Two years after Japan's unprecedented skateboarding success at the Tokyo Olympics, skating luminary Nyjah Huston is excited to see the sport's continued growth in the country.
While Tokyo Games gold medalist Yuto Horigome and fellow Olympian Sora Shirai are making an impact globally, Japan has plenty more talent in the pipeline, Huston said Friday, as he prepared for the X Games Japan men's street competition in Chiba near Tokyo.
"The Japanese skaters are insane, they're so talented," the 28-year-old American said. "I swear they all just popped up out of nowhere throughout the past few years."
"I feel like Yuto (Horigome) kind of started it off, and man, they have a very different style to skating. There are so many of them now, it's crazy."
Horigome will not contest this weekend's X Games, but Shirai will be among a Japanese men's street contingent that also includes precocious talent Ginwoo Onodera, who became Japan's youngest national skateboarding champion last November at age 12.
"It's really cool to see how fast the culture has grown throughout the past few years," said Huston, who has Japanese ancestry through his paternal grandmother. "I think we're only going to see more Japanese skaters keep growing and killing it. It's great to see."
With more than 10 X Games titles since starting his professional career aged 11, Huston said he made a "last-minute decision" to compete in Japan after undergoing major knee surgery to repair a damaged ACL nine months ago.
"The ACL injury was a big one. It was my first surgery ever," he said. "But that's another reason why I wanted to skate this contest."
"The more you're skating in contests and stuff, the faster you're going to feel better."
Huston, who finished seventh after starting as favorite when skateboarding made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, hopes the X Games can be a building block toward another Summer Games appearance next year in Paris.
"The more I'm on my board, the better it's going to be once the Olympics come up," he said. "I would love to make it to another one and I'm feeling good on the board, so I'm just going to keep it going."
The men's street competition culminates on Sunday, the final day of the three-day X Games at Chiba's Zozo Marine Stadium, where BMX and motocross events will also take place.
On the women's side, Olympic champion Momiji Nishiya headlines the street field, while Tokyo Games park runner-up Kokona Hiraki is flying the flag for Japan in the absence of injured gold medalist Sakura Yosozumi.
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