ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) - An Encinitas teen who just clinched an Olympic berth is preparing for an Olympics like no other.
Some seven years after Brighton Zeuner picked up her first skateboard, at the age of 13, she became the youngest gold medalist in X Games history in 2017, with an eye toward the Olympics.
Those games were postponed by the pandemic, which also shut down local skate parks.
“The year of not doing anything, l lost a lot of my confidence,” said Brighton, now 16.
That confidence has come flying back with hard work. After four months of training, the teen rode her way to America's inaugural 16-member Olympic skateboarding team after a qualifying event two weeks ago.
“It’s so different than anything us skaters have ever experienced. Definitely very exciting,” said Brighton.
In late July, Brighton heads to Tokyo for an Olympics with plenty of uncertainty.
Amid a slow vaccine rollout, Japan is coming off its fourth wave of COVID-19 infection. Despite protests, it does appear the games will go on. International tourists won't be allowed to attend the Olympics. As of now, that includes her mom and dad.
“I think that’s the toughest part is not being able to provide the emotional support for her. She’s young and this is such a large stage. My wife and I were discussing whether we should switch to her time zone … a lot of Facetime-ing,” said Brandon Zeuner, Brighton’s father.
“Dad had been my good luck charm. He’s been at my side for all these years, at every contest. I’m just trying to stay calm about it. I know every other girl is in the same boat … Let’s just embrace it. We got this,” said Brighton.
Brighton expects to be fully vaccinated ahead of the Olympics. While she's nervous about COVID, she's trying to stay focused on the moment at hand.
“Really excited to show skateboarding to the world, and I am honored to be a part of this moment. It’s really cool and surreal,” said Brighton.
Brighton won't have family, but she's grateful to be rooming with her best friend, Bryce Wettstein, another Encinitas teen who made the skateboarding team.