It didn’t take long for the youngest athlete in X Games history to realize that dancing wasn’t her thing.
Brighton Zeuner, 12, tried her hand at ballet, but it was her love for skateboarding that paid off.
Zeuner made her mark a year ago when she took fourth place at X Games Austin. She finished in first place in the elimination round Friday at the X Games qualifier at Rhodes Skate Park in Downtown Boise.
“(Skating) was so different from all the girls that went to my school,” the Arizona native said. “I just wanted to be different.”
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For a while, having any female competing in skateboarding was different.
The original Tony Hawk video game featured only one playable female character, compared to nine men. The X Games has had women’s skateboarding since 2003, when only eight participated. There are 18 at the X Games Boise qualifier.
“Now, every time I go to the park, there’s like three other girls,” said Nicole Hause, 19. “It’s almost more weird to me than being the only girl.”
Hause finished sixth in Friday’s qualifier and was among the 12 who advanced to Saturday’s finals with a chance to make the big show in Minneapolis July 13-16.
While there are still differences in pay and opportunities, the playing field has shifted in part because companies have made an effort to appeal to females.
“Good marketing helps to break down stereotypes of skaters and makes younger girls think they should give it a go,” Poppy Starr Olsen told Vice.com.
That was not always the case, though.
Allysha Le, 20, remembers being heckled at the skate park.
“There would be some kids who would say, ‘You’re a girl, you can’t skate. What are you wearing? (Those are) not skate clothes,’” said Le, who has been competing at the X Games since she was 12 and finished ninth Friday.
Hause grew up in Minnesota and picked up the sport after watching the Nickelodeon cartoon “Rocket Power.” Isolated in snow country, Hause didn’t have anyone to skate with, male or female.
“One day my dad looked up professional girls skateboarders when I was 11,” Hause said. “That was kind of the moment it first hit me. I’m not the only girl.”
Le said she noticed the change about three years ago. The women were getting better as was the X Games competition. It wasn’t the same handful of female skaters every year.
Now, skateboard magazines feature women on their covers and female athletes push the limits.
And the boys are looking up to them.
On Friday in Boise, 9-year-old Landon Hunt got autographs from some of the female skaters. He watched in awe as they practiced.
“I thought (an autograph) would be cool to save,” Hunt said.
The significance wasn’t lost on Hause.
“It’s cool to be a part of something that might inspire someone else,” Hause said. “They could be here one day.”
Boisean makes cut
Boise’s Dalton Beeson earned the 12th and final spot in the skateboard final at the X Games qualifier at Rhodes Skate Park.
“I think I was in ninth or something, and I kept getting bumped down a little bit,” Beeson said. “I barely hung on.”
The top six in Saturday’s men’s skateboarding (2:30 p.m.) and BMX finals (4:30 p.m.) and the top four in the women’s skateboarding final (12:30 p.m.) advance to the Minneapolis X Games on July 13-16.
Men’s s qualifiers: Tom Schaar 88.66, Heimana Reynolds 80.33, Cory Juneau 77.33, Alex Sorgente 75.66, Ivan Federico 73, Tristan Rennie 70.33, Clay Kreiner 67, Asher Bradshaw 66.66, Chris Gregson 64.3), Willy Lara 62.66, Brad McClain 62, Dalton Beeson 61.
Women’s qualifiers: Brighton Zeuner (79.00, Kihana Ogawa 67.33, Hanna Zanzi 66.66, Poppy Olsen 66.33, Hunter Long 63.33, Nicole Hause 62.33, Dora Varella 58.66, Minna Stess 58.00, Allysha Le 56.00, Bryce Wettstein 55.66, Yndiara Asp 55.00, Fabiana Delfino 51.00.
BMX qualifiers: Nick Bruce 85.2, Mike Varga 84.4, Daniel Sandoval 84, Kenneth Tencio 83.2, Colton Walker 81.8, Kevin Peralta 81, Jason Watts 80.6, Gary Young 80.4, Pat Casey 80.2, Ben Wallace 80, Drew Bezanson 79.8, Kostya Andreev 79.6.