U.S. Olympic athlete Jagger Eaton took home a bronze medal in street skateboarding at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this week, as People reported, during the first Olympiad in which his sport was an official competition.
After he won the medal, he was so excited that, when he video-conferenced with his dad back home, he quite possibly just spouted off incomprehensible, adrenaline-fueled gibberish. “I just started yelling. I don’t know, really — I don’t know if I made out words,” he said.
Though only 20, the win was still the result of a decade and a half of hard work; the young man had been skating for 15 of his 20 years. He grew up in a family of competitive athletes, and indeed, so dominant was the young competitor as a boy that skateboarders were concerned about him potentially hurting the sport’s credibility as a pastime (and serious athletic competition) for adults.
Jagger Eaton was born into an athletic family
Jagger Eaton was born with athletic competition in his blood, in an almost literal sense. His mother, according to Insider, is Shelly Schaerer, who was a member of the U.S. Gymnastics Team in the 1980s. In a case of the apple not falling far from the tree, his father, Geoff, is also a competitive skater. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the elder Eaton owns and manages a Mesa, Arizona, skating school, known as Kids That Rip, and trains youngsters in the finer points of thrashing.
Jagger was introduced to his dad’s sport at the tender age of 4, according to People. One Christmas, he and his brother, Jett, woke up to find one Blind Blue Monster deck for each of them. What’s more, dad had built a ramp in the family’s garage (no word on whether Mrs. Jagger was as excited to see her sons go into a sport that involves broken ankles and head injuries as their father was).
To the 4-year-old, the new toy was not unlike an equivalent gift that might be given to a 16-year-old (which is to say, a car). “I was amazed by how much fun and freedom it gave me: Just immediately, I was able to make all my own decisions as a kid and it made me so happy,” Jagger said.
As a kid, Jagger Eaton was almost too good at his sport
Back in 2012, Eaton competed in the X Games at the age of 11. As he said at the time, via the Tampa Bay Times, he was the youngest competitor there, although he didn’t learn that until later. “I didn’t know until a few days after I was invited that I was the youngest. I’m psyched about that. I’m not nervous. I just want to go out … and have fun,” he said. Indeed, at that particular event, Jagger was one of five competitors under the age of 16; some of the other athletes were men and women three times Eaton’s age.
As it turned out, Jagger and his younger colleagues did surprisingly well. Of the five competitors under 16 that year, four, including Jagger, made it to the finals.
This created something of a credibility issue for the sport; at least, that’s what sports commentator David Daniels wrote in Bleacher Report. Noting the physiological differences between adolescent boys and adult men, Daniels said that in any other sport, the boys would be eaten alive. Yet in skateboarding, adults and children are allowed to compete against each other. “If the X Games fails to make a kids division … the [sport’s] credibility will never recover,” he said.
Jagger Eaton did not believe he would ever compete in the Olympics
Olympic sports come and go, as the public’s tastes change, and as participation in various sports waxes and wanes. As Top End Sports reports, several competitions, which perhaps made sense at the time, are now no more, including polo, tug-of-war, and pistol dueling. Similarly, new sports — such as skateboarding — have been added, with the 2020 Olympiad being the sport’s inaugural year.
As a child, Eaton wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to compete at this level. “I grew up thinking that that wasn’t going to be possible,” he said, via People. He also added that one of his goals was to “be on the podium” — that is, win a medal — from the first go, and he promptly did. He was never the favorite to win the gold, or even win at all, but his teammates were plagued by falls, putting the Arizona man in the top three.
Nevertheless, Eaton was clear that he’s a member of a team. “For all the teammates, man, we’re all bros … It’s all love,” he said of the attitude in the dorms at Olympic Village.
Jagger Eaton had a Nickelodeon show for a while
Before becoming an Olympic athlete, Jagger Eaton was a 15-year-old Arizona kid who had made a name for himself as one of the top athletes, and one of the youngest competitors, in his sport. And children’s cable network Nickelodeon came calling.
As IMDb reports, “Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life” was a 20-episode documentary series — a rarity for Nickelodeon — that followed the young lad as he met with athletes and various top performers in their fields and learned from them, while doing skateboard tricks along the way. He also experienced activities and competitions outside his wheelhouse, according to The Futon Critic, such as cage-free diving with sharks or jousting on horseback.
According to Common Sense Media, the series touched on some slightly serious issues, such as handling pressure and aiming for excellence, in a kid-friendly way. “This series is frivolous but fun, and the persistent theme about the value of trying new things could inspire kids to step out of their own comfort zones,” wrote reviewer Emily Ashby at the time.
Jagger Eaton is sponsored by his father's company
People who participate in sports that have lower public profiles — which would include a significant number of Olympic sports — often have to rely on less traditional revenue sources to make a living. While a player on a pro baseball team may get a paycheck from his employer (his team), a pro skateboarder may have to rely on sponsorship deals and, if they can get it, commercial wor
Eaton is no exception: His list of sponsors includes what you would expect a professional skateboarder to have, including Bones Wheels (a manufacturer of skateboard wheels) and Red Bull, according to Vans Park Series. He’s also sponsored by Kids That Rip, which as you have already read, is owned by Jagger’s father, Geoff.
“The fact that I get the opportunity to [compete] for the family legacy is pretty special,” the younger Eaton said, via Cronkite News.
“Jagger was raised in that environment and I think it’s benefited him,” Jagger’s coach added.
Jagger Eaton competed in the most Gen Z way possible
For most top-tier athletes, concentration is paramount, and any and every distraction must be eliminated. This is particularly true in technical sports, such as gymnastics or diving, which would explain why the audience is usually dead silent (when there actually is an audience, of course, Tokyo’s pandemic crowd-control measures aside).
However, Eaton was having none of that; as can be seen in the photo above, the bronze medalist wore earbuds — Apple AirPods, specifically, according to The Sun — while he competed. And they weren’t just a prop, either. He was actually listening to music while he competed.
So what does a top-tier Olympic skateboarder listen to while he’s going for the gold? According Olympics.com, he listened to a custom mix of country and rap, and in particular, the new Playboi Carti album. Further, according to People, for his final tricks, he listened to Lil Wayne’s “John” on repeat. “Just vibing with my music,” he said.
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