 skaters on Saturday. Monster Energy’s Nyjah Huston made the cut in first place with a 35.86-point score and tricks like nollie backside 180 nosegrind and switch frontside heelflip tailslide down the big rail.
Huston’s teammate, 27-year-old Kelvin Hoefler from Guarujá, Brazil, coasted into the final in third place with a score of 32.11 points and high-tech moves like Half Cab noseslide pop over to backside tailslide fakie down the ten-stair rail. After prevailing in Friday’s heated Open Qualifier round, 27-year-old Matt Berger from Kamloops, Canada, earned his way into the final in seventh place by landing tricks such as kickflip backside tailslide backside bigspin on the big rail for 30.36 points.
Once it was finals time on Sunday, the pressure kicked into high gear for the eight riders hailing from Brazil, Canada, Japan, and the United States. The official competition format left little room for error: With the best four scores deciding the winner, the keys to winning in Rome were consistency, strategy, and the ability to land highly difficult moves at the right time.
Stepping into the final as the top-ranked street skater on the global World Skate leaderboards, Huston started building his score with two near-perfect runs. On his second run, the 19-time X Games medalist landed a crooked grind into the bank, backside tailslide up the A-frame rail, nollie heelflip up the Euro gap, backside kickflip disaster revert on the quarterpipe, Half Cab kickflip into the bank, kickflip frontside nosegrind the Hubba ledge, gap out to frontside Smith grind the kinked rail, frontside 180 switch crooked up the Euro Gap ledge and a technical nollie heelflip backside lipslide fakie down the ten-stair rail for an 8.7-point score despite missing a backside kickflip over the box.
Taking his momentum into Best Trick attempts, Huston dropped a banger on his first try: A perfect Caballerial backside noseblunt slide down the big rail for 9.15 points and an early lead. But on his second attempt, Huston lost the handle on a nollie heelflip backside tailslide and took an uncharacteristically hard slam that rattled him. After missing the trick again on attempt three, Huston found himself leapfrogged by Japan’s Yuto Horigome, who was trailing behind on Run scores but rose to the top with high-tech rail moves in Best Trick.
On his fourth attempt, Huston took a risky gamble by attempting the nollie heelflip backside tailslide to fakie down the big rail again, landing it perfectly this time for 9.27 points and a total score of 35.75 points, one point behind Horigome in first place. Dropping in as the last rider of the final, Huston put it all on the line to claim the top spot: He came close to landing a backside 270 kickflip to lipslide down the rail but had to settle for second place in the ultra-competitive World Skate Street Skateboarding Championships.
As an official U.S. Skateboarding Olympics team member, Huston will represent the United States at the Tokyo Games in 2021. Huston is the winningest street skateboarder of all time and currently the only athlete ever to win X Games gold medals on five continents. After winning the first-ever X Games Real Street Best Trick competition in late 2020, Huston now owns 19 X Games medals in total (13 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze). Huston is the current SLS World Champion after claiming his third back-to-back title in 2019.
Also putting on a strong showing in the final, Hoefler put together a perfect Run including frontside bluntslide transfer into the bank, kickflip backside lipslide the flat bar, backside overcrook up the Euro gap rail, backside tailslide the Hubba, switch frontside tailslide 270 out the Euro gap ledge, and Half Cab crooked and kickflip frontside noseslide down the big rail for 8.81 points. In Best Trick, Hoefler followed up on the big rail with his signature Half Cab noseslide to backside tailslide (9.1 points), Caballerial backside tailslide fakie (8.35 points), and Caballerial backside lipslide fakie (7.45 points) for a strong fifth-place finish with 33.71 points.
Monster Energy rider Berger also stoked the crowd by stringing together a perfect Run featuring bigspin frontside boardslide the big rail, nollie heelflip and 360 flip the kicker, frontside blunt the quarter pipe, frontside Smith grind on the kinked rail, as well as kickflip backside lipslide and kickflip frontside boardslide the big rail for 8.5 points. In Best Trick, the street technician from British Columbia hit the big rail with moves such as big flip frontside boardslide fakie (7.3 points) and kickflip backside tailslide fakie (8.05 points). But unable to repeat Saturday’s kickflip backside tailslide backside bigspin on the big rail, Berger walked away with 32.15 points and sixth place, but also a guaranteed ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.