Jagger Eaton FaceTimed His Dad Right After Winning First-Ever Skateboarding Medal: 'I Was So Hyped'
"I just started yelling. I don't know, really — I don't know if I made out words," Jagger Eaton told reporters
On Christmas Day 16 years ago, a 4-year-old Jagger Eaton got a gift from his father that, he says, "changed my life forever."
The skateboard — a Blind Blue Monster deck – sat under the tree; there was a board each for him and his brother Jett. Out in the garage, their dad had built a mini-ramp.
"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," Eaton told reporters on Sunday, all these years later, a newly crowned Olympic bronze medalist in men's street as skateboarding made its debut at the Tokyo Summer Games.
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Ten minutes after his win, he was seen FaceTiming his father.
"I just started yelling. I don't know, really — I don't know if I made out words, I just started yelling and I was so hyped and I'm so hyped because my whole family worked so hard for this, too," Eaton told reporters.
"It was such a team effort," he continued, giving shout-outs to his reps and his coaches. "Like if anybody thinks that they did this by themselves, I mean, they didn't. This is such a team effort to get to this level of sport and be able to be on a podium."
Corny as it may sound, this was a boyhood dream, Eaton said.
"I grew up in a gymnastics family and the Olympics were always on the table for gymnastics and they weren't on skateboarding, when I was a kid," he said Sunday.
The boy who skated everywhere (even on vacation) and who relished the freedom a board afforded him to slip away and explore, the boy who would have started crying to know he'd one day be watched by Tony Hawk — that boy became Eaton, who has become the first-ever American skateboarding medalist. (Japan's Yuto Horigome won gold; Kelvin Hoefler, of Brazil, earned silver.)
"I grew up thinking that that wasn't going to be possible. And when it was possible, my whole goal was to be on the podium on the first launch," Eaton told reporters. "And that's why this one means so much to me."
He woke up the morning of competition still craving sleep, he admits a little playfully. "And then my second thoughts were — well today's the day. Today's the day, it's make or break. This is the biggest skateboard contest in the world, and I could walk away with a podium."
So he did.
Though Eaton was not the medal favorite heading into the street competition this weekend, he vaunted ahead of his teammates and friends Nyjah Huston and Jake Ilardi, whose scores were both plagued by repeated falls.
"For all the teammates, man, we're all bros. We're all about to go right back to the [athletes'] village and sleep again, right in the same rooms," Eaton said after the competition. "And it's all love. I mean, if this were Nyjah or Jake, it would all still be love. It would be love either way. And that's the best thing about skateboarding is that all these guys are my friends and I don't think a lot of sports can say that."
Both Eaton and Huston acknowledged competing in the shadow of their anxieties: "I haven't eaten in like 14 hours. I've been scared and almost threw up before this and I don't throw up before competitions," Eaton said. (Huston, for his part, told reporters: "I've never felt so much pressure from representing your country … all the people that come and all the homeys, and those in the USA that are rooting for me, I'm sorry.")
Music, Eaton said, helped him. He skated to a mix of country music and rap, with Lil Wayne's "John" on repeat in his ears for his final tricks.
"I feel like the challenge for maintaining a positive outlook on it is appreciating your situation, appreciating that you are at the Olympics and you are competing," he said. "Because if you miss this and you try to ignore what's actually happening in the moment, you'll forget about what's actually happening in the moment."
Now: What's next?
"Beat my dad and 18 holes of golf when I get home," Eaton said.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.