Raised By His Grandma, Now Skating For His Kids, Chris Joslin Is One Step Away From An Olympic Berth

by Steve Drumwright

Chris Joslin of the United States reacts during the men's skateboarding street final during the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai on May 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Getty Images)

Chris Joslin was having a dad moment. The 28-year-old from Anaheim Hills, California, should have been focused on the first of two Olympic Qualifier Series events for men’s street skateboarding.

He was in Shanghai, practically a world away from his 7-year-old daughter London and 3-year-old son Liam. But instead of focusing on his attempt at making the U.S. team that will go on to the Olympic Games Paris 2024, Joslin was missing his kids so badly he considered giving up that Olympic dream and catching a flight home.

“I just got into a real internal mental battle with myself,” Joslin said. “Basically, ‘Why am I here? What do I really want to be doing?’ And in my head, it was like, what I really want to be doing is spending time with my kids.

"I’m not gonna win or lose if I’m with them. I’m gonna win; it’s a win-win for everybody. I enjoy being with them. They enjoy being with their dad.”

Thankfully, some friends who noticed he was having a rough time and talked Joslin out of that drastic move — and he’s glad they did. The veteran skater earned a third-place finish in Shanghai on May 18, putting himself in prime position to earn a trip to Paris.

Joslin has a clearer mind as he preps for the second and final Olympic Qualifier Series event coming up June 20-23 in Budapest, Hungary. He sits third among Americans — behind Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Jagger Eaton and six-time world champion Nyjah Huston — and eighth in the world. Three other Americans rank among the top 30, with Braden Hoban next on the list at No. 13, but only three from a given country can qualify for the Games.

Another podium finish should seemingly lock up one of those spots for Joslin.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel the best I felt on my board in a long time. But we all know as skateboarders, that doesn’t really mean (anything). If it ain’t your day, it ain’t your day, that’s all it is.”

You can understand Joslin’s range of emotions when you know his story. It has been well-documented in various media outlets. His mom went into rehab for a drug problem when Joslin was 3, and he never knew his dad, who was shot and killed by police during a drug-induced rage when Joslin was 7. He’s the youngest of three siblings, with his brother spending time in prison. All three kids were brought up by their maternal grandma, Joyce, after she had raised her own three children.

Chris Joslin competes in the men's street semifinal during the Skateboarding Street and Park World Championships 2023 on Feb. 04, 2023 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Getty Images)

“She didn’t have to do that, you know what I mean?” Joslin said. “She could have just allowed me to go into the system or whatever, been an orphan, and just let my life pan out the way it (would have) panned out. But in a sense — and I don’t really say this lightly — she really saved my life.”

Grandma Joyce knew she wasn’t going to replace Joslin’s parents, but she just tried to give him and his siblings the means and words to deal with whatever came their way each day.

“She just kind of gave me the basic guidelines of life — you finish what you start, treat people how you want to be treated, just act accordingly, don’t be a menace,” Joslin said. “Looking back on it, there wasn’t too much she really could do because there’s kind of just that sense of you need your parents in your life because those are the people that are going to teach you most of your day-to-day things.

“After raising five kids — and I was the sixth one — it was kind of like ... I don’t want to necessarily say I raised myself, but she made sure there was food on the table, she made sure I went to school every day, she put me in all the sports I wanted to be in and kept me busy and kept my mind off of what all the distractions would have been.

“I definitely had those days in my room crying and going, ‘Why am I here? Why is this like this? Why is my life this way? Why don’t I have a normal family? Where’s my dinner every night at a table with mom and dad in a civilized lifestyle?’ But as I got older, I realized that that wasn’t the life I was meant to live. I was meant to live the life that I did, and it put me in this position. I can’t see the future, but it put me here to handle what comes next.”

Chris Joslin of the United States reacts competes during the Skateboarding Men's Street Final on day four of the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai on May 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Getty Images)

Now, he skates for his kids. While London and Liam have yet to take to skateboarding — they are into scooters at the moment — Joslin prizes every moment he spends with them, which isn’t as often as he wants due to going through a divorce.

“They’re pretty much everything to me right now,” Joslin said. “I only get to see them on the weekend, so that’s pretty tough. But every time I do something nowadays ... I don’t really do too much for myself as far as life goes, so everything I pretty much do is for them. Except for skateboarding, skateboarding is the one thing that kind of gives us both (him and the kids) what we need. It gives me a sense of peace and an outlet to let all my let all my demons out, if you will, and then it also provides an income for them to live off of.

“I hope that one day growing up, they see what skateboarding was able to do for them, just like (what it did) for me.”

When skateboarding became an Olympic sport three years ago in Tokyo, Joslin admittedly wasn’t a huge fan of the move. It brought more rules and regulations, and he thought it was simply a money move by those in charge. But since then, he has “matured on the topic a little bit” and would relish the opportunity to be on Team USA. It would also be another thing his kids would be proud of their dad for accomplishing, even if Joslin doesn’t quite realize it.

“As far as looking back and being like, ‘Yeah, I went to the Olympics. I’m an Olympian,’ that’s a cool thing to have under your belt,” Joslin said. “But in my mind, I’m also the type to look at like, I don’t think my kids are gonna look at me any different as a father.”

Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to Team USA on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.