“Doctor in neuroscience, I will represent London at the Tokyo Olympics … on a skateboard”

Charlotte Hym est qualifiée pour l'épreuve de street, qui a lieu le 26 juillet 2021 aux Jeux olympiques de Tokyo.

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Posted on Jul 14, 2021, 5:03 PMUpdated on Jul 14, 2021, 9:19 PM

“I started skateboarding when I was 12 years old, in the street, in London. It quickly became a passion that I indulged in after class. I liked being able to practice when I wanted and to explore lots of neighborhoods, as well in Les Halles as in Bobigny or in La Défense. I felt that I had endless possibilities without having to follow specific rules and that I could be creative using urban architecture.

With my bac in my pocket, I embarked on a Staps license at the University of London-Descartes. I did not really know what I wanted to do later but this course, which includes subjects on sport, bio or even anatomy, interested me. At the same time, I skated when I had time. When I was 20, I started to participate in a few competitions. It was an opportunity to see people and make some money.

I continued with a master's degree in ‘aging, disability: movement and adaptation'. At the end of it, the director of my thesis told me that a researcher needed a doctoral student. She had an ongoing project on the impact of scent, language and mothers' movements on their newborns. We hit it off and I found the subject interesting. Some experiments took place on a kind of small treadmill on which the children were installed to move around … it made me think of skateboarding! Convinced that I could flourish in research, I started this doctorate in 2015.

Skateboarding at the Olympics, a first

A year later, I learned on Instagram that skateboarding would make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. The sport was going to be represented in two categories: the park (also called ‘bowl', because it is practiced in a sort of large empty swimming pool with rounded walls, editor's note) and the street (in an environment that reproduces the elements of urban architecture with ramps, stairs, inclined planes …). I told myself that this was good news for the discipline.

It didn't cross my mind to participate, but a few months later, the Roller and Skateboard Federation made me an offer. She was setting up a team to represent London and asked me if I wanted to join her because I had participated in the English championships. Objective: to train and participate in competitions in order to be selected in street.

I had always seen skateboarding as something I did for fun, without too many stakes. When the Federation contacted me, I told myself that it was a sick thing, that I could maybe get a place if I worked hard!

My thesis supervisor encouraged me and indicated that she could free up my time, as long as I was doing the work that was asked of me. My pace has become quite sustained. I started to train in the evenings and weekends in a skatepark in Chelles (Seine-et-Marne) and to participate in competitions in the United States, Canada, the UK, Russia … I couldn't take part in all the competitions but when I did I always took my computer. There, while the other skaters passed, I put my free time to good use. I was doing data analysis, preparing PowerPoint presentations, responding to emails, progressing in writing my thesis …

In November 2021, I defended my thesis, prepared in four years instead of three. I then had eight months left to train for the Olympics, which were originally scheduled to take place in the summer of 2021. To hope to get there, I decided to devote all my time to it and put aside the research pending. Financially, this was possible because I was supported by a patron – the Caisse d'Epargne d'Île-de-London via the Performance Pact, by my department (Seine-et-Marne), the Île-de-London region and by my Federation.

The postponement of the Olympics due to the health crisis allowed me to train for one more year and put all the chances on my side. Qualifying was difficult. I picked up the 18e place on 20.

The event I am participating in takes place on July 26. I don't go stressed, I see it more as a great opportunity where I can give the best of myself. The Olympics will highlight skateboarding, make more people want to try. The fact that there are more practitioners will increase the level and push to be more creative. Having as many girls represented as boys also helps to break the stereotypes according to which this sport is reserved for boys.

Combine sport and research

Skateboarding is what I love the most in the world. This sport, for example, has helped me not to become demotivated in the face of the obstacles that I may encounter in my work as a researcher. For me, these two activities are complementary. It is therefore important to be able to combine the two, to have a double project. Especially since as in any sport, an injury can end a rising career.

Greg Poissonnier

Once the Olympics are over, I plan to start a post-doctorate in January 2022 with my thesis director. This will allow me to continue the research I have undertaken. I would like to be able to do this part-time, to continue to train in skateboarding… and why not, participate in the London Games in 2024. “

To note

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