At 7, Rayssa Leal Went Viral For Skateboarding In A Fairy Princess Dress. At 13, She Won An Olympic Medal
On Monday, 13-year-old Rayssa Leal won the silver medal during the Tokyo Olympics' first women's street skateboarding event. Medaling for Brazil, Leal was among a roster of other teenage skateboarders who all came in the top three spots for the event's inaugural appearance at the Games: 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya from Japan won gold and 16-year-old Funa Nakayama from Japan won bronze.
But you might remember Leal from way before the 2020 Olympics when a video of the then 7-year-old went viral on Vine in 2015. In the video, Leal landed a heelflip while jumping over a set of stairs after two unsuccessful attempts. Notably, she was wearing what was then-dubbed a "fairy princess" sparkly blue dress and white tights. The video was quickly celebrated online, especially after skateboarding legend Tony Hawk shared it with his fans.
"I got a skateboard as a birthday present when I was 6 and I started riding it around the house," Leal told extreme sports outlet Dew Tour in 2020. "My dad had some friends who were skateboarders and I started riding with them on the street, but my skateboard was too big for me and I didn’t have that much strength in my legs yet. But I practised a lot and I got to a point where I didn't have so much trouble anymore."
Leal's career as a skateboarder hasn't slowed down since her Vine days, either. In 2019, during the first Street League Skateboarding world tour event, Leal came in third, eventually nabbing the top spot in July of that same year. The following month, she came in fourth place while competing in the X Games for the first time, then came in second place during the Street League World Championships in São Paulo. This year, she qualified for the Olympic Games' inaugural skateboarding debut, showing the world why she's considered one of the best street skateboarders.
Despite paving the way for a new generation of teen girl skaters, Leal has said that her goal is to just have fun in the sport. "[My family doesn't] pressure me to always win and be first, they encourage me to do what I like, which is skateboarding," she also told Dew Tour. "Their support, along with the lack of pressure, allows me to be calmer and more relaxed to have fun all the time, even during tournaments." When asked by The Washington Post if she feels pressure to medal at the Olympics, Leal kept it level-headed: "I don't want to have responsibility. I want to go on being the lively little girl I am for all of Brazil.”