When all seemed lost, the impossible happened: A fairy visited Brazil.
After winning silver in the inaugural Olympics's skateboarding competition, Rayssa Leal, 13, was nicknamed Fadinha or "Little Fairy" (Portuguese). The board flips, slides and grinds of Brazil's youngest-ever medalist drew as much acclaim as her braces-filled smile and happy-go-lucky vibe -- perhaps best embodied by her shuffling "fairy dance" while waiting to take her final run.
Something magical happened back home. Skateboarding has become a craze in Brazil, from its posh neighborhoods to its working class favelas.
"My parents were concerned, and it took them time to accept. They watched the Olympics and realized that it was a great sport." Amaro said to The Associated Press in Sao Caetano do Sul at a skatepark. This is a wealthy area in Sao Paulo. With the blessing of Deivison, she was able to wobble on her board after her two-hour lesson. Eight other young girls and women aged between 4-20 rode along.
Eduardo Braz, a former professional skateboarder and owner of the skatepark, stated that he used receive messages from one to two girls asking for classes on regular days before the Tokyo Olympics. He now has 20 people reaching out to him to learn.
Braz stated that "we almost closed due to the pandemic." Rayssa was a gift. Many girls were shy around boys in the past. But things are changing now.
Rayssa Leal was the first to introduce Brazilians to Rayssa in 2015. In 2015, a video of Rayssa's 7-year old daughter trying a heelflip on three steps while wearing a blue dress showed her doing it. After falling twice, she landed on her third attempt. She was wearing wings. American skateboard legend Tony Hawk shared the clip on social media, and what he called her "fairytale heelflip" went viral.
Hawk and Leal have since struck up a bond, and on her social media -- where her number of followers has surged into the millions -- she affectionately calls him Tio Toninho, or "Little Uncle Tony." They met up in Tokyo and he joined her while she trained.
Maranhao, Brazil's poorer northeastern state, was her surprise to discover a new mural on the school's walls. It shows her mid-air doing a heelflip, and says "if you can dream, you can make it happen.''
Brazil isn't the first country to have a female skateboarder. Other pioneers, such as Leticia Bufoni, 32, struggled to gain acceptance and break in. Bufoni's dad broke her board in half when she was 10 years old to end her passion.
She said, "I cried many hours" in a press conference following her Tokyo competition. He believed that girls shouldn't be able to skate because he hadn't seen a woman do it before.
No Brazilian parent can repeat Leal's Olympic performance.
Sandro Dias, a professional skateboarder, said that interest in girls has increased since Leal's award. Over a decade, he has held a training camp outside of Sao Paulo to find new talent. Of the 60 participants, only two girls were ever present in each session.
"Then, we had 14 girls in our last one, just before the Olympics and we were so impressed. Dias said, "Now I have stopped counting. There are just too many girls eager to come." "Young people want sports that reflect their lifestyle." Rayssa was able to bring that lifestyle to life.