Home Entertainment Meet the 11-year-old X Games medalist who Tony Hawk says has ‘extraordinary’...

Meet the 11-year-old X Games medalist who Tony Hawk says has ‘extraordinary’ skill


A relaxing afternoon for Reese Nelson can include perfecting a new version of a nose grab 720 in San Diego wearing her favorite Eminem shirt. Perhaps figuring out new ways to perform a kickflip nose slide to fakie. Maybe doing NBDs — “never been done” tricks — that can help her win X Games Ventura 2024 this weekend.

All with Tony Hawk watching in the background. Yes, that Tony Hawk. It’s the scenario when an 11-year-old skateboarding prodigy gets to train with the sport’s long-time GOAT.

Flip the script, and picture a stressful afternoon for Nelson. Playing dress-up with her cat, Bloody Mary, can be hectic, particularly when Mary isn’t as cooperative as Nelson’s other cat, Freddy Krueger. Then there are those occasions when Nelson and her younger sister quarrel while playing with their dolls. And let’s not forget when that game of Minecraft has a lousy ending.

Some might wonder why the aforementioned examples aren’t flipped. Playing with dolls and pets should be a joy. Doing insane tricks that require a skate lingo guide for non-fans on a vert ramp standing nearly 15 feet — tricks the world’s best skateboarders attempt (successfully and unsuccessfully) daily — should be the avoidable obstacles. For Nelson, the youngest-ever X Games medalist after last year’s effort in California, the harder the trick, the more determined she is to master it.

She knows her current lifestyle is challenging, but she puts on a protective helmet and pads every day to make personal battles with a vert ramp look like lightweight work. Her greatness is supported by a generational talent in Hawk, who has dominated the skateboarding scene since turning pro at 14 years old. It’s her tenacity, fearlessness and relentlessness that reminds him of a younger version of himself.

“She chooses the highest-level tricks to learn, and she follows through with them. At some point, she started making up some of her own,” Hawk said. “I’m talking about tricks that had never been considered in our realm, and she was doing them for the first time at the age of 10, 11.

“She is way ahead of anyone her age — or at any age, for the most part. It’s like she skipped all of the foundational steps in skateboarding to get to some of the most elite tricks.”

Add that incredible ability with tons of humility and a charming personality, and you get Nelson, a happy-go-lucky skateboarder who won over fans globally at X Games 2023, earning a silver medal in the Pacifico Women’s Skateboard Vert at 10 years and 8 months old. X Games 2024 runs Friday through Sunday in Ventura, Calif., and Sunday afternoon, Nelson once again will compete in the event and be tested on her execution of control, originality and overall use of the vert ramp.

Winning a gold medal Sunday would be an honor. Competing for the love of the sport, however, is what organically puts a smile on the face of the incoming seventh-grader who turns 12 in November. Some X Games competitors are viewing this weekend as win or bust. To Nelson, this is still just fun and games — and that’s OK.

Even if many skateboarding fans already consider her a wunderkind.

“Very quickly, I could tell that she had something extraordinary,” Hawk said.

Born in Calgary, Alberta, Nelson and her family moved to San Diego roughly three years ago as a result of her dad’s occupation. Nelson’s household isn’t full of skateboarders. Nobody encouraged her to attempt ramp tricks. But as a 4-year-old, she learned to snowboard during the Canadian winters, and when her family moved to California, she was introduced to skateboarding and skate parks at 8.

With practice, she learned to control a skateboard, then she tried maneuvering on a vert ramp. That turned into a hobby. Now, this hobby has developed into something that’s given Nelson a spotlight she never imagined.

“It sort of just happened,” Nelson said. “I was just skating for fun, and then I started competing. I don’t know, everything just really happened at once.”

“She’d already caught the skating bug in Canada but didn’t have a lot of facilities there that suited what she was interested in, which was more vertical, half-pipe skating,” Hawk added. “When they moved, they realized they were in the epicenter of vert skating.”

Nelson first would learn to perform tricks on small ramps. She then began working with one of Hawk’s friends, pro skater Lincoln Ueda, who also works with members of the Chinese national team. Hawk took a phone call from Ueda that concluded with an emphatic message.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to see this little girl,’” Hawk said.

After viewing some of Nelson’s performance videos, Hawk received contact information for Nelson’s mother, Lindsey Bedier, and sent her a direct message through social media. He invited the family to his warehouse, where Nelson showcased her skills in person.

“It was crazy. I said to my husband, ‘Tony Hawk just DMed me,’” Bedier said. “Everyone thinks we moved to California for skateboarding, but we’re just not that hardcore. It was so crazy when he DMed.”

Nelson put on a show during their first encounter, and Hawk ultimately extended Nelson membership to his Birdhouse Skateboards team. Since then, the two have become quite close. It’s a businesslike mentor-mentee relationship some days, two friends acting goofy on others.

There are also those days when Nelson forgets Tony Hawk is the Tony Hawk. He has a lengthy list of accomplishments, which includes being the first to successfully complete a recorded 900 (2 1/2 full revolutions) in 1999. Nelson’s initial thoughts of the skateboarding legend are slightly different from those older than her, expected considering she wasn’t born when Hawk, now 56, was the face of the sport in the 1990s and 2000s.

Nelson often is reminded of how famous her mentor is. Whether it’s a food run to P.F. Chang’s (chicken fried rice is her favorite) or an event at a skate park, if she is with Hawk, she sees how excited his fan base gets. It doesn’t mean she understands the hype. Blame timing, as Nelson was born in 2012.

