With a tweaked and tucked stalefish like this, its no wonder why Misugu Okamoto got first in the women’s semi-final. Photo: Dangaard

Japanese skater Misugu Okamoto, just one week shy of her thirteenth birthday, stomped all over the Women’s Park Semi Final on Thursday, beating Brighton Zeuner (the top finisher from Wednesday’s Quarter Final) by an astounding 15 points for the top spot to qualify for Sunday’s Final.

Sakura Yosozumi, Bryce Wettstein, Mami Tezuka, Kisa Nakamura, Lizzie Armanto, and Kokona Hiraki also made the top-8 cut for the Final, from a field of 24 skaters for the Semi Final.

Brighton Zeuner, invert. Photo: Dangaard

Yep, you’re reading that right: Japanese skaters just took 5 of the 8 spots for the Final at the first Skateboard Park qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Brighton Zeuner and Bryce Wettstein (the Dew Tour Long Beach 2018 silver medalist) are both members of the USA Skateboarding team, and Lizzie Armanto is representing Finland in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Bryce Wettstein taking a backside feeble to the top of the coping. Photo: MRZ

Okamoto was ripping around the course faster than anyone else in the Semi Final: she stuck a huge 540 early in her run and was launching over the hips on the course. “I like going fast and going high,” she said after the contest, explaining her straightforward approach with the help of translator Ray Takahashi. “I was proud of the 540.”

Mami Tezuka from Japan. Photo: MRZ

She mixed in a proper backside Smith grind and frontside boneless for good measure, and tapped a perfectly-timed backside air to tail right at the buzzer in her first of three runs, skating in Heat 4 (of 4) and bumping all the way to the top of the overall standings. Nobody else even came close. Okamoto hinted that she has more planned for the Final, but even a 12-year-old tween knows better than to show her cards. “You’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

Kisa Nakamura making the leap from low to high and a 5-0. Photo: Dangaard

Though she’s new to U.S. competition, Okamoto has been on the rise: she took 3rd place at the Asian Games Japan Park Championships in May 2018, 2nd at the Vans Park Series Asia Continental Championships in August 2018, and 5th at World Skate’s Park World Championships in November 2018. She’s from Ama-Shi in the Aichi Precture of Japan, and grew up skating at the Hi-5 Skatepark there, with mentors including Kent “Fist” Sasoka,

Lizzie Armanto out here holding it down for Finland. Photo: MRZ

The strong Japanese showing on Thursday made for other surprises, leaving favorites Yndiara Asp (Brazil), Jordyn Barratt (USA), and Poppy Starr Olsen (Australia) out of the mix, among others. Nicole Hause, the 2018 Dew Tour Women’s Park gold medalist, is recovering from a knee injury and missed the competition.

Kokona Hiraki, nosegrind on the mellow banks. Photo: MRZ

The Women’s Park Final is on Sunday June 16 at 1:00pm PT.

Women’s Park Semi-Final Results

1.) Misugu Okamoto, JPN 61.00
2.) Brighton Zeuner, USA 46.00
3.) Sakura Yosozumi, JPN 45.03
4.) Bryce Wettstein, USA 44.00
5.) Mami Tezuka, JPN 43.00
6.) Kisa Nakamura, JPN 41.50
7.) Lizzie Armanto, FIN 41.03
8.) Kokona Hiraki, JPN 40.83