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By Mari Saito
TOKYO (Reuters) - Brazilian Luiz Francisco led a crew of skaters from his country to the finals of the men's park skateboarding competition, soaring over the skate park under Tokyo's scorching sun on Thursday.
The skaters, all sweating in their colourful uniforms and kneepads, rode smooth lines over the concrete bowl of the Ariake Urban Sports Park, where temperatures rose to 32 degrees Celsius (89 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of Thursday's fourth heat.
The men's finals will begin at 12:30 p.m. local time (0330 GMT).
Out of the eight skaters to advance to the finals, three of them were Brazilian.
One of them, Pedro Barros, 26, is currently ranked No. 4 in the world according to Worldskate, while Francisco is ranked No. 3.
"I gave it my 100% and I was afraid because I wanted to do my best but I gave my everything," said Pedro Quintas, also from Brazil, who failed to land his second run but received a high score of 79.02 for his third and final run, advancing with his compatriots to the finals.
In a surprise exit, Heimana Reynolds from the United States, who is currently ranked the world No.1 in the men's park discipline and was a favourite going into the preliminaries, missed the eight man cut-off.
Japan's Ayumu Hirano, a two-time Olympic medallist at the Winter Games, also did not make it to the finals. The 22-year won silver in snowboarding halfpipe at both the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Hirano's departure also spelled the end of Japan's gold streak in skateboarding. The host nation had won three out of four gold medals that have been awarded in skateboarding's Olympic debut.
Rune Glifberg, nicknamed the "Danish Destroyer" and a legend in the sport, ended the preliminaries at 19th place but had said earlier that just being at the Olympics was its own reward.
"I feel blessed to still be skateboarding and that's what I'm going to continue to do," he said.
(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)