At 46, the African skater finally impresses mom at the Tokyo Games

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Skateboarder Dallas Oberholzer, 46, rides at Germiston Lake Skateboard Park near Johannesburg on Saturday, July 3, 2021. The age range of competitors in the Olympic skateboarding debut at the Tokyo Games is remarkably wide and Dallas Oberholzer, 46 , goes wheel-to-wheel with skaters under half their age.  (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)

Skateboarder Dallas Oberholzer, 46, rides at Germiston Lake Skateboard Park near Johannesburg on Saturday, July 3, 2021. The age range of competitors in the Olympic skateboarding debut at the Tokyo Games is remarkably wide and Dallas Oberholzer, 46 , goes wheel-to-wheel with skaters under half their age. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)

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At 46, the second-oldest skateboarder at the Tokyo Games is hoping he won’t have a heart attack and have fun. This shouldn’t be a problem. The fun has been the work of a lifetime for Dallas Oberholzer.

“I never had a real job. I never applied for a job, ”he says. “My whole life has been skateboarding. I’m just addicted.

The young skateboard guns, with their endorsements and boards bearing their names, have bigger tricks and more Instagram followers than the grizzled South African with a salt and pepper beard. Oberholzer doesn’t expect to beat them when they face off this week in the massive Olympic skate bowl in Tokyo.

But Oberholzer has great stories, woven from a nomadic existence on four squeaky polyurethane wheels. If skateboarding is the punk rock sport of the Games, disruptive and not taking itself too seriously, then Oberholzer is its Iggy Pop – raw, wild and worn out, someone who can talk and talk and talk.

By the way, say, when he was working as a concert driver, touring Janet Jackson’s dancers. Or his 16-month road trip, from Canada to Argentina, after obtaining a university degree in marketing which he quickly realized was of no use.

“Just a collection of experiences” is how he describes himself. Another description could be: a mascot for middle-aged people everywhere, flying the flag of Gen X against Gen Y and Z.

“I’m not going to win. I’m not going to get a medal, “he says.” But, like, I’m rightfully the best guy in Africa. By default, the best guy in Africa goes to the Olympics. “

“It’s just incredibly epic,” he adds. “It’s all expenses paid and it will be the best course I have ever skated in my life.”

Only Rune Glifberg, aka “the Danish Destroyer” and also 46 years old, is older (eight months) than Oberholzer among the 80 men and women taking part in the Olympic skate debut in Tokyo.

In the men’s park competition on Thursday, Oberholzer and Glifberg – with their hair spiky with mottled gray hair – will face skaters under half their age.

Wednesday’s women’s event features even younger skaters: Japan’s Kokona Hiraki is just 12 years old. In the Week 1 women’s street event, three young teenage girls – 13, 13 and 16 – won gold, silver and bronze.

“I have nothing to lose, nothing to prove. I know I’m 46 and all I have to do is keep my cardio on so I can stay on my skateboard for 45 seconds, “says Oberholzer.” I’m going to be the one smiling, brother. I wish. Or I’m going to have a mild heart attack. “

The skating age range is remarkably wide for an Olympic event and is a testament to the inclusiveness of the sport. In July, skating pioneer Tony Hawk competed in the X Games at the age of 53 and was beaten by 12-year-old Gui Khury. The sport coffee mug read: “Skaters don’t get old, they just have new wheels. ”

“Skateboarding definitely makes you feel younger,” says Glifberg. “It’s not just a physical thing. It’s a lot to do with style and grace and just the way you present yourself on the board.

While People Y and Z had “how-to” videos on YouTube and Instagram to teach them tricks, Oberholzer and Glifberg had to find their own way.

Glifberg started right around the time “Back to the Future” brought kids to skate in 1985. For Oberholzer, it was a rented VHS copy of the 1986 movie “Thrashin” about skate gangs, that “made all of our eyes stand out.”

Until then, his sport was tennis.

“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘I could play tennis and let the ball have fun or I could be the ball,” he recalls. “And I’m like, ‘I want to be the ball. I want to be the one who flies.

Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was still in prison when Oberholzer started taking buses through central Johannesburg in search of places to skate. Educated, like other white South Africans, separately from black children, it was on his board that Oberholzer began to meet and mingle with his black peers who also skated.

“It really helped me overcome my apartheid upbringing,” he says.

In turn, Oberholzer gives back. He uses the skateboard to reach kids in difficult neighborhoods, protect them from drugs and gangs, and help them develop their skills. The Indigo Youth movement he founded has built several skateparks and ramps.

But none of it impressed his mother, Linda, like qualifying for the Olympics.

“My mother is finally satisfied with my life choices, my brother. Do you know what a good feeling it is? It took my mom that long to recognize what I’m doing with my life, “he says.” Probably the best thing I got out of it was that my mom finally said ‘Wow’ to me. . “

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