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Olympic dreams spin the wheels of teen scooter champ from Windham

Nils Qvarford of Windham is competing in the World Scooter Championship in Sydney, Australia this weekend. We met the 18-year-old at the Derry skatepark to see some of the tricks he would show at the competition.

The skatepark looks like a series of empty swimming pools with sloped walls, and Nils drops down one of the ramps on his scooter. He jumps, swinging the scooter deck in circles mid-air before landing smoothly back on the hard concrete. He rolls up another ramp, flipping in the air.

It’s kind of terrifying to watch Nils whiz through these tricks that feel gravity-defying. He makes it look effortless, and he’s doing it all while literally chewing gum.

“I'd hope to be able to make it look effortless after like 12 years,” Nils chuckled.

Like a lot of young kids, Nils first hopped on a scooter with his friends for fun. Slowly, the hobby turned into a passion and then a career. He’s ranked number 14 worldwide under the International Scooter Federation rankings.

At the ISF’s World Championship in Australia this weekend, he’s hoping to move up to number one. And he’s confident he’s got what it takes.

“The nerves get to you for sure,” Nils said. “I know people who just don't compete anymore. Some people prefer it that way, just having fun. But I think this is my way of fun.”

It’s not always fun for Nils’ father, Ulf Qvarford.

“As a parent I get very nervous about it, but he seems calm as a cucumber,” Ulf said.

Leaders in the sport are taking notice of Nils’ skills on the scooter. He’s sponsored by a pro scooter company, and he recently trained in the UK with his childhood hero – scooter riding World Champion Dakota Schuetz. Nils says he was honored to train with Schuetz.

“He's been like my idol,” Nils said. “I have a picture of him in my room, me and him, from maybe 13 years ago at Rye Airfield Skatepark.”

Dakota Schuetz says Nils’ unique riding style is what sets him apart from others in the sport.

“Most people are doing flips and spins, and they're all doing the same tricks and they're just adding a few minor additions to each of the staple tricks,” Schuetz said. “Nils is kind of doing sixty percent of his run doing tricks that none of the other people either can perform or just haven't tried yet.”

Shuetz believes Nils has a shot at winning the competition in Australia. But he says the real challenge will be another world championship scheduled for next year. That one is organized by World Skate, a wheeled sports organization that istrying to get scooter riding into the Olympics.

Schuetz says so many kids understand and love scooters already, and that community presence is one of the reasons it should be in the Olympics.

“You could go to a skate park and you could have an 8-year-old kid and a 30-year-old kid,” Schuetz said. “Both don't speak the same language, both riding for fun at the same place in a safe environment.”

And as scooter riding grows as a sport, Nils’ ambitions are also reaching new heights.

“For sure one of my goals is to make it to the Olympics. That'll be even past a dream of mine. I didn't even think any of this would be possible when I was young starting out.”

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

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