The jump rope king: Olympia’s Nat Jackson breaks national record on NBC reality show

Olympia's Nat Jackson is the Jump Rope King