“I always think it’s weird how people just come up and want pictures,” Nelson said of Hawk.

“When we first went (to the warehouse), she was just like, ‘Oh, cool … like, let’s skate,’” Bedier added, laughing. “She had no idea.”

Hawk has a funnier interpretation of their relationship. As arguably the most well-known skateboarding mentor, Hawk can only shake his head when Nelson chooses against taking his advice. It’s as if his decades of experience are upstaged by the strong will of a preteen.

But in many forms, Hawk appreciates Nelson’s mental approach to the sport. She knows what she wants, and while she’s focused on daily improvement, she isn’t afraid to say no — not even to him.

“She is fiercely determined and dedicated, almost to a fault in terms of she will not give up,” Hawk said. “There are times when I try to tell her things, basic trick suggestions: Hey, maybe you should try to learn … ‘I don’t like them.’ This could be something you go to as a backup. If you lose speed, you … ‘Yeah, I don’t want to do that.’

“But I have helped her learn a couple of tricks. I will take credit for that.”

The middle child of three, Nelson brings a varied personality to the table. She loves Eminem and will vibe to his tracks when she tries to get into a zone. When she’s watching television, she loves the Netflix reality series “Nailed It!” as well as other baking shows.

Nelson has been homeschooled in previous years but is excited about in-person seventh grade in the fall. It’ll be the first time in years that she returns to schooling with other students.

When asked what’s more nerve-racking between starting middle school or landing 540s and 720s, she didn’t hesitate to respond.

“Going to middle school,” she said. “I mean, like, I’m nervous.”

When she arrives at her new school, she’ll have tons of stories to tell. Nelson lives a cool-yet-unorthodox life that some may think is as complicated as one of her gravity-defying attempts at a skate park. Even her mother calls her life “strange,” but that’s far from a diss. If anything, it’s the ultimate compliment.

How many people can say they know Hawk? How many can call or text the skateboarding icon at any hour? And how many, regardless of age, can say they’ve skated with Hawk and Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock on the same day — and treat it as “just another day?”

“Tony was like, ‘Hey, you want to come skate with Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys?’” said Bedier, a fan of the Beasties. “Reese was like, ‘OK.’ And I’m like … ‘What?!’

When Nelson isn’t skateboarding, she’s studying her personal favorites: Tom Schaar, the first to land a recorded 1080 (three revolutions), and Colin McKay, a fellow Canadian.

Nothing personal against Hawk, right?

“Tony is good, but I really like Tom Schaar’s skating. He’s strong and aggressive,” Nelson said. “Colin’s like that, too. Tony does good tricks, though.”

Nelson also keeps an eye on another youth skateboarder making news as of late. Arisa Trew, a 14-year-old from Australia, last month became the first-ever female skateboarder to successfully land a recorded 900. Trew is ranked the No. 2 female park skateboarder in the world, according to World Skate, and her 900 came 25 years after Hawk landed the trick at X Games V in San Francisco.

“She works hard. She’s good,” Nelson said of Trew. “I haven’t really thought about trying (the 900).”

Nelson is still about having fun with skateboarding rather than building the legacy her fans might push for. Hawk constantly reminds Nelson that at this stage in her life, winning isn’t everything. Though winning a gold medal would be a monumental X Games achievement, simply competing in the prestigious event should be valued.

Keeping her expectations tempered arguably is Hawk’s toughest job as mentor. Particularly when it pertains to a competitor who enjoys showing off her aggressive style and attempting moves that come with the highest degrees of difficulty. Many times, those moves are successful. Sometimes, they miss — and Nelson is her worst critic.

“She’s very hard on herself, (but) I want her to still have fun with it,” he said. “Her determination and her fierceness is almost an impenetrable wall.”

“I feel pressure, but not because other people put it on me,” Nelson added. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect and to learn everything every time. And sometimes, it doesn’t work, which is annoying.”

Having Hawk as a mentor helps to keep Nelson’s life balanced, Bedier said. Hawk has four children, so he understands the pressures Nelson goes through as a young competitor, as well as the roller coaster of emotions Bedier deals with.

Hawk’s wisest words may consistently go to Bedier more often than Nelson, primarily because of the evolution of her daughter and what’s to come if she continues excelling in the sport.

“It’s been over three years. … He’s really become somebody I can rely on for advice and support, not just for Reese’s skating, but in terms of my role as a parent, like, what I can do to support her,” Bedier said. “His advice has been invaluable. It’s not just about tricks; it’s helping us navigate the world of skateboarding.”

Sunday will be Nelson’s time to shine, and she’s ready for the spotlight. But transforming into her own version of a superhero still is more for the memories and less for the fame and fortune.

X Games will get another chance to see the innocence of a rising star. And at the same time, Nelson will have another shot at showing why people should pay attention.

“I’m one of the older guys, but we’re talking about 20-, 30-year-old veterans of vert skating watching her, and they’re completely blown away,” Hawk said. “It’s not a novelty. It’s not, ‘Oh, she’s good for her age.’ She’s just that good.”

“It’s been a wild ride the last three years, and we didn’t seek any of this out,” Bedier added. “Reese has a really good group of people around her. We definitely hit the jackpot.”

(Illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photos: Ric Tapia / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images and Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Source link

Previous articleThe Bear Season 3 Ending Explained: The Reviews Are In
Next articleDjimon Hounsou is the Same Character from Part 2


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here