New stars are born with every Olympics cycle, but the Tokyo Olympics are providing an even greater opportunity for new faces to shine with the introduction of several new Olympic sports, including skateboarding and surfing.
One such star from the Women’s Street Skateboarding event, however, might not be as new as she first seemed. A tweet with more than 160,000 likes and 20,000 retweets declared that the silver medalist for the event was the same girl who became a Vine sensation six years ago for doing skateboarding tricks in a fairy costume.
Did the “fairy princess” skateboarding girl from a viral Vine win a silver medal in the Olympics?
Yes. Rayssa (pronounced Hi-ee-sa) Leal won the silver medal in Women’s Street Skateboarding at just 13 years old. She went viral for her Vine in 2015, when she was just 7.
WHAT WE FOUND
Vine, where the original video was first posted, was a social media app where users could post and view short videos — similar to today’s TikTok. Twitter, which owned Vine, began the process of shutting down the app in October 2016.
The official Olympian profile page for Brazil’s Rayssa Leal confirms both her medal and her Vine video background. She won the silver in the Olympics’ first ever Women’s Street Skateboarding event in Tokyo on July 26, and her general interest section says she earned the nickname 'Fadinha,' which means 'Little Fairy' in Portuguese, after a video of her doing a trick down a set of stairs went viral in 2015.
That video, with the Vine watermark in the bottom right corner, has been visible on her Instagram account since it was first posted in September 2015. The 34,000 likes on that video are far fewer than the 3.7 million likes she received when she posted a photo of her silver medal on the same account.
Leal first emerged as an internet sensation with the help of one of her idols. A day after Leal first put the video on her own Instagram in 2015, legendary skater Tony Hawk gave Leal a shoutout by reposting the video to both his Instagram and Twitter accounts. The version of the video posted to Twitter was viewed more than 2 million times.
Leal’s Olympic profile page reveals she wasn’t skating long when she first went viral. A quote from her on the page says she got her first skateboard as a birthday present when she was just 6 years old, and she didn’t even have enough strength in her legs to do much with it at the time.
According to Leal’s Olympics page, she also became the youngest person to ever win a women's final on the Street League Skateboarding World Tour in 2019 when she was 11 years old.
And while it may come as a surprise she’s competing in the Olympics at just 13, she wasn’t the only teenager to finish on her event’s podium. In fact, gold medalist Momiji Nishiya of Japan is 13, as well.
That’s because there’s not actually an age limit or age requirement to compete in the Olympics. The Olympics says that’s set by the individual international sports federations.
World Skate does not list any age requirement for Olympic skateboarding competitions, simply stating athletes must hold a valid license or be recognized by their national federation.
While the default for eligibility is 16, the Olympics says many countries allow their athletes to compete when they’re as young as 13. Brazil, Japan and even the United States are among those countries.