‘Lifechanging’ – Keegan Palmer on becoming the first Olympic gold medalist skater

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Keegan Palmer, park skateboarding’s first ever Olympic gold medalist, sat down to discuss how he helped to bring a world-class skatepark to a city underserved by the sport.

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“Look where we are right now,” said Palmer. “Winning gold has changed my life exponentially.”

He was speaking at the Aljada Skate Park in Sharjah, a venue hosting himself and the other participants of the Olympic qualifier Park 2022 World Championships.

It is a venue that Palmer, while fresh from his gold medal success in Toyko, helped create.

“We’re sitting in the UAE at a park I helped design,” added Palmer, “and I never thought I’d say that, honestly… This wouldn’t happen if I didn’t win a gold medal. It’s super sick.”

Palmer enthusiastically pointed out the various parts of the Aljada Skate Park that have helped make it a world-class favorite among skaters.

Included are the two Salt Lake City style walls from the Vans Park Series, and the big wall that is “the exact one at the Olympics I skated on.”

There are also “a couple of things from home,” like the square corner that acts as a “little tribute” to Bowl-A-Rama, a skateboarding event that took place at Bondi Beach in Sydney.

“I wanted to integrate them into this park but mix it instead of having them at separate parks,” Palmer explained.

However, when it initially came to the design of Aljada Skate Park, things didn’t quite go to plan.

“We wanted someone who really knows what they’re talking about,” said Saudi Arabia’s Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, vice chairman of Arada, the Sharjah-based real estate developer who constructed Aljada Skate Park.

“But I’ll let you into a little secret – Keegan designed it the first time and we thought we implemented it well. He rode on it, and he did his tricks and we said, ‘how is it?’ and he replied, ‘yeah, it’s okay.’ And we felt something was wrong. So, we said ‘no, tell us what’s wrong’.”

“He kept looking at so many small details here and there and being like ‘this needs to change, this needs to change, the concrete here needs to change’. So we fine tuned the park, and now – from what we hear from Keegan and other star competitors – it’s a skate park that sets the bar for skate parks around the world.”

Being able to travel the world doing what he loves each day is “the nicest thing” and “super cool.” To listen to Palmer talk, you would imagine his gold medal came while representing the USA, not Australia. Beneath the California twang though lies an athlete immensely proud of his Australian upbringing.

“I was born in the US, a lot of people don’t realize that, but I moved to Australia when I was six months old and I lived in Australia for 15 years,” said Palmer. “Everything I know how to do came from Australia – how to walk, talk, skate, surf. It just felt right and what I needed to do. I wanted to bring a gold medal home for Australia.”

“I’m trying to go for four gold medals,” he says. “A lot of skateboarders like Tony Hawk (the legendary American skateboarder) and the older guys, they have these really cool legacies and I want to do the same thing.”

“Building a legacy is a dream of mine. I’ve always grown up wanting to have a family and, when I have one, for people to be like ‘oh, you’re the son of this guy?’ – the kind of legacy that people two generations from now say ‘do you remember when Keegan skated?’. Like how the soccer players have.”

“That would be amazing.”

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