Twelve-year-old Alana Smith of Mesa took home a silver medal at X Games Barcelona earlier this month, becoming the youngest competitor in event history to receive a medal.
“I was excited,” Alana recalled before her turn at the bowl. “I was just dying to skate.”
“You know that she’s nervous because she’s dancing around,” said Ryonna Smith, Alana’s mother, looking at her daughter. “She was dancing all over.”
But as the crowd cheered and stomped their feet, Alana — still in many ways a girl trying to make a name for herself in a truly physical sport — also attempted to become the first woman skateboarder to land the difficult “McTwist” trick in X Games competition.
She had previously landed the ambitious skill, named after Mike McGill, in competition last fall at the all-female “Exposure 2012” competition in San Diego.
Alana skates at Kids That Rip, a Mesa gym that has produced other wunderkind skateboards, namely brothers Jagger Eaton, 12, Jett Eaton, 13, and Trey Wood, 12.
Rain in Barcelona over the May 16-19 weekend had prevented the female competitors from getting the typical amount of practice in the unfamiliar bowl before the competition. Every skatepark bowl is set up differently and getting adequate practice can be the difference between completing important and difficult elements and falling in competition.
“The rain would stop and they would all run out with towels,” said Ryonna Smith, Alana’s mother, explaining the surface had to be dry to skate.
Despite only having a few hours to familiarize herself with the course before the Saturday competition, Alana skated her first run flawlessly.
“I went for the McTwist the other three times,” she explained. “I really wanted to land it at X Games.”
Each time she tried to make the rotation, Ryonna noted the crowd cheered louder.
“The first run was the winning run,” Ryonna said. “If she had done that one again or landed the McTwist, she would have gotten gold.”
“I just wanted to have fun,” Alana explained with a smile and a shrug.
In park competition, skateboarders do a series of four 40-second runs. Boarders are scored on the difficulty and execution of each run, and deducted points for failing to complete the 40-second minimum.
Park is a combination of street and bowl skating, incorporating elements from both, Alana explained.
After all the runs were competed, Alana returned to the bowl again, hoping to complete the element, if only for herself and the excited fans.
As she walked out of the arena to go do an after-competition interview with ESPN, the young skater got a taste of fame.
“We walked out and fans swarmed us,” Alana said. “They were holding onto our t-shirts to take pictures with us.”
She said she could barely move.
“She didn’t want to say no to anybody,” Ryonna said. “The publicist had to come back and get her. She signed autographs for everyone, took pictures with everyone.”
“It really felt real when we got to the lobby (of the hotel),” Ryonna said.
Alana rattled off name after name of professional X Games athletes who lined the lobby — men and women she’s admired the past three or four years.
But perhaps one of the most exciting moments came from skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, who posted a photo on Instagram of Alana.
“I got like 200 more followers,” she said with a grin.
But she’s still focused on completing her goals; she hopes to be accepted to the X Games Los Angeles in street, since the competition doesn’t have a park event, and she certainly wants to win more medals.
“Now I can’t get below a silver or gold from here on out,” she said.
Hopefully, this is also one step closer to competing in the men’s competition, Alana said. Lizzie Armanto, who took gold in the park competition, has been leading the way.
“Lizzie opened that opportunity for girls,” Alana said. Armanto placed eighth at an all-male bowl competition in Australia a few months ago.
Alana has had a little experience competing against men; in the Phoenix AM competition in April she placed 59th against over 200 male competitors.
As for the world record — being the X Games’ youngest medalist — it will be official once Guinness World Records confirms her age.
“I’ve already sent a copy of her birth certificate,” Ryonna said.
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