Jagger EatonSkateboardingNews

Olympic Bronze Medalist Jagger Eaton Has Big Goals For U.S. Skateboarding In Paris

by Peggy Shinn

Jagger Eaton reacts after competing in the men's street finals at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo. (Photo by Getty Images)

When TeamUSA.com last caught up with Jagger Eaton in early 2023, the Olympic bronze medalist was returning to skateboarding competition after taking time off.

“I feel like in 2022, I really got in control of my mental and physical health,” Eaton said at the time, “And that was probably my biggest win of 2022.”

Shortly after that interview, Eaton scored an actual win: taking the title of 2022 world skateboard champion in park—a competition held in February 2023. He followed up that win with another at the 2023 Summer X Games in July.

Now, the 23-year-old skateboarding veteran hopes to qualify for his second Olympic Games—but do one better than at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. He’s the only skateboarder competing in both street and park, and he has big goals for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

“We want to win, we want to sweep the podium,” said Eaton, the “we” referring to his Team USA teammates in park, 17-year-old Gavin Bottger and Tate Carew, 19.

Eaton is no stranger to fame. On a skateboard when he was four — at the KTR (kids that rip) skateboard park owned by his parents in Mesa, Arizona — he was sponsored by Red Bull at age nine, then became the youngest athlete at the time to compete at the X Games (he was 11 years old). Shortly after he won his first X Games medal (bronze in street in 2016), his fame jumped out of the park and off the rails with the debut of a reality TV series on Nickelodeon called Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life.

That same year, the IOC approved skateboarding — both street and park — for inclusion in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The Eaton household understood the significance. Both of Eaton’s parents, Geoff Eaton and Shelly Schaerrer, were competitive gymnasts. Schaerrer was on the U.S. gymnastics team from 1985-1989, then matriculated at the University of Utah, where she was a seven-time All-American and runner-up in all-around at the 1990 NCAA championships.

Similar to snowboarding, early skateboarding was more about the culture and less about competition. But young Eaton loved to compete and just wanted to win. The fact that his sport would make its Olympic debut was a boon.

Eaton was 20 years old when he qualified for and competed at the Tokyo Games but describes himself as a kid. 

“I wasn’t really honest with myself about the numbers or my health,” he said. “I was a fly on the wall until the very last contest where I needed to get fourth to make the team.”

Eaton had failed to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team in park — his better event — and made a last-ditch effort to qualify in street. That effort paid off. But on paper, he was still an underdog in Tokyo.

Making the team “catapulted me into feeling like I was a real podium contender (in street),” Eaton recalled. He carried the momentum into Tokyo and won the bronze medal, beating among others his teammate Nyjah Huston, then ranked number one in the world in street (Huston ended up seventh, and Japan’s Yuto Horigome won the gold medal). 

And Eaton did it on a broken ankle.

Jagger Eaton competes during the men's park finals at 2023 X Games California on July 22, 2023 in Ventura, Calif. (Photo by Getty Images)

Eaton soon found himself on the media tour — "doing Jimmy Kimmel and getting fame and stardom.” He went “from four months of crazy media attention to nothing.”

“You get caught up in it,” he said. “The come down was really tough.”

Back in Japan the following spring for the X Games, Eaton ended up with a torn labrum and hamstring in his right hip. He won the park competition but knew he needed a break. He returned home to San Diego, shelved his skateboards, and went to the beach.

“I put my phone down, I started reading more and writing, I started getting out in nature and helping others more,” he said. “It helped balance me and refined my love for skating.”

At the 2016 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards, Eaton had met Kobe Bryant. The NBA legend shook Eaton’s hand and said that his daughters loved watching Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life and “to keep promoting positivity.” 

Eaton was a Bryant fan and was astounded that the NBA legend actually looked up to him. He embraced Bryant’s relentless Mamba mentality, especially when winning an Olympic medal on a broken ankle, and as Eaton tried to re-center his life, he remembered another Bryant quote: “If you have that constant curiosity, you find yourself getting better and better as time goes on.”

“If you’re not constantly curious about people who are better than you, or people who are doing something that you’re not, you’re living your life with arrogance and ego,” Eaton realized. “You’ve got to pull that aside.”

Looking back, Eaton recognizes that he “did wrong with his ego” when he was younger.

“When you’re young, you think winning is great,” he said. “But it’s being incredibly humble, being friends with everybody, that’s what’s great because then you’re celebrating a victory for skateboarding.”

With another Olympic Games rapidly approaching, Eaton is the only skateboarder competing in both street and park — a schedule that has kept him focused during Olympic qualification.

“I don’t even have a social life, I haven’t had one for over a year,” he quipped. “It’s just all about competing and performing.” (Although he has found time to drop his golf handicap to two at the Del Mar Country Club, where he’s a member.)

As for his decision to do both street and park, Eaton’s confidence shows through.

“Because I really felt that I was the best in both,” he stated. “I can take my tricks in park to the street course and the street judges like that, and I can take my stuff from the street to the park, and the park judges like that, and I can take my diversity into both disciplines.”

If he qualifies in both street and park, he will stay in the Olympic Village for the entirety of the Games. Street is scheduled for the beginning of the Games, with park at the end.

“If I make it (to the Paris Games) in both events, I may be the longest athlete there,” he joked. “I may have to pay rent.”

Eaton is currently ranked third in the world in park — just over 500 points behind teammate Bottger in second place — and 15th in street, just over 500 points ahead of Carew in fourth.

He sees a podium sweep in park as the team’s goal — something that was inspired in them since three Japanese skateboarders swept the world street championship podium in December 2023.

As for who will win gold, Eaton’s confidence shows through again:  “I really feel confident in my ability to perform under that immense pressure at the Olympic Games.”