How this 13-year-old skateboarder became the youngest X Games gold medalist in history

They say never meet your heroes. At 13 years old, Brighton Zeuner beat them.

ByABC News
January 15, 2018, 7:57 PM

— -- They say never meet your heroes.

At 13 years old, Brighton Zeuner beat them.

Just one day after her birthday, Brighton took home gold during the women’s skateboard park event at the 2017 X Games in Minneapolis. She beat out her fellow competitors and became the youngest X Games medalist in the competition’s history.

“There’s little kids saying, ‘Oh, I saw you on YouTube.’ It’s kind of crazy for me,” Brighton told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “I don’t know. I’m 13, and it’s kind of weird.”

Brighton’s list of firsts is long. When she was 11 years old, she became the youngest X Games competitor ever. And in 2015, she became the youngest winner at the Vans U.S. Open.

Brighton is also the only female winner of California State Games Athlete of the Year.

At home in Encinitas, California, Brighton appears like most 13-year-old girls, keeping makeup and diaries in her bedroom. But in her backyard stands a half-pipe for Brighton to practice her moves.

Brighton says she skates in her backyard every day. Local skaters have used the half-pipe, as well as legends like Tony Hawk.

“She got to meet and skate with the best,” Brighton’s mother, Bridget Zeuner, told “Nightline.”

Brighton’s older brother, Jack Zeuner, is the reason she got into the sport. When Jack became interested in skateboarding, she was dragged along to the park, too. It didn’t take long before she was beating him in competitions.

“She’s kind of a natural. I wasn’t,” Jack told “Nightline.” “I didn’t really care.”

“He’s better than me at some stuff in street stuff. I kind of own the whole contest thing,” Brighton said.

These days, Jack has also become the cameraperson for his sister.

Brighton skates for hours every day. She said she loves the sport because of “the freedom you get, and, I know it sounds cheesy, but escape.”

She now travels the world with her skateboard and will soon head to Shanghai, China, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“It’s cool getting all those stamps on my passport. It’s going to fill up at the end of the year,” said Brighton.

“We go with her. Keeps them grounded, keeps them out of trouble,” said Bridget Zeuner.

“As a family, we’re very close because of that,” Brighton’s father, Brandon Zeuner, told “Nightline.” “The school they attend now is very open to a schedule that allows kids to travel the world or just not be present all the time in school.”

In an extreme sport historically dominated by grown boys and men, Brighton is blazing a trail. She is the first female skateboarder ever sponsored by Red Bull.

“There’s stereotypes that only boys can do it, and it’s a manly sport. Honestly, the girls have proven that we can share the sport,” Brighton said.

She hopes to make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where skateboarding will make its debut as an Olympic sport.

“Fingers crossed. That’s going to push skateboarding,” Brighton said.

She added, “I just want to make a living off skateboarding and see where it takes me.”