After making a decision that 2013 would be his final season in NASCAR and he would return to perform on the Nitro Circus Live tour at the end of the year, Pastrana held an event at his compound in Maryland (dubbed "Pastranaland") and filmed it for an MTV show. There, four months before the Sochi Olympics, Jacob backflipped a dirt bike and landed his BMX-to-skateboard trick in Pastrana's skatepark.
And, in one of the most viral moments of the day, he hit the largest freestyle motocross kicker ever built, flew dangerously off course and recorrected his trajectory in the air by bailing the motorcycle and karate kicking a tree branch.
"That's the air awareness and quick thinking he has from doing all these sports," Pastrana says. "It was one of the craziest things I've ever seen. He's so talented and his competitiveness overrides his sense of 'this could kill me.' He's so confident, but I've never seen him fail at anything."
After that weekend, Jacob realized he'd placed his Olympic hopes on the line and got lucky, so he put his head down and went back to race training. His season started slow, with a 29th-place finish at a World Cup in Montafon, Austria. Then he finished in the top 10 in Lake Louise, Alberta.
In January, less than two years after bumping into Jankowski in that skate park in Oregon, Jacob won his first World Cup race in Vallnord, Andorra, and was the second U.S. man named to the Olympic team. When he crossed the finish line, he looked up and saw Palmer standing with his arms raised.
"You're going to the Olympics!" he said to Jacob, the first rider in more than a decade with the chops to be called "The Next Shaun Palmer."
"I feel like I can carry on his legacy, maybe not on the same terms, but I can keep things more action-sports oriented and not so on point," Jacob says, acknowledging he and Palmer come from very different backgrounds. Palmer's father left home when he was a kid, and he was estranged from his mother and raised by his grandmother in a rough neighborhood in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Sports were a way out and a place to channel his anger. Jacob was raised in the wealthy suburbs of Malibu and Mammoth Lakes by doting parents who drove him to the skatepark, taught him to snowboard and rarely missed watching him compete.
What binds them, though, is their unconditional love for action sports, their inner drive to do things no one has ever done and their inability to be distracted by what others think they should be doing.
"I feel honored to feel like a force that can come up through him," Jacob says. "To have Travis and Shaun be supportive and a fan of anything I've done, it's a dream come true."
Many people in the sport, especially those who feel snowboardcross is losing a connection with its punk rock, freestyle roots, look at Jacob with the exact same thought.
"It's refreshing that he has this hard-core, but very composed image and has a freestyle edge to him," Jacobellis says. "That will help shape the future generation of boardercross to make sure it stays appealing to the eye and keeps its freestyle edge. That's up to the next generation. That's up to Trevor."
If Jacob medals on Monday, it's safe to say the sport has found its new star. Until, of course, he decides to quit.