Team USA's Alexis Sablone Places 4th in Street Skateboarding, Calls It 'a Game of Millimeters'
The skateboarder, a veteran in an Olympic field dominated by teenagers who came just shy of a medal at Monday's women's street final, said it felt "historic" to compete in Tokyo
American Alexis Sablone just placed fourth in the first-ever Olympic women's street skateboarding competition — and she "can't really believe" it.
Sablone, 34, on Monday afternoon finished in fourth with a final score of 13.57, falling behind Japan's Momiji Nishiya, who took gold, Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal, who won silver, and the bronze winner, Funa Nakayama of Japan.
Speaking to reporters including PEOPLE in Tokyo as she competed, Sablone admitted that "part of it just feels like another contest."
"Like, I've been here, I've seen these people — we've skated together before, and then there's that part of my brain, like going crazy, thinking like 'This is history, this is the first Olympics.' I can't believe I'm here. ... It feels historic, everything just kind of feels like the stakes are higher and I can't really believe I'm here."
Sablone, who was just 0.92 points away from the medal podium after rebounding from two middling runs with major tricks, went pro in 2018 after beginning competitively skating at age 12. In addition to her prowess on the board, she holds a master's degree from MIT.
At 34, she is also a veteran in an international field dominated by teenagers — including the three Olympic medalists. She said talent like theirs is part of the sport's increasing popularity and diversity.
"For a long time, there were way fewer females doing this. It's taken until now to get enough people to pay attention, to get enough eyes on it, to inspire girls around the world to start skating," she said. "So you can get that freak of nature I'd say — you can get someone like Rayssa, who is exceptional. It's wild to see."
Sablone also notes that it's not "hard to imagine how stressful it is when you're out there [competing] and that everyone you saw is capable of probably even more than you just saw them do." (The other two American women's skaters failed to qualify after a series of falls.)
"Sometimes competition pushes you to go beyond what you can normally do, but the nerves really play a part and we all crumple sometimes," Sablone, who skates goofy footed, told PEOPLE, adding, "So it's like, you know, sometimes you're feeling it. ... Sometimes your body is off. It's a game of millimeters. So sometimes it's you almost land something and you just slip out and that's the difference between you making it to the finals or not."
Skateboarding continues at the Games with the men's and women's park competition starting Aug. 4.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.