From Nottingham to Notre-Dame: meet the Olympian hopeful from Flo Skatepark

Flo is a community skatepark and registered charity supported by Blueprint. Recognising the social value of the park and the benefit it brings to the people of the city and surrounding areas, when Flo’s previous operator decided to close in 2018, the team at Blueprint agreed to support the organisation by entrusting a building in Trent Basin to members of the local community. The building is one of four industrial sites owned by Blueprint and make up the wider waterside development.

Since then the park has gone from strength to strength. As one of only four GB Skatepark Hubs in the country, skating at Flo is unique because it’s the only park in the UK which offers a completely dedicated skateboarding facility.

Unlike other parks, which are usually multi-functional spaces in which other wheel sports such as scooting and bmx biking take place, Flo is a skateboard-only zone, with people from all over the country travelling to Nottingham to hit its ramps.

This dedicated space is what Karim Keita, 19, from Nottingham, a Flo skater who’s in the running to take part in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, accredits to his success. Catching up with Karim, he told us:

“Without Flo, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. I come here at least five times a week when I’m in Nottingham so I can practise my skills and finetune them in the run-up to the Games. The community here has been a huge part of my journey because other skaters often offer advise on how I can improve my tricks and gain more qualifying points.”

To reach the Olympics, Karim has to compete in a number of competitions in order to gain as many points as he can to qualify. As well as global competitions in Rome and Senegal, his father’s homeland and the country he’ll be representing, Karim takes part in the Skateboard GB Hub competitions, which are regularly held at Flo.

These competitions are run in the exact same format as the national championships and give aspirational skaters a glimpse of what it’s like to compete at a national level, without any of the added stress and intimidation. The competitions are open to the public and regularly attract some of the best skaters the UK has to offer, including many more Olympic hopefuls.

The park also facilitates Survival of the Sickest, a competition for skaters under the ages of 16 and 12: a grass-roots initiative that aims to provide a platform for young skaters to build their confidence and hopefully inspire a whole new generation of skaters with their sights set on the Olympics.

Alec Fenton, head skateboard coach at Flo, said: “Skateboarding has started to be taken really seriously since it was recognised as an Olympic sport. Being a skateboarding-only park provides a unique opportunity for young people who want to get into the sport, but who might be put off by other sports in overcrowded multi-use facilities. At Flo you’re surrounded by other skateboarders and there’s a certain level of consideration at play.

“In crowded multi-use facilities, it’s harder for skaters on the talent pathway to come through because they simply don’t have the space they need in order to develop their skills, it’s just too crowded. Flo provides skateboarding education across all levels of ability and ages. It’s a safe space for our skaters to do whatever they want, with a whole host of other skaters to provide help and guidance.

“We don’t know what the future holds for Flo, but with the help of Blueprint we are able to ensure we have a dedicated park that will continue to facilitate the growth of UK talent. It’s the only place in Nottingham, maybe even the UK, that offers this kind of space. And without Blueprint none of that would have been possible.”

Karim added: “Flo provides a free space where you can do whatever you want, without the need to worry about encroaching on other sports. It’s really helped me in my training and it will be the same for new kids who are learning how to skate. The possibilities here are endless.”

Karim will find out if he’s qualified for the games early 2024. Keep checking back on our social media accounts for all the latest updates on his progress.

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