Youngest German Olympic athlete not afraid of accompanying hype

 Lilly Stoephasius does not fear the kind of hype that will probably surround her for being the youngest German athlete at the Tokyo Games this summer.

The skateboarder, who just turned 14, demonstrates an astonishing early maturity.

“I feel honoured to be the youngest German athlete in Tokyo. But I don’t see it as so important to be the youngest. I see myself as a member of the team,” Stoephasius said.

The young star, who will be attending the ninth grade from August, has already clinched three German championship titles, is European runner-up and secured World Championship bronze in the past few years.

With the qualification for the Olympics, she has already achieved the most important goal. “I fought my way to the Olympics and wanted it so badly,” she said.

Skateboarding is an Olympic sport for the first time.

Stoephasius will compete in the Park discipline, which takes place on a hollowed-out course similar to a swimming pool featuring a series of complicated curves.

Athletes have around 40 to 45 seconds to show their skills and there is no age limit.

Stoephasius was introduced to the sport by her father when she was only one.

Two years later, she was already whizzing around on her own.

“Then at some point she very quickly became much better, even than I ever was,” said her father, who is also her coach.

Stoephasius admitted that skateboarding is no longer a hobby, but in spite of 15 hours of training per week, she still has fun with the sport.

“In Tokyo I just want to have fun and ride the park with the others. Of course I will do my best and maybe finish in the top 10.

“But if that doesn’t work out, I won’t be disappointed,” she said, adding she would like to be at her prime at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

For Dirk Schimmelpfennig, the German Chef de Mission, Stoephasius already fulfils a role model function at her young age.

“She also perhaps embodies a young generation in a still young sport and thus hopefully awakens an interest in skateboarding among young people in Germany,” he told dpa.

The 14-year-old would like to live off skateboarding for “a few years”.

But she understands that “you can’t retire on it unless you’re Tony Hawk,” Stoephasius said referring to United States’ skateboarding legend, who has 10 Summer X gold medals.

“A normal skater doesn’t necessarily make it,” she added