Meet the Athletes: Brighton Zeuner

 Brighton Zeuner skates

Brighton Zeuner became the youngest X Games champion at 13 years old in 2017. Named to the inaugural USA Skateboarding National Team in March 2019, she could further write her name into the history books by becoming one of the first female Olympian skateboarders. Her sights now turn to bringing home an Olympic medal.  

As part of our preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play. 

Here’s some of what we found out about Brighton Zeuner

How did your parents influence your skateboarding career?
My parents always told me that, until puberty, I should be able to do whatever sport or activity boys can do with the same amount of strength. So when I started skateboarding, I always felt like I could keep up with all the boys my brother and I skated with. 

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What is your job outside of skateboarding?
I like to thrift and modify items/clothing and sell it on Depop (just part-time), but it's satisfying and fun. 

How has your hometown of Encinitas, California shaped who you are today?
Encinitas is one of the skate hubs of the world. When you skate there you have to show up. At least you think that as a little kid. So that shaped me because there were pros around constantly. 

What is your typical training day like?
I skateboard a couple of hours a day, five or six days a week with an intense fitness workout once a week with no skating. I also do functional movement in our garage gym a couple times per week. I sleep as much as possible to recover and do red light and near infrared therapy to speed recovery. I've also been working on the practice of meditation, but by no means have I mastered that. I work on visualization and mental rehearsal. Always have, and didn't know it had a label until my Dad told me what I was doing. 

Brighton Zeuner poses with a skateboard
Teenager Brighton Zeuner is vying to make the Olympic team for skateboarding's debut at the Games.
NBC Olympics

How much time do you train?
I wake up around 7:30 a.m. and head out to the skatepark by 8:00 a.m. My school classes are all scheduled in the afternoon until 4:30 p.m. to allow morning skate sessions, physical therapy and workouts at the gym. One night a week, my mom takes me to the CA Training Facility, a private skatepark where I'm a member and I skateboard that evening. We stay the night in the area to catch an early morning workout session at Nakoa Fitness with Ryan Gallop. 

What is something that may surprise people about your training?
Sometimes I need to have my left leg pulled (my front leg on my skateboard) by the sports therapist because my legs can get uneven with all the skating. It’s like I'm walking around with legs that are two different lengths! 

What training methods do you utilize that may be out of the ordinary?
I'm learning meditation and visualization with my dad. He's been taking the time to meditate at least once a day and helping me do the same, but it's hard and will take more time for me to grasp. 

What is your earliest memory of skateboarding?
I had watched my brother get good at skateboarding and the fun that he and our dad were having going to the parks together. At around four years old I began tagging along. I was trying a lot of other things over the next few years like softball, dance, and gymnastics, but kept coming back to skateboarding with the family. When I turned eight, and began getting good myself, I decided to start doing contests like my brother. The support from family and friends, and the excitement of getting new tricks, fueled me to keep working at it. When I was 10, I started winning 14 and under girls contests and was hooked for life! 

What is your earliest memory of watching the Olympics?
I first saw the Olympics when my parents put on the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea. We watched the snowboarding and women's figure skating. It was cool to see the winners on the podiums as their respectful national anthems were being played. It made me think of how my country could be supportive of me as a skateboarder and that seemed pretty amazing. 

Who is your coach?
I'd resisted getting a coach until recently because, in skateboarding, a coach is a very strange concept. You get better by skating with your friends. But since I've noticed the need for that kind of support at the big events, I've gotten used to the idea. Chris Gregson - an extremely rad pro skater and filmer who's often in Thrasher Magazine - was up for being my coach. He wanted to see skateboarding stay unique and creative even though it's being seen as a sport now. I'd been filming with Chris for about a year on different projects, so having him coach me came naturally. He's amazing at hyping me up and knows how to encourage me to skate my best. He is 100% a true skateboarder. 

Who is your Olympic role model?
Serena Williams. I'd seen her on TV and on magazine covers, but my mom had me watch her documentary about her comeback after having her baby. Even though I'm younger (and not at her level) I was able to relate to her as an athlete and young woman. I love her strength and sass and I like to emulate her qualities. 

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