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Andy MacDonald, 50, Will Skateboard for Britain at the Paris Olympics

Skateboarding often favors the young. The gold medalists in Tokyo in 2021, when the sport made its Olympic debut, were 22, 19, 18 and 13. An 11-year-old, Zheng Haohao of China, will compete in Paris this summer.

So will Andy Macdonald. He’s 50.

Macdonald, who was born in the United States but is representing Britain because he has a British father, will be 51 by the time he competes in the park event, in which skaters do tricks in a bowl with ramps, bumps and pipes. (The other event, street, mimics an urban environment with elements like stairs, handrails and curbs.)

He qualified for Britain’s team by finishing high enough in the Olympic Qualifier Series this year, along with the teenagers Sky Brown and Lola Tambling, both younger than the oldest of Macdonald’s three children. Macdonald will be the oldest skateboarder at the Games.

Macdonald spoke with The New York Times about skating, aging and being a first-time Olympian.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Did you think you could make the Games?

I thought I could make the British team. That was the part I was optimistic about. But beyond that, I knew that qualifying for the Olympic Games would be a long shot.

There are 22 spots for the Games. Coming into the Budapest qualifier, my coach said I’d have to make the semifinal. To that point in the series I’d never even made a quarterfinal.

I’d have to do the hardest tricks, the best run I’d ever done, to even have a shot. All the strategy I’ve developed over the years was out the window. I had three chances to do the hardest run I could possibly do.

You get three runs. I fell on my first two. On my last run I pulled it off. I scored 11 points higher than I had ever scored on the tour. And even then I qualified by the skin of my teeth.

Even when my coaches were telling me I did it, I wouldn’t believe them until I heard it officially.

How is skating different at your age?

It hurts more when you fall. It takes longer to heal. But just don’t stop. That’s how you keep doing it into your 50s.

I’m skating with kids a third of my age, and I get their youth and their exuberance and their resilience through osmosis.

I’ll see them take a fall and think, “Man if I fell like that, I’d be out for two weeks.” And they’ll just bounce right up and be, “Let’s try that again.”

There are tricks that take more commitment and have a higher risk factor: a 720, that’s the most I’ll probably ever spin on a skateboard. Two rotations.

The last time I had done one, it had been almost a year. Two weeks ago at a demonstration with Tony Hawk, because there was an arena with 30,000 people and the energy was high I decided to try a 720, and I made it first try. I became the oldest person ever to do one.

I used to go to an empty warehouse by myself and put down a 720. The older you get, the harder it is to get that motivation: I’m going to put it down or I’m going to slam trying.

Have you had a lot of injuries in your career?

I broke my ankle early in my career and my kneecap about 2002. Most of the injuries come from repetition, years and years of overuse: There’s not much cartilage left in my knees, the tendons in my wrists; I’ve had an ankle surgery and two knee surgeries. But other than that, I’ve been pretty lucky. The longest I’ve been out is two months.

How do you relate to teenage and even preteen teammates and competitors?

I feel like I’m one of them. Skateboarding is the fountain of youth.

I was at the park before they were born. Chances are, I taught them where to put their feet or how to pump. Years later they’re beating me.

Skateboarding is old enough that it has this history. It’s not written down anywhere.

Oftentimes I’ll be skating with my teenager teammates, and they’ll be trying a trick, and chances are I was either there when that trick was invented or know the guy who invented it and how it got its name. Or I invented that trick myself.

It’s cool to be able to share that knowledge and experience with the next generation.

How has the sport changed since you started?

It has developed exponentially in the skill levels, especially of younger kids. When I started skating at 12, that was kind of the median age to start. Now, by the time kids are 12 they’re spinning 900s. They’re starting at 5 and 6.

That’s partly because skateboarding has developed its facilities and public access. When I was growing up, if you wanted to skate a halfpipe ramp you had to know somebody with a ramp in their backyard, and you had to go knock on their door and bring them a six pack.

Now, where there’s cement, there’s skateboarding.

What should fans be looking for in the park event?

It starts with skateboarding being a judged event. There’s always that drama over who gets what score. In skateboarding, it’s particularly tough.

There are certain markers. The use of the course, the difficulty of the trick, the style, the amplitude. But at the end of the run the judge gives a score on overall impression. One score. How did they feel about his run?

In the run I qualified with in Budapest, in the first third of my run I went up to do a trick I had fallen on the run before. It was a flip trick: You ride up to the top of the bowl, and you kick your board and it flips once, you catch it and you put it back on your feet.

My coach was like, “Don’t try to flip your board.” I was like: “No. It’s a flip trick, I have to try every trick I can. I’m just going to go faster.”

I went harder and faster, and as I went to flip it, the board floated out in front of me and I missed. But I reached out and grabbed it and put it on my feet as if I meant to do it.

In skateboarding, that’s extra points. The judges say, “Well he didn’t do the skill correctly, but he should have fallen and he didn’t: Extra points.” It’s extra exciting. “How is he still doing it? He’s still on, he’s still going.”

And any time the board comes off your feet, any time you flip it and grab it, the timing has to be perfect. Even if you’ve done it a hundred times, that one time when they call your name and it doesn’t work out. …

You’ve won eight X Games gold medals. How does the Olympics rank in your career highlights?

Already, just qualifying is up there. It’s something I never thought would happen. When I started this journey, I was like, “This is going to be a fun trip — and maybe long shot, I’ll qualify.” Just making it is kind of the medal for me. Of course I’m going for the gold medal, but I’m happy to be there.

So are you going to try to qualify for Los Angeles in 2028?

Ask me after Paris.

If they were to add vert skating [skateboarding on a high ramp] for L.A. — I would hope they have they sense to do that. If they do, maybe I’ll be there riding for Team 55 and Up.

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