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World's Top Skateboarder Nyjah Huston on Going to the Olympics and the Pressure to Be at the Top of His Game

Nyjah Huston
Sean M. Haffey | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

As the top ranked skateboarder in the world (and the highest paid with sponsorships deals with NikeSB and Monster) Nyjah Huston is gearing for the biggest skate of his life — the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympic games — where skateboarding will make its Olympic debut as an official sport.

"It's going to be the biggest contest ever," Huston tells CNBC Make It.

But the 26-year-old says he's trying to keep his nerves down and not put too much pressure on himself.

"When it comes down to it, you want to go out there and picture it the same as any other contest out there that you won before," he says.

Since the Olympic Games were canceled last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, Huston, who lives in Laguna Beach, Califonia, says he's been focused on getting his mind and body ready over the last year. (Currently, the official word is that the Tokyo games are still on, with precautions like Covid tests before arrival in Japan and then a test at least every four days, according the first version of the safety Playbook unveiled Wednesday. The Games could be held without an audience as well.)

"I kind of transferred my energy into making the most out of the last year the best way I could," he says, which for him meant street skating (on sidewalks, hand rails and parking lots), working out (he does strength training, yoga and stretches every day) and filming new stunts for his 4.5 million followers on Instagram.

Huston, a four-time world champion, has been competing since he was 4, along with his four siblings: two older brothers and one younger brother and sister.

Huston's father, who also skated as teen, pressured Huston to make it big as skateboarder. (In 2004, Huston's dad even purchased a skate park in their hometown of Davis, California so his kids could practice every day.)

"It was rough at the time, I'm not going to lie," Huston says of the pressure to skate every day.

Nyjah Huston of the United States poses with his trophy after winning the first place during the WS/SLS 2019 World Championship at Parque Anhembi on September 22, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Alexandre Schneider | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Nyjah Huston of the United States poses with his trophy after winning the first place during the WS/SLS 2019 World Championship at Parque Anhembi on September 22, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"He was pretty hard on me, especially during those younger years. He was pushing me to skate these big rails and I was just a little kid that was 8 or 9 years old," he says. "I was really scared."

But now, looking back, Huston says he's grateful for all of it.

"It's a big reason why I'm here, where I'm at now and why I have an opportunity to skate in something like the Olympics," he says.

Huston says learning to be disciplined as a little kid helped him to succeed at the sport as an adult. (Though he's made his fair share of mistakes: He splurged on Lamborghini a few years but has since learned to be "smart with his money," he says.)

But being disciplined isn't the advice he'd give to aspiring skateboarders. Instead, his advice is to have fun with skateboarding.

"When it comes down to it, to me, it's the funnest thing in the world," he says. "And there's this constant challenge and reward to learning new tricks and working on something for hours and then finally landing it."

Even after more than 20 years of skating, Huston says there are still more tricks for him to learn.

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