MINNEAPOLIS -- For some, walking into a skatepark is like being transported to an entirely different dimension. A place where the grind of the wheels, the grunts and gregarious characters reside.
The vibe, the rhythm and the pulse are all different. It feels like a subculture borne out of necessity, out of misplaced assumptions and wrong impressions, or even out of rebellion.
But as the name of a skatepark in downtown Minneapolis describes: it's a family.
The Familia Skatepark is where 19-year-old Filipina skateboarder Margielyn Didal can feel safe and secure at least for the next few days. For someone who grew up in Lahug -- a busy town in Cebu, Philippines, she is indeed far from home.
At less than 5 feet tall and the weight of maybe two skateboards, the pint-sized, fleet-footed firecraker is the country's biggest hope in this year's X Games. Didal, who is sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, is the only representative of the Philippines in the prestigious event, but being the lone Filipino to qualify only reiterates the fact that she's better than most people in her field.
Naturally friendly and perpetually energetic, Didal's love for skateboarding was a result of child-like curiosity. But it didn't take long before she hit her stride. In just a few months since landing her first skateboard trick, she was already joining big competitions.
Of course, being a female -- a diminutive one at that -- in a male-dominated scene drew raised eyebrows. But behind the wide smile and playful veneer, Didal has a swagger and confidence that makes people believe she belongs.
What started as an innocent interest has become her passion, her life, and her way of supporting her family. Now, she is representing an entire archipelago in the biggest extreme sports event in the world.
It's fairly clear that Didal has a long way to go and has barely scratched the surface. She will stumble, fall, or even break little bones here and there. But she has the spunk, talent, and most of all, the desire to be the best in her field, regardless of gender.
This will be Didal's first ever X Games stint, and from the looks of it, it won't be her last.
Didal learned how to ride a skateboard in only a few tries, so it won't be surprising if it only takes her a few runs before she brings home a shiny medal. And if that happens, she'll find herself in an entirely different dimension -- one of world-class winners.