Annie Guglia: Breaking barriers in women's sports

Annie Guglia took part in the Olympic qualifier 2019 World Skate World Championships in Brazil
Annie Guglia took part in the Olympic qualifier 2019 World Skate World Championships in Brazil

The Montreal-born athlete is a role model for future generation of women skateboarders

Annie Guglia has more than a decade of skateboarding experience under her belt, but almost gave up on her career when she saw that women in her sports didn’t get the same spotlight and opportunities as their male counterparts.

"[When I was] 17, I realised how little visibility there was for women in the sport and there wasn’t much progress being made, leading to even less visibility, opportunity, interest and participation," she told Olympic.ca in August.

"Just overall, a vicious and discouraging cycle for a young teen full of ambitions! I decided to abandon that dream so I could focus on my studies so I could live a ‘normal’ or more ‘realistic’ life."

But the sport would come calling to her again – and this time the platform will be much bigger than what she has been used to.

With skateboarding making its debut at Tokyo 2020 next year, which will include men and women's events, Guglia’s dream of being on equal footing with the male skaters has been reignited, and she is now aiming to represent Canada.

“It’s only now, [and] at 26 with the inclusion of skateboarding in the Tokyo Olympics that my dream of realising this goal has become possible again in my mind and that’s why I’m here today,” the Montreal-born athlete said.

A new sport in the Olympics

Skateboarding's road to the Olympics has not been easy, as Guglia said the skateboarding community was at first skeptical about it's inclusion as a new sport.

"When it was first announced that skateboarding will be on the Olympics, a lot of people were not happy with that as most skateboarders don't consider skateboarding as a sport," she said on the Jay and Dan podcast for TSN in August.

"But that changed within the past four years because we saw a lot of positives coming out of the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympic Games, especially for women and for people in countries where it wasn't even considered as a sport.

"We didn't have federations and skateparks and now they are building a lot of skate parks. More kids are getting into it."

And for Guglia, a sport that has once been known as a sub-culture or an alternative lifestyle, is now going to be accessible to the world.

"All of this is positive for the skate industry - now people are realising that it's not just being different. If you love skateboarding, you have to share it with as many as a possible and the Olympic Games is a great platform."

Female on the rise

With skateboarding not only jumping to the mainstream but to new Olympic heights, it would put a spotlight on the female side of a male-dominated sport - something which Guglia has been pushing for.

"Three times more women start skateboarding than men right now," Guglia told TSN.

Guglia says that female participation in skateboarding has also skyrocketed as a result of its inclusion in the Olympics and the growing popularity of the sport.

"In my 18 years of experience in the skating community, I’ve never seen more solidarity, opportunity, progression or interest for women in the sport," she told Olympic.ca.

Guglia is happy that her sport is attracting a huge diversity of people.

"Today, we’ve seen this huge growth in women in the sport, as well as queer people, trans people, gay people; people of all backgrounds, religions, ages, styles, social classes, abilities, and skill levels. It’s really nice to see."

"The skateboard community has become so much freer and more inclusive and I’ve grown more and more proud of it."

An activist

As an advocate for more diversity and inclusion in sports, Guglia has also become a vocal figure in the LGBQT+ sport community.

“I see my role in this community as being a positive role model. It’s a weird thing to say about oneself but overall, I try to make myself visible whenever possible and use the platforms offered to me to show that this is just normal," she said.

"I am a Canadian lesbian, I’m 29 years old with a master’s in business strategy and I’m a professional skateboarder. If that can inspire anyone or prove anything, let’s go!"

Road to Tokyo 2020

With one year before the Olympic Games, Guglia still needs to participate in a few more Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers when the sport restarts after events have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

If it's any indication, Guglia's performances had been consistent over the years. She finished 15th in the X-Games Minneapolis and has won the 2018 and 2019 Jackalope Women Pro skaters division - an annual sports action festival in Canada, which Guglia sees as a good preparation for the Olympic Games.

Guglia has also participated in the World Skate World Championships in 2019 - one of the first qualifier games for the Olympics. The 29-year-old is currently 33th in the Olympic rankings but only the Top 20 will qualify.

"I am really excited - also because I am 29 - I am not old - but to start a professional skateboarding career at 26 is old."

"I wanted to become a professional skateboarder when I was 15 years old and I kind of stopped thinking about it for ten years and then the Olympics happened.

"For me it's exciting because it's an opportunity that I never thought I'd have."