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Skateboarder Jagger Eaton talks peace, pressure, and the pursuit of double gold in Paris 2024

2024 Paris Olympics: Hometown Hopefuls
Follow 52 Olympic hopefuls as they work to achieve their dreams in the 2024 Paris Olympics in NBC's Hometown Hopefuls series.

Jagger Eaton, 22, is no stranger to making history. In Tokyo, he won the bronze—the U.S.'s first ever Olympic skateboarding medal...and he did so with a broken ankle. He’s the first skateboarder to ever win world titles in both street and park. Now, the five-time X-Games medalist looks to qualify for, and take home a pair of gold medals in the street and park events at the 2024 Paris Games

In a conversation with NBC Sports this summer, Eaton opens up about his experience in Tokyo, how he’s learned to handle pressure, and reveals why this Olympic run is so much different for him.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

We are less than a year away from the Paris 2024 Games. What does that mean to you and what would having the opportunity to represent the U.S. at an Olympics for a second time mean to you?

Jagger Eaton: It means everything to me. The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of sports. I think all of us look forward to putting that jersey on, going out, and competing hard. Looking back in Tokyo, there are a lot of things that I did right and a lot of things I did wrong. Hopefully, I’m able to do some more things right going into Paris and I’m very excited.

As we approach the Games, I imagine there’s a lot of pressure with trying to not only qualify, but you’re trying to win two gold medals in street and park. Tennis legend, Billie Jean King says, “pressure is a privilege”. I know that you approach these events with a mindset of gratitude. Can you talk about how you’ve been able to do that?

Eaton: Yeah, she’s exactly right. Pressure is a privilege. That’s my exact perception going toward these medals. I’m the only one going for both [golds] and I have a real fighting shot at it. I’m not going to leave anything on the table. I have the potential, I have the drive, and I have the skill set to do it, so why not try? I have no fear for failure and success is right around the corner so I’m totally okay with taking the chance.

You experienced burnout, not only from the sport, but from all the injuries that you went through. How you were able to navigate through everything?

Eaton: I think every athlete feels burnt out when they lose and when they’re injured. I think that’s just a common feeling. It’s not necessarily that you’re burnt out or you fall out of love. It’s really just because you’re exhausted mentally and physically of going through so much torment. How I got through it was getting healthy and getting clutter [out of] my life.

I changed my diet. I quit drinking. I started really diving into spiritual enlightenment work, writing everyday, doing things to give me a better perspective on my life. From that point on I’ve been injury free, I’ve been more in love with skateboarding, and I’ve also been 100% accepting of failure, and understanding how much it’s going to take for these goals to be accomplished.

You won the very first Olympic skateboarding medal for Team USA and you did it with a broken ankle. You’ve said your bronze medal is a reminder of how deep you can dig into yourself to get the best of yourself. What places did you go to mentally? What kept you going? What do you remember thinking in the moment at the Games?

Eaton: Going to my first Olympic Games with a broken ankle was not the plan at all. That’s one thing I’ve tried to stay away from. I looked back at where I was at mentally and all I was thinking was, it’s the Olympic Games. If I’m not going to walk out of here, then I’m 100% okay with that. My mentality was kind of fight or flight. Going through that experience taught me how deep I can dig and how deep my well is to persist when I need to under pressure. I carry that with me.

Olympics, Mens Skateboarding, Tokyo

-TOKYO,JAPAN July 24, 2021: USAs Jagger Eaton competes in the mens street prelims at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Eaton moved on to the finals later in the afternoon. (Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

2020 Summer Olympics - Day 2

Skateboarding: 2020 Summer Olympics: USA Jagger Eaton in action during Men’s Street Skateboarding final at Ariake Urban Sports Park. Tokyo, Japan 7/25/2021 CREDIT: Kohjiro Kinno (Photo by Kohjiro Kinno/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X163704 TK1)

Sports Illustrated via Getty Images


Jagger Eaton of the United States reacts during the men’s street final of skateboarding at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, July 25, 2021. (Photo by Xue Yubin/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

You’ve said the Tokyo Olympics changed everything for you. How did the Tokyo Games change your life?

Eaton: It changed my outlook a lot on competition. That type of pressure really humbles you. There’s so much pressure and there’s so many lights and cameras, and it’s just a whole different atmosphere. I would say the biggest thing that changed my relationships overall was more of the spiritual alignment work from being burnt out.

But the one thing that Tokyo did for me as a competitor was it gave me a realization of how much pressure I can compete under successfully.

2020 Summer Olympics - Day 2

Skateboarding: 2020 Summer Olympics: USA Jagger Eaton victorious on podium with bronze medal during Men’s Street Skateboarding final at Ariake Urban Sports Park. Tokyo, Japan 7/25/2021 CREDIT: Kohjiro Kinno (Photo by Kohjiro Kinno/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X163704 TK1)

Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Have you changed as an athlete since then?

Eaton: I’ve changed so much as an athlete and as a person since Tokyo. I think I’ve made a lot of decisions based on my ego and what would make me feel good when I was going into Tokyo and also the human that I was back then. Now, I feel like I have a really great sense of gratitude toward my life and what’s going on around me. I feel like I’m going into this Olympic run with a lot more Zen.

I read that you have notes on everything you would like to achieve—the physical side of things, tricks, etc. Can you talk more about the mental aspect of things?

Eaton: A lot of amazing athletes will tell you about mindsets. There’s the underdog mindset and the mindset of a legend and basically the difference is that it’s way easier to perform when there is no pressure. That’s kind of what Tokyo was. I was the underdog going in. I hadn’t earned a medal in the street contest in a long time and it was my time to just go and leave it all out there on the table. But now, I’m the first ever American skateboarding medalist in Olympic history. I’m a two-time world champion. Now there are expectations for me to perform.

I’ve really accepted that—knowing that people are expecting me to perform. It’s a misperception of people thinking that it’s a need, but it’s more just a want. I really just want to go out there and do my best.

Aside from mindset how do you think this Olympics will be different for you second time around?

Eaton: Oh my goodness. It’s so hard to say. I don’t know how I’m going to feel then but right now what I can tell you is that my habits and the way that I am under pressure is the best I’ve ever been. Where my body is physically and mentally is the best it’s ever been. I think the difference between Tokyo and Paris is going to be my overall mindset going in.

X Games California 2023 - Day One

VENTURA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 21: Jagger Eaton looks on during the Men’s Skateboard Park Elimination round during the X Games California 2023 on July 21, 2023 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Getty Images

What would it mean to have your parents with you in Paris, especially since they couldn’t come with you to Tokyo because of the pandemic?

Eaton: Oh my gosh, to have my parents there with me would mean everything and I’m doing everything in my power to get them there. It’s going be tough. It should be a situation where it’s easy for the athletes get their parents there, but my parents can’t afford all that. I’ll probably have to fund it and get them all out there but that doesn’t even matter about the medal. I could give a sh*t about the medal. I want to get my parents there.

Both of them wanted to be Olympians themselves. They’ve taught Olympic hopefuls that never ended up making it to the Olympic Games. I want them at the Olympics more than anything in this whole world.

Are the students at “Kids That Rip” —your parents’ gymnastics and skateboarding training facility—inspired by you?

Eaton: Yeah, there’s been so many kids that have come into KTR—my brother is actually the head coach—and their first goal is “I just want to be like Jagger. I want to be an Olympian.” That to me is so crazy because not only do they want to be like me, but they’re actually [young skaters]. Most of the time, the young girls and boys that come into the facility with that dream aren’t talking about skateboarding.

Skateboarding continues to grow as sport. Paris will mark the second time that the sport will be contested at an Olympic Games. How special does it feel to be part of the sport’s growth?

Eaton: Being a part of skateboarding’s growth is everything to me. The Olympics is the biggest, most important contest for skateboarding because it brings so much legitimacy to the sport. I’ve said that since the get go.

No matter whether you’re a skateboarder who’s interested in getting photos in Thrasher [magazine] or filming parks with your friends like my younger brother is, or if you’re an athlete, like me, who just wants to compete under the most amount of pressure with the jersey on your back and get a medal for your country... the Olympic Games blows up both sides of skateboarding, and I think that’s the most important part of it.

What will this next year look like for you in the lead up to the Paris Games?

Eaton: From the outside perspective it looks like there’s a lot of pressure. I’m sitting really well on the standings. I’m [ranked] number one in the world for park and I’m the second overall American for street. I feel really good on my skateboard again. I got rid of my social life a long time ago so it’s all about competing, training, and progressing in a positive way.

Team USA Road to Paris Bus Tour

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 16: Olympian Jagger Eaton of Mesa, Arizona, poses for a picture with the bus during the Team USA Road to Paris Bus Tour on November 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images for NBC)

Getty Images for NBC

What do you do to keep your Zen? What makes Jagger feel like Jagger?

Eaton: Golf, family time, reading and writing.