Olympic skateboarder Jagger Eaton on focus, training, qualifying

This story is part two of Men’s Health’s Road to the Olympics series, in which six athletes share their training journeys as they prepare to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris in July. Read all of the athlete submissions here.

If Jagger Eaton goes to Paris this year, it will be the second Olympic Games he has attended before he turns 25. At his ripe age, he’s a seasoned vet, enough to work with brands like Red Bull and Ralph Lauren. During an Olympic qualifying series in Shanghai in May, he went for the double, not only winning the street final but coming third in the park final just a few hours later. During the Olympic qualifying series in Budapest in June, he missed out on selection for the Park team, but secured his place for Street – an important victory foreshadowed by the competition in Shanghai. Now he can concentrate even more on giving Paris everything he has.

The last time we spoke to him, he was head down in training cycles of three days on, one day off. Since then he has had his head down all the time, with little time to celebrate victories. It wasn’t until he got on stage in Shanghai that it all hit him. This, in his own words, is what happened next:

THE GAMES IN Shanghai was the roughest I’ve ever skated in my life. It was the most difficult field of participants and there was only two hours between them. When I got my street medal, I cried during the national anthem.

The tears were faith and hope pouring out. I also held those emotions all the time: the training sessions, the qualifications, the semi-finals. After the street, I tapped my coach, shed a tear in his arm, then went on stage and cried. Then I immediately went back into the mindset that the job wasn’t finished yet.

There was an eight-month drought for me where I didn’t have good street performance. When you go through a drought, a big part of you start to wonder if it will ever happen again. I knew if I put in the work, I would get the result. I just didn’t know when it would be. I didn’t know if it would happen in Shanghai, Budapest or Paris for the Olympics. So as I stood there on stage as the national anthem played, I held that trophy and thought: holy shit, it (what he had been doing in training and competition) was working. Not only did it work, but I know exactly what to do. I can recreate it.

china shanghai olympic qualifying series shanghai skateboarding men's street final cn

Xinhua News Agency//Getty Images

Eaton on the podium of the Shanghai Olympic Qualifier Series.

I knew that if I stayed single-minded and focused the entire time, not celebrating anything until it was over, I would end the day with two podium finishes. I went straight to the physiotherapy room, got the Normatecs on my leg, put my legs up, listened to music, got food and went to the skate park straight after. During my training, the Red Bull team helped me a lot with physiotherapy and helped me all the time. I’ve had so much help. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I had so many wonderful people around me. First, I had my coach John Nicholson from USA Skateboarding. I’ve been working with him for six or seven months. As I told you last time, we held simulated competitions in the park. He has been with me every day. It was huge to have him there because he knew exactly what I was going to do. It’s ridiculous how strategically we handle everything. He has the same kind of passion as I do. One of the things I loved about competing in Asia is that I didn’t stray from any strategy. The strategy I went with was the one I executed, and it worked exactly (as I planned).

A big part of me loves things that just can’t seem to be done. I like that challenge. And (skate park right after street) was the most impossible challenge I have ever encountered in skateboarding so far. My semi-finals in the park were a blur. I blew my first two runs, made my third and qualified sixth. My whole thought process was: TThis is where you stand up. This is where it happens. In these moments, when you are exhausted, when you feel that emotional release, it is time to tap in. The time is now.

preview for A Day Away from the Skate Park with Jagger Eaton

There’s so much adrenaline and nervousness when you get to that level of competition (in these qualifiers). I thought my overall form was great, but the numbers I scored in the park competition translated better than I ever could have imagined. Was I still in pain (during the final)? Yes, I was dying. I walked into (the last lap) and thought: We take 800 milligrams of Advil, drink a Red Bull and come by. That was my feeling going into it. On my last street run I listened to Bean (Kobe) by Lil Uzi Vert and Chief Keef. That wasn’t even the song I chose. I got so involved in that third attempt that I rolled into it and I didn’t care what song was playing. I was going to perform that trick.

Every time you’re on the podium with that level of competition it means a lot because first of all, as an athlete I know I can handle it. That means the most to me.

Everything I did in Shanghai is easily transferable to Paris for the Olympics – no problem. I have been preparing for the Olympic Games for the past five months. Now I have a foundation that is very strong, and all I do is build on it. The work is done.

mh way to the Olympics

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