A clever new Nike ad featuring Olympic skateboarding silver medalist Rayssa Leal confirms what should be obvious to anyone watching this year’s Olympics: Skateboarding isn’t a boys’ club anymore.
On Monday, a trio of teenage girls swept the first-ever women’s Olympic skateboarding street event, with 13-year-old Japanese skater Momiji Nishiya winning gold, 13-year-old Brazilian Leal winning silver, and 16-year-old Japanese skater Funa Nakayama winning bronze. The teen-dominated podium shows just how much of the sport’s cutting edge is coming from some of its youngest stars—especially the women.
It’s also a clear illustration of how female skaters haven’t been traditionally supported by major sponsors or the skateboarding industry, appearing only sparingly in videos and magazines. In the first two editions of the wildly popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games, for example (released back in 1999 and 2000), Elissa Steamer was the only woman featured among 10 other skaters. Generally speaking, skateboarding has been a boys’ club for far too long. Brazilian skater—and six-time X Games gold medalist—Leticia Bufoni, who placed ninth in the street event in Tokyo, told ESPN that her dad snapped her board in two to try and stop her from skating when she was 10, and Canadian Olympian Annie Guglia said she won her first contest 17 years ago because no other girls entered.
Leal stars in an impeccably timed Nike ad launching this week in her native Brazil. It continues to push the idea that skateboarding is for everyone. “New Fairies,” created by ad agency Wieden+Kennedy São Paulo, adds Disney-like classic animated characters to a streetscape, as Leal ollies, grinds, and rolls through it with digital fairy wings on her back.
The title is a mash-up of Nike’s ongoing “Play New” global campaign, and the fact that Leal first attracted public attention in 2015 (when she was just 7 years old) for doing a heelflip in a fairy costume. This is a Mary Poppins mix of live-action and 2D animation that gives a charming nod to both a skater’s imagination as she navigates the city, and the young age of its protagonist.
There may be more skateboarding teens on the Olympic podium, with Britain’s medal hopes resting on the shoulders of yet another 13-year-old girl: Sky Brown, who is seen by many as a favorite in the women’s park event. She is featured in a Samsung ad that has been running during the Tokyo Games. At 13 years and 23 days, she’ll be Britain’s youngest-ever Olympian.