At just 16 years old, the youngest X Games gold medalist in history is positioned to crush yet another impressive goal: representing Team U.S.A. on the podium this summer in Tokyo.

By Taylor Jennings-Brown
June 04, 2021
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Brighton Zeuner is, in many ways, just your typical 16-year-old kid. She longs for the freedom of having a driver's license, spends time with her family, and rides a skateboard regularly. 

Of course, when Zeuner takes to her skateboard, it's with some serious purpose. She's racked up several of the most coveted titles in the sport, including two X Games gold medals (she's the youngest recipient of the award ever) and a Vans Park Series World Championship title. 

Now, there's a new goal she's set on crushing: Zeuner will compete alongside Team U.S.A. in the Tokyo Olympics this summer for skateboarding — the first time the sport has been featured in the games. (Related: Exciting New Sports You'll See at the Tokyo Olympics)

How a Form of Self-Expression Molded into Full-Fledged Sport Domination 

Although Zeuner admits that she's a particularly competitive person, that driven nature isn't what drew her to (or kept her in) competitive skateboarding. Rather, as she explains, the sport has served as a mode of self-expression that has "molded her" into the person she is today. 

Zeuner began skateboarding as a young child after tagging along to skate parks to watch her older brother practice. And at only four, Zeuner was already attempting tricks on her brother's board around her family's home, according to her mother. 

Soon, Zeuner's love — and natural knack –– for the sport grew. At just 8 years old, she started participating in local amateur competitions. And by 2016, as a 12-year-old, Zeuner was crowned the Vans Park Series World Champion, eventually becoming the youngest X Games medalist of all time the following year. 

Then, in 2018, Zeuner made history (yet again!): She won her second X Games gold medal, making her the youngest person to nab the title two years in a row. 

Pushing Past Self-Doubt (and Injuries) with Eyes On Olympics

Like many Olympic-bound athletes, restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic this past year put Zeuner's training on hold for several months. She also suffered a major ankle injury around that time. "I definitely lost a lot of confidence," Zeuner admits.

Yet, continuing her tradition of never losing sight of her goals (and achieving the unthinkable), Zeuner is back on track and in preparation mode for the Olympics –– but those dreams extend far beyond the podium. She tells Shape: "I just like performing for other people and showing skateboarding to the world. This is what I grew up doing. This is what I love and I don't need to win every contest to feel important."

To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin July 23 on NBC.