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‘Lazy pothead’ skateboarders get serious with Olympic dream

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Hamburgers are out, going to the gym is in. With skateboarding set to make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games, top skateboarders are settling down and preparing as athletes in the bid to qualify.

“Now we are athletes, within quotation marks, urban athletes,” joked 24-year-old Spaniard Danny Leon, who sports surfer style hair, at a skateboarding competition in Barcelona.

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Decked out in jeans, a loose dark shirt and the almost obligatory baseball cap, Leon is well positioned to fly the flag for Spain in Tokyo — and he is taking it seriously.

“Before it would be just hitting the streets with your skateboard and skating. Now we train,” says Leon.

“We exercise and stretch after and before, we take care of our bodies more, eat better, no hamburgers and pizzas.”

Leon is one of several top skateboarders currently in Barcelona to take part in the World Roller Games, the world’s largest event comprising all championship roller sports disciplines.

“Right now I go to the gym a lot to improve my resistance and then I train every day four hours a day, repeating tricks all the time,” said Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

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The 18-year-old is ranked number two in the world in the “street” skateboarding category and has a good chance of finishing on the podium at the Olympics.

In Tokyo, skateboarders will have the chance to compete in the “street” and “park” categories.

Street skateboarding features stairs or benches, intended to mirror a natural street. Park boarding takes place in a hollowed-out course, usually involving bowls that give boarders great height, allowing for more complex tricks.

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“It sounds crazy that I can get a gold medal representing my country at the Olympics,” said Ribeiro.

– ‘Lazy and potheads’ –

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His excitement contrasts with the misgivings many in the skateboarding community displayed when Olympic chiefs in 2016 supported a proposal to allow the sport in the Tokyo 2020 Games.

They feared it could curb skateboarding’s street culture roots.

“If you want to do it for fun, you can go to the street, do your tricks, have fun and have some beers. But I want to take it seriously,” said Argentina’s Matias Dell Olio.

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“I get up early, I work out at the gym, I stretch, I eat better. I have been skating since I was six, that’s my lifestyle. But it’s also my job.”

Peru’s Angelo Caro, 19, said the inclusion of skateboarding in the Tokyo Games opened the doors to him of his country’s top training centre for athletes. He hopes it will also shatter stereotypes about skateboarders.

“People who see us as lazy and potheads will see that it is really a beautiful sport, that involves a lot of talent and effort. Every day we fall, we hurt ourselves, it’s a real sacrifice,” added Caro, whose body is covered in scars and bruises.

– Wardrobe woes –

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World Skate president Sabatino Aracu told AFP that skateboarding will bring “fresh air” and “young blood” to the Olympics.

A total of 80 skateboarders will compete in Tokyo 2020 — 40 in the “street” category and 40 in the “park” category. An equal number of men and women will compete in each category.

A country can send a maximum of three representatives per category.

Qualification depends on points obtained during major international competitions, a system which discourages them from attempting spectacular tricks.

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“We work with a calculator. There are tricks that are worth eight or nine points, but if you only need seven, you do an easier one to secure a spot on the podium,” said Dell Olio.

Aside from preparing tricks, Leon is worried about one other thing ahead of the Olympics.

“How should we dress? I can’t imagine wearing track pants. We all skate in jeans, with a cap. I hope they let us go however we want,” he said.


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John Oliver unleashes on news sites that sent out stupid push notifications

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"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver doesn't come back until Feb. 16, but he dropped a new web-exclusive video Sunday complaining to news agencies that they should stop sending out stupid push notifications on their apps.

Oliver told his audience that there are two major criteria when considering a push notification: 1. Is there something I should be doing differently?; and 2. Is this something I need to know now?

Things like declarations of war, earthquakes or acts of terrorism are all perfect examples of things news agencies should inform readers about quickly. But when CNN sent out a push notification about a 115,000 Neanderthal child that was only found "half-eaten" by a bird, Oliver was understandably frustrated.

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Billionaires are now richer than 60 percent of the world’s population: report

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The world's billionaires have doubled in the past decade and are richer than 60 percent of the global population, the charity Oxfam said Monday.

It said poor women and girls were at the bottom of the scale, putting in "12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day," estimated to be worth at least $10.8 trillion a year.

"Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist," Oxfam's India head Amitabh Behar said.

"The gap between rich and poor can't be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies," Behar said ahead of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, where he will represent Oxfam.

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Alcohol-infused gummy bears infuriating candy giant Haribo

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Ander Mendez and his friends were hoping they'd struck it rich when they came up with the idea of selling alcohol-infused gummy bears -- until they found themselves in the sights of sweet giant Haribo.

Now, these three Spaniards say they're afraid of being shut down by the German confectionery king, which is famed for its vast array of jelly sweets and was founded 100 years ago in the western city of Bonn.

In a not-so-sweetly worded legal letter, Haribo has accused their startup of infringing its trademarked little bear.

But these graduates from the northern Spanish port city of Bilbao insist they will carry on producing their "drunken gummy bears" -- "because people like them."

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