The shopping centres of Milton Keynes may seem an unlikely nurturing ground for the next generation of British Olympic hopefuls but skateboard star Alex Decunha would not have it any other way.
The 22-year-old has swapped the town’s marble plazas and skate-friendly steps and rails for a place on the team pursuing qualification for his sport’s Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.
And Decunha can think of few things better than taking his medal back home to show the shoppers and security guards who were once less than enamoured by his weekend antics.
Decunha told Press Association Sport: “I grew up living in Milton Keynes and while it did not have many skate parks it had some incredible opportunities for street skating.
“The big shopping centre there has the most perfect marble ledges and floors but it puts pressure on you to land your tricks because the security guards always just see you as a bunch of kids who are wasting your time.
“Hopefully one day those people will see our stories and realise what we’ve done, and it will inspire more kids to get involved in skateboarding and help get more facilities too.”
Decunha is the only one of five skateboarders selected to receive UK Sport funding in the build-up to Tokyo who competes in the ‘street’ rather than ‘park’ discipline – the latter based on the bowls and ramps found at skate parks.
And his route to Olympic qualification is set to lead him through the Street League series, highlighted by a World Skate Tour event at London’s Copper Box on May 25 and 26.
“The Street League thing is a great set-up and obviously it has more riding on this year because of the Olympics,” added Decunha.
“There are other events in places like Los Angeles and Mexico and where in the past I would not have been able to afford to go much outside Europe, now the funding will give me the best chance of competing and qualifying.
“Obviously it’s not like other sports where you get up at 4am to go training, but it’s great fun.
“I’m just amazed to be a part of the story that skateboarding is trying to tell.
* The SLS World Tour Event will take place at Copper Box Arena on May 25-26.