In mid-May, Jordan Santana packed her skateboard and flew from Houston to Des Moines, Iowa, for a competition that was supposed to seal her trip to the Tokyo Olympics. The seventeen-year-old had taken second place at the USA Skateboarding national championships just a couple of weeks earlier, an honor she’d clinched by propelling herself from a concrete bowl—picture an empty swimming pool constructed for skateboarding—and into the void, rotating one and a half times, or 540 degrees, in the air before landing. She had added the trick, a 540 McTwist, to her repertoire after months of practice during COVID-19 lockdowns and was now among a handful of women ever to pull it off. With the 540 in her bag, Santana was considered a favorite to make the Olympic cut. If she earned just ten more qualifying points, her cumulative score would be enough to nab an invitation to Japan as one of six women to represent the United States in skateboarding at this summer’s Games—the first in history to feature the sport.
Then, one after another, the disasters hit. Rain in Des Moines cut into two crucial days of practice. Santana says she had less than fifteen minutes to rehearse her choreographed run before suiting up for the contest. What’s more, the skate park’s brand-new bowl hadn’t been broken in yet, and competitors had been suffering rough falls on the “sticky” concrete. During warm-ups, Santana came down hard on her elbow, sustaining what she now believes was a “small fracture.” (She didn’t bother getting an X-ray—to Santana, anything short of a clean break isn’t worth a trip to the doctor.) She got back on her board and took another tumble, this time slamming her ribs and skinning her palm. “It just snowballed,” she says, “and got worse and worse as the week went on.”
When competition time rolled around, Santana adjusted her helmet, tugged at the silver cross dangling from her neck, and prayed for the best. She put one foot forward, then another, and dropped into the course. Because of the adverse conditions, Santana had planned a combination of simple but impressive tricks for her 45-second routine. But on her first of two runs, while attempting a feeble grind—a trick that required her to carve up the side of a wall, then balance the back part of her board on a flat surface—she skidded onto her knees. On the second run she pulled off her first trick without falling, but her landing was awkward. “That set the tone for the rest,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, you just landed, like, wobbling everywhere. You have no speed. You have to pump as hard as you can to keep the run going.’ ”h3">
She geared up to deliver a one-two punch called a blunt-to-fakie, which she’d performed countless times and almost never missed. All Santana had to do was maneuver her board’s back truck—one of the T-shaped axles that attach a skateboard’s wheels to its deck—over the lip of the bowl, then pop its tail to come back down. But when she reached the top, her wheels jammed, and she tumbled back into the basin. It was over. Santana finished outside the top eight, and her Olympic dreams were dashed. After the heartbreaking result, she sought advice from Christian Hosoi, one of the sport’s pioneers and Santana’s mentor since she first stepped onto a board. “You’re on your way to the top, and these are those moments that really test your ability to adapt, test your ability to have patience, test your ability to really rise to the occasion,” Hosoi told her. “Because it’s adrenaline that makes you do things that normally you can’t.”
Left: Santana taking a break at the Houston Vert Ramp on July 21, 2021.
Photograph by Arturo Olmos
Top: One of Santana’s kneepads rests on her skateboard after practice at the Houston Vert Ramp on July 21, 2021.
Photograph by Arturo Olmos
A week later, at Houston’s Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park, named for the late billionaire philanthropist couple, Santana is still smarting from the letdown in Iowa. “It was really unfair,” she says, absentmindedly flicking her foot back and forth over a skateboard decorated with the fading image of a Hawkeye comic book cover and a hand-drawn outline of Texas. “I was sitting there, thinking, ‘Your score is not going to increase, clearly, because you fell. What did you just give them to increase? That was the last thing for the Olympics.’ ” Later, she grasps for a silver lining: “If I would have had more time, it probably would’ve been a really fun ride.” She stands and begins skating idly around the bench where her parents, Israel and Karen, are seated. “Then I just thought, ‘You need to be prepared for the next one,’ ” she adds. “They got their team already; that’s fine. I’m just going to try to kill it and learn as many new tricks as I can.”
Just then, a man in his early thirties glides up to Santana, offering a fist bump in chill-guy solidarity. “Good luck!” he exclaims cheerfully before rolling away. “Who was that?” I ask. The family collectively shrugs, and Santana skates off for a quick loop around the bowl. “I have no idea,” Israel says. “Everybody comes up to her.”
Despite the Olympic disappointment, Santana is one of Texas’s best riders, known for her audacious style, composure on the board, and spine-jolting tricks. A member of the U.S. National Team, the high school junior has been traveling as a competitive skater since she was eleven, when she became the first girl sponsored by Hosoi Skateboards. According to Hosoi, Santana’s humility and work ethic—she practices six hours a day and adheres to the motto “No Days Off”—have been key to her ascent.
Source : https://www.texasmonthly.com/arts-entertainment/jordan-santana-texas-skateboard-mecca/1459