Women's Skateboard Park returns to X

Mark Kohlman/ESPN

Lizzie Armanto, now 23, is among the best female transition skaters in the game.

For the third time in X Games history, Women's Skateboard Park will be contested at X Games Austin 2016, and with a wide range of young competitors, the field is only getting deeper.

For the first time since Barcelona 2013 and only the third time in X Games history, women will compete in Skateboard Park. The Barcelona event set a high bar for women's park contests in terms of international visibility and talent. Lizzie Armanto, who made her X Games debut in Spain, took gold by a full six points over 12-year-old Alana Smith.

Armanto, now 23, is among the best female transition skaters in the game and is fresh off a win at Sweden's Vert Attack X in April. She also logged a solid third-place finish at the Girls Combi Pool Classic in January. She is one of the very few female skateboarders to make her living exclusively from the sport.

Women's Skateboard Park: Allysha, Brighton and Lizzie

"It's not like any other event that we do," Armanto says of X Games. "For a lot of the girls, it's like that destination that they want to get to. It's something to work toward and strive toward, and that's why I think it's really positive for the girls to be a part of it and have our event back."

Mimi Knoop, the longtime X Games Women's Skateboard Street sport organizer and a nine-time X Games competitor, is understandably thrilled that Women's Park is back. "I'm definitely excited," Knoop says. "I think it will cater to a whole new demographic that's been there and slowly growing and thriving, but maybe the mainstream doesn't know about it yet."

The X Games field is deep, and the level of competition is rising, as are paydays. In 2013, Nora Vasconcellos received $2,500 for winning the Combi Classic. In 2016, 15-year-old (16 by X Games) Aussie Poppy Starr Olsen won $8,000.

Fortunately, X Games decided to bring back Women's Skateboard Park for X Games Austin 2016.

"I think it's awesome they're bringing Women's Park back!" says Alana Smith, who has become one of the more high-profile female skateboarders. The significance of Barcelona isn't lost on the now 15-year-old pro. As a pre-teen, she showed a large international audience that she would be a force in skateboarding for years to come.

Since Barcelona 2013, Smith has competed four times in X Games Skateboard Street, twice finishing fifth. While her street skills continue to improve, she remains a better transition skater and will be a medal threat in Park at Austin 2016.

"It's a little scary knowing it's the contest that put me at the starting line of a career, but I'm not going to let that affect me," says Smith. "I'm just going to have fun with the girls and skate the best I can."

This year, Armanto, Smith and Julz Lynn compete against a talent pool that continues to grow -- and grow younger: Women's Skateboard Park will be the youngest field at X Games Austin 2016, and it's the only discipline at Austin 2016 with an average age in the teens. Seven of the 12 athletes are age 19 or less, including 11-year-old Brighton Zeuner, who has a legit chance to break Smith's record for youngest X Games medalist.

"The timing is really right," Knoop says, of returning Women's Park to X Games. "There are so many accessible parks right now in so many different places. Parallel to that is there are more girls skating, so it just makes sense to add it. I think there's a future there for sure."

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