SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Jake Ilardi got his start in skateboarding at a young age. His grandmother bought him his first board when he was just 4 years old.
Fast-forward to now, he’s 24 and getting ready to head to the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Ilardi is currently ranked second in the United States for street skating and sixth in the world. He’s excited to be representing the Sarasota area on a global scale this summer.
“Honestly, I never thought – especially me being from Osprey, like such a small town – I never thought skating would take me this far, especially like going to the Olympics,” said Ilardi. “I have been all around the world for it. I have been to countless countries, countless different places, and it’s been a fun ride so far.”
His trip to Tokyo is now less than four months out and he is training daily to prepare.
Much of his training is happening at Payne Skate Park in Sarasota. It’s a place he calls his second home.
“I pretty much grew up here. Our grandmother used to drop us here from like noon and we would stay here until like 10 o’clock at night. We would be putting in 10 or 12 hour days here sometimes,” said Ilardi.
As he prepares for the games, he’s looking to bring a quarter pipe to the city skate park to help him train.
“Myself and a few other skaters have been communicating with Sarasota Parks and Rec and they have been very gracious to help us with this project. Due to budget cuts last year, there wasn’t any funding to help out with the skate park, but that is understandable due to coronavirus and all the budget cuts they had,” Ilardi said.
The new skate park installation isn’t just for training purposes.
“The improvements to the park will definitely help me out with training, but it is more for the kids in the community. I am not gonna be the only one using this. It’s all for the new kids and the next generation and even the current ones,” he said. “There are all walks of life and all ages of skaters that come here so it is for everybody, it’s not just for me.”
Ilardi says it has been a community effort to try and make this happen. He’s managed to raise almost $5,000 in just two days. It’ll take $15,000 to cover all of the costs to install a quarter pipe.
“We look forward to the new quarter pipe feature being available for all to use at the skate park,” City of Sarasota spokesperson Jan Thornburg said.