Jean-Marc Johannes from Athlone is making waves on the skateboarding scene. Photo: Lyle Minnaar
Jean-Marc Johannes from Athlone is making waves on the skateboarding scene. Photo: Lyle Minnaar

Cape Town skateboarder flips his way to the Olympics

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Apr 16, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - A professional skateboarder from Cape Town is determined to bring home the gold from the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

Jean-Marc Johannes, 29, from Athlone, never intended to become a professional skateboarder when he started at the age of 11, yet he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Speaking to African News Agency (ANA), Johannes said he was always advised not to participate in any sports as he grew up with chronic asthma and spent many days in hospital.

“In school I was told I could not partake in sports. I loved sports so much and this made me lose confidence. I then saw children after school skateboarding and to me it was something different. This was something I could do on my own,” he explained.

When he got home and asked his parents for a skateboard, to his surprise they had one tucked away. It was rather old but usable.

After a year of skateboarding, he won his first competition.

“Today I am in the top 10 ranked skateboarders in the country. I still have my chronic asthma, but I train a lot outside of skateboarding,” Johannes told ANA.

Jean-Marc Johannes, 29, started skateboarding at the age of 11. Photo: Lyle Minnaar

He also holds a number of world records. The latest he achieved was earlier this month at the Cape Town Stadium, when he broke the world record for most spins in 60 seconds.

“The record was previously held for 14 years by former professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek. To me he is the Tony Hawk of skateboarding and one of my skateboarding idols.

“Rob held the record for 12 big spins in a minute; however, I broke it as I had 18 big spins in a minute.

“Breaking records has always been a childhood dream,” Johannes said.

He also holds world records for most Nollie heelflips in one minute (broken twice), most Fakie heelflips in one minute, most Nollies in one minute, and first SA International gold, silver and bronze medals for competitive skateboarding.

The proud skater said he has to thank his high school sweetheart and girlfriend for much of the support.

“She has supported me from day one. It’s a plus because she also likes skateboarding,” he said.

Jean-Marc Johannes from Athlone holds world records in skateboarding. Photo: Lyle Minnaar

Johannes also made history by becoming the first South African to ever win gold, silver and bronze series.

In 2016, he attended his first world series in Asia and won gold.

In 2017, he was invited back and took home the silver. He was then invited to the Pro Jam in Indonesia, the only South African in the competition, and won bronze.

“All of this was literally life changing for me. On Wednesday evening, I was invited for the Dew Tour in the US, one of the biggest skateboarding contests in the world. It’s a dream come true because I have watched this contest so many times on TV before. Now, to know I am actually getting an invite to attend is more than a dream come true,” Johannes told ANA.

He takes a lot of inspiration from local skateboarders but said he is definitely looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics. He still has to attend a few more qualifying events, as the pandemic halted many of them.

This is the first time skateboarding is being recognised as an Olympic sport and it has already been confirmed for the 2024 Games.

“With regards to the Olympics, it’s very surreal to be able to be at this level. I am grateful every day and I know I work hard.

“I always think of others from Athlone or other communities and feel that I do not just want to represent my country, but I want children to see the word ’impossible’ is not to be used any more.

“I want to change the narrative of skateboarding,” he added.


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