Britain’s latest Olympic hero Sky Brown is lucky to even be in Tokyo after a horror accident last year left her with a fractured skull.
Brown, 13, became Team GB’s youngest-ever summer Olympian when she competed in the skateboarding event on Wednesday morning.
And she incredibly earned a spot on the podium, taking home the bronze medal after a tense final run.
But her Olympic dream was almost not to be after a fall during a practice run during last summer left her with a number of significant injuries.
Brown was aged 11 at the time of the fall in California where she suffered skull fractures, a broken left wrist and a broken hand.
Such was the drama of the fall, she was unresponsive on her arrival into hospital, where she was airlifted in.
“Sky landed head-first off a ramp on her hand,” her father Stewart said at the time of the fall.
“When she first came to hospital, everyone was fearful for her life.
“Sky had the gnarliest fall she’s ever had and is lucky to be alive. Sky remains positive and strong, the whole medical team is shocked to see her positivity.”
Brown says that she survived the fall because of her helmet.
She wrote on Instagram as soon as she could that she was more determined than ever to make Tokyo and go for the gold medal.
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“This will not stop me. I am going for gold in Tokyo 2021. I’m going to push boundaries for girls with my skating and surfing. I’m going for gold in 2021 and nothing will stop me.
“I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them, because I want people to see the fun in what I do, but this was my worst fall.
“I want everybody to know that it’s okay, don’t worry, I’m okay. It’s okay to fall sometimes, I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there are a lot of things going on in the world right now.
“But I want everybody to know that whatever we do we’re just going to do it with love and happiness.
“I’m excited to come back even stronger and even tougher.
“My heart wants to go so hard right now. I’m just waiting for my body to catch up.”
Brown’s remarkable recovery was complete when she stood on the podium with a bronze medal on Wednesday morning.
After falling in her first two runs of the final, the 13-year-old nailed her last attempt with a score of 56.47 to finish behind Japanese pair Sakura Yosozumi and Kokona Hiraki.
Aged just 12, Hiraki duly eclipsed Brown to become the youngest Olympic medallist in 85 years. Favourite Misugu Okamoto fell on her final run and missed out on the podium.
Brown, who was born in Miyazaki, Japan, to a Japanese mother and British father, competed at the US Open in 2016 at the age of eight, and first elected to compete for Great Britain in 2018.
She arrived with plenty of profile, having won the US version of ‘Dancing With The Stars: Juniors’ in 2018, and expressed her ambition to achieve the almost unprecedented feat of competing in two sports – skateboarding and surfing – at the Games, something from which she was subsequently dissuaded.
In 2019, Brown finished third at the World Skateboarding Championship, and the following year she effectively secured her Olympic qualification by picking up a bronze medal at the Park World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Last month, she warmed up for the Games by winning gold in the prestigious X Games, although neither of her key Olympic challengers, Okamoto and Hiraki, were present.