Jagger Eaton didn’t let a physical setback stand in the way of making history at the Tokyo Olympics last weekend.
The 20-year-old Arizona native on Sunday became the first American to take home an Olympic medal in skateboarding when he received the bronze in the men’s street event. Turns out, that accomplishment required him to push through an ankle injury.
“I don’t know how much people know, but I was competing on a broken ankle,” Eaton told People in an interview published Thursday. “It’s broken right now. And so I’m just going to go home and heal it and really what it needs is rest. And that’s what I’m going to give it.”
The athlete said he sustained the injury between May and June of this year, when he was taking part at the Street Skateboarding World Championships in Rome. He said he was briefly concerned that his dream of competing in the Olympics would be “shattered” as a result.
“I just had to dig deep and there’s something about being hurt or being sick that kind of brings the best out of you,” he explained. “And to be sitting here, the medal around my neck, just means the world to me.”
Skateboarding is one of four new sports added to the Olympics this year, and is split into street and park categories. Organizers have said they are hopeful the addition of skateboarding ― previously seen as a “rebellious” sport, with roots in Southern California ― will attract an audience of younger spectators. In addition to Eaton’s bronze, Japan’s Yuto Horigome received the gold medal in the street category, while Brazil’s Kelvin Hoefler claimed silver.
In a Monday appearance on the “Today” show, Eaton said he plans to give his medal to his mother, Shelly, for the time being. His family members were unable to join him in Tokyo because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“I don’t have a house yet,” he said, “so I’m going to give it to my mom and she can do what she likes with it.”