Rayssa Leal

Rayssa Leal. Photo: Instagram/rayssalealsk8

'Fairytale' viral sensation to breaking records: Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal's rise to success

The 16-year-old is one of 44 street skateboarders who have qualified to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Rayssa Leal is no stranger to breaking records, becoming the youngest Brazilian ever (at the age of 13) to participate in the Olympics at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. The now-16-year-old is set to return as one of 44 street skateboarders who have qualified to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics in July. 

The Olympic Silver medallist has had a flair for manoeuvring her skateboard with precision and skill since a very young age. After starting to skate at age six, she became an overnight viral sensation when she was just seven, when a video of her heel-flipping down a flight of stairs in a fairy costume went viral online – a clip that skateboarding legend Tony Hawk also shared on X (then known as Twitter). 

“I don’t know anything about this but it’s awesome: a fairytale heel flip in Brazil by #RayssaLeal,” Hawk captioned his social media post at the time. 

Reflecting on her claim to fame, she told the Olympics.com Portuguese podcast last year that dealing with being recognised by strangers took some getting used to.

“When I was already seven years old, the video [of the fairy] exploded and I didn't know how to deal with the people who wanted to take a photo with me, asking for an autograph and a hug and say they were inspired,” she said. “And after the Olympics, it changed even more.” 

With over six million followers on her Instagram account, the public commentary towards Leal has also been widespread, and not necessarily restricted to her performance in her sport. 

“My mother said that it [negative comments] will always come from social media. Everyone has a different opinion and everybody is saying what they think. But I'm not much of a fan of reading these negative comments, I prefer to read more positive ones,” she told the podcast. 

The rising star has also sought professional help from a therapist, describing it “as the best thing I did with my life” that helped her stop “being so nervous”.

When it comes to her recent achievements in the sport, Leal won the X-Games street title in Chiba in 2022, and the 2022 SLS Super Crown World Championship in Rio de Janeiro. She also came first at the 2023 SLS Super Crown in São Paulo. 

Now as she looks ahead to the games in Paris, she admits the stakes are high and the bar has been raised in terms of the level of competition. 

“The level of skateboarding has increased on an absurd level, for both men and women,” she told Olympics.com.  “It’s really crazy to see, because if you stop to think about it, from Tokyo to Paris, it’s going to be a high level. 

“It’s a new opportunity for tricks we didn’t even imagine we would do,” she added “If we’re going to compete in the final, it’s going to be high class.”