Breaking barriers: Delaware County girl hopes to one day skateboard her way to the Olympics

A local middle schooler and skateboarding sensation has her sights set on the Olympic gold and given her hard work, and the half pipe right in her own backyard, she just might get there. 

Eleven-year-old Francesca Shuda, of Media, taught herself to skateboard nearly three years ago after she saw a video of 14-year-old X-Games gold medalist, Sky Brown. It started with Francesca just wanting to learn how to olley, but it quickly became a hobby that she would get up at 6 a.m. to practice before school. 

The 6th grader says she likes that there are no rules to skateboarding-- she can teach herself whatever tricks she wants. 

"You can do what ever you want. I make up tricks all the time and there's no one to tell you what you can and cannot do," she said. 

Francesca's dad, Jimmy Shuda, is a professional rollerblader who encouraged his daughter's new hobby by building her a ramp right in their own backyard. Jimmy says Francesca was out there one night, perfecting her moves for three hours. 

"I told my dad, 'We ain't going in. I'm just going to keep trying.' And then my dad said, ‘Five more tries.' With four tries left, I landed it, and I was so shocked. I just kept trying to progress and that's basically when the fire started burning."

That fire kept burning for Francesca and her hard work proved to pay off as she has since won competitions and even received her own sponsorship. 


Meow Skateboards, a female-owned board company out of California, saw the young athlete in action at an all women's competition at FDR Park when she was just 10 years old after her dad posted a video of her on Instagram. The company reached out to Francesca after being blown away by her skills.

"I was like screaming on the ground. I was so excited," Francesca said. 

Although her enthusiasm for the sport came easy, her mom, Jamie Shuda, says she had a hard time with it at first. She says it was all new to her and the harsh falls is something she won't ever get used to. 

"I'm always the one saying, ‘Wear your helmet, put on your pads,’ and all that stuff. But then, when she lands it, you can see it is all worth it."

While the Olympics and the X-Games are the ultimate goal for Francesca, she says right now, she just wants to have fun and keep getting better while also inspiring other girls to pursue skateboarding.

"I really think, if you're a girl reading this right now, and you think you should skateboard, definitely try it. You'll never regret it."