Skateboard prodigy Chloe Covell, 13, targets Paris Olympics after taking world silver medal
Chloe Covell turns 13 on Wednesday. But instead of celebrating her milestone birthday with friends and family as most new teenagers would, the skateboarding prodigy from the New South Wales-Queensland border will be on a plane, travelling back to Australia from the UAE with a world championships silver medal in her luggage and an eye on making the 2024 Olympic team.
What would be classed unusual for most at her age is becoming the norm for the street skater whose rapid rise has marked her out as one of the most exciting up-and-coming talents in the sport. Her silver in Sharjah – secured while still just 12 years old – was the third major medal of a burgeoning collection, adding to the silver and bronze she collected at last year’s X-Games, aged 11. She is the youngest athlete to win two medals at the annual action sports event before the age of 13.
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Crucially, the championships in the UAE carried valuable Olympic ranking points towards qualification for next year’s Paris Games, where Covell is hoping to become one of Australia’s youngest ever Olympians. It would cap a dramatic ascension over a relatively short period of time, after skateboarding arrived out of the blue to vie for her attention with her other sporting interest, football, just six years ago.
“I started skating when I was six years old. I was just watching the TV and the X-Games came on. After I saw that I just wanted to start,” she says. Things moved pretty quickly from there and within two years she entered her first local competition. Three years further down the track and she was winning the first of her medals on the world stage, before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 further cemented her passion for the sport and narrowed her focus.
Sat on the couch in front of the TV alongside her grandmother and father – the former Wests Tigers and Cronulla NRL player Luke Covell – Chloe was inspired as she watched compatriot Keegan Palmer win gold in the sport’s debut at the Games.
Skate Australia’s high performance manager, Debbie Savage, believes she has seen in Covell what it takes to emulate the likes of Palmer and says the youngster’s recent development as a skater has been nothing short of remarkable.
“Seeing Chloe’s progression over the past 12 months, considering her age, is quite incredible,” Savage says. “We’re certainly really excited to support her and see her reach her dreams and goals towards Paris. Her progression is a reflection of her passion, her zest and her froth for the sport itself. That is what we nurture and encourage.”
Covell started Year 8 at Palm Beach Currumbin high school this year and has to juggle her globetrotting with some more mundane yet important aspects of early teenage life. “It’s not too bad, I just work my things around my skating, when I travel and stuff. It’s gotten easier.” School is “fine with it”, she says. “I have my computer that they just send work to me on and I’m able to keep up.”
It’s something of a wonder but perhaps an indication of her youthful agility that Covell has time to run a popular Instagram account that has amassed more than 50,000 followers. “I love posting new clips, like seeing all the support I have, I guess,” she says. “People started following just at the start of last year when I went to my first big contest in Japan, the X-Games. That’s when I started to get a lot more followers.”
Helping her keep her feet on the ground amid the Insta-fame and high profile sponsors – Nike Skateboarding started sponsoring her when she was just nine – is dad Luke, a veteran of the NRL who played 131 games for the Sharks and 22 for the Tigers and scored more than 1,000 points in a career that spanned eight years.
Luke is an almost ever-present on overseas trips to competitions – “Dad usually comes on the trips with me, but mum has been on a few” – and is acutely aware of the perils of child stardom. He is just as keen to avoid any pitfalls that may lie in his daughter’s path.
“We’re obviously very mindful of her growing up and want her to enjoy being a kid and not put too much pressure on her, or her put too much pressure on herself,” he says. “It’s something we constantly remind her of.
“At this stage, she’s having the time of her life and she enjoys it. Sometimes its fun and other times, you’ve got to put your head down, whether it’s practice or school. But hard work and dedication have led to good things for her over the past 12 months.”
It’s a delicate balancing act for the Covells, but at least Chloe seems to be sure where her priorities lie at the moment, with the tantalising prospect of an Olympic Games apparance on the horizon. Asked what’s more important at this stage of her life – the things a normal 13-year-old girl does or jetting around the world to skateboard for medals – she barely hesitates before responding: “Skating, probably.”