Published: 16:29, May 20, 2024
I love it to death, says skateboarding sensation Eaton at OQS Shanghai
By Xinhua
Jagger Eaton of the United States competes during the men's street final of skateboarding at the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai in east China's Shanghai, May 19, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

SHANGHAI - Jagger Eaton triumphed in the men's street competition and secured third place in the park event at the Olympic Qualifier Series in Shanghai in a single day.

The energy of the crowd was palpable, with fans packing the stands, throwing shirts for autographs, and security struggling to contain the throng at the exit.

"I honestly can't remember the last time seeing so many spectators," Eaton said, adding, "It's amazing that I have so many people around me who just see what I'm trying to do, because there are so many days I spend alone, not knowing if what I'm doing is worth it."

The inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics has significantly boosted its popularity. Each day, more people flocked to Shanghai's urban parks to experience the sport's youthful energy

Eaton was the only skateboarder competing in both street and bowl events at this qualifier. On Sunday, he participated in back-to-back finals, pushing his limits but loving every moment.

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"I'm just grateful to make it out alive, but I do the work and I love what I do," Eaton stated.

Eaton's skateboarding journey began at the age of four. Hailing from Arizona, he became one of the youngest athletes to compete in the X Games at 11. Competing alongside his idols was nerve-wracking but also one of the best weekends of his life.

Since then, Eaton has made waves in global competitions, but the Olympics remained his ultimate goal. Winning bronze in the street event at the Tokyo Olympics was his breakthrough moment, introducing him to a broader audience.

Jagger Eaton of the United States celebrates during the awarding ceremony of the men's park final of skateboarding at the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai in east China's Shanghai, May 19, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Throughout the finals last Sunday in Shanghai, Eaton, wearing headphones, was immersed in his own world. In the street final, 14-year-old Japanese prodigy Ginwoo Onodera nearly bested him. However, Eaton remained composed, noting, "I woke up this morning, just optimistic. Just excited. I had a good idea about what would win, and I just went there and did it."

The reality was far from calm. During the park semifinals last Saturday, Eaton's early mistakes almost cost him a place in the final. It was his consistent performance in the third round that secured his sixth-place finish and a spot in the eight-berth final.

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Eaton admitted that nerves are a constant companion: "I'm nervous every single time I skate, plain and simple, every single time, because there's always risk involved. The last four months I fractured my tibia plateau, and I've gone through multiple ankle injuries, just because of this bold training."

"You have to be well-prepared physically and mentally for the challenges," he added.

The inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics has significantly boosted its popularity. Each day, more people flocked to Shanghai's urban parks to experience the sport's youthful energy, with enthusiasm matching the city's scorching temperatures.

Jagger Eaton of the United States competes during the men's street final of skateboarding at the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai in east China's Shanghai, May 19, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

"It's hard to say skateboarding is a sport because there's so much fear and so much danger in it," Eaton explained. "But I would say that the competition format and this amazing competition for people who want to compete, make it a sport."

"I want to see skateboarding on the biggest worldwide level. If you want to perform and be able to put on a jersey to compete for your country, you should want this," Eaton expressed, recalling his Olympic dream since childhood.

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Tied to Olympic spots, the competition among skateboarders has intensified. The sport that thrived on the street now carried "more tension and less freedom," which might be why some are unhappy. But Eaton embraced the challenge, believing skateboarding is inherently demanding.

  "I do think that the Olympic Games is great for skateboarding," Eaton said. "It raises the level of competition so much that you have to come in totally prepared. These guys here are amazing; they dedicate their lives to this, like I do. Honestly, if I didn't love it, I wouldn't do this."

"But I love it to death," he said.

After an intense four-day competition, Eaton was satisfied with his performance and looked forward to the Paris Olympics. He knew he had what it took to win, emphasizing the crucial aspect: "You have to come in here landing, you have to be on your board."