"Everyone, especially girls, should do whatever they like. Don't worry about discrimination, because we girls can be whatever we want to be," the teen said in an interview last year.
Earlier this week, 13-year-old Rayssa Leal of Brazil became one of the youngest athletes to win an Olympic medal after competing in the first women's street skateboarding event in Tokyo. The youngster's historic silver medal moment ― shared with gold medalist Momiji Nishiya, also 13, and bronze winner Funa Nakayama, 16 — comes six years after she first grabbed international attention with a viral video of her skating in a "fairy princess" sparkly blue dress. The 14-second Vine video that showed Leal tumbling twice before successfully landing a heelflip off a set of stairs, was widely celebrated online back in 2015 and was even shared by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.
"I don't know anything about it but it's awesome," Hawk tweeted at the time, calling Leal's move a "fairytale heelflip." The pair came full circle at the Olympics in Tokyo, where Hawk spent time on a board alongside Leal. "Six years ago he introduced me to the world of skateboarding by sharing my video wearing a fairy costume. Today, he filmed me at the Olympics," the teen captioned an Instagram post with photos of him standing alongside her. "This is all so amazing, I'm living a dream!"
Hawk also commented on the post, writing: "You have exceeded all expectations! It's been an honor to be involved in some small way. And thanks for the clips!" Speaking to extreme sports outlet Dew Tour in 2020, Leal recounted how she got into the world of skateboarding. "I got a skateboard as a birthday present when I was 6 and I started riding it around the house," she said. "My dad had some friends who were skateboarders and I started riding with them on the street, but my skateboard was too big for me and I didn’t have that much strength in my legs yet. But I practiced a lot and I got to a point where I didn’t have so much trouble anymore."
When asked about the moment she realized she could compete alongside some of the top skaters in the world, Leal said: "There was not a moment when I realized that I could compete, it just happened. I skate because I like it and have fun doing it. And I also really like being able to get to know new people and places. Skateboarding gives me that." The teen credited her family's unwavering support for the confidence she feels on the skateboard. "They don't pressure me to always win and be first, they encourage me to do what I like, which is skateboarding," she said. "Their support, along with the lack of pressure, allows me to be calmer and more relaxed to have fun all the time, even during tournaments."
"When you are on a skateboard, you fall a lot and need to get up and try again to get the trick right," Leal added. "The same goes for tournaments. I know I won't always win, but I will always try to win! And I’m also happy to know that I inspire other girls who want to be skateboarders, and that's as good as getting up on the podium." Sharing some words of advice at the time, the teen skater said: "Everyone, especially girls, should do whatever they like. Don't worry about discrimination, because we girls can be whatever we want to be."
According to The Washington Post, responding to a question Monday about how she felt about "winning in something as important as the Olympics," Leal kept it level-headed and replied: "I want to go back to being the little girl I am. I don't want to have responsibility. I want to go on being the lively little girl I am for all of Brazil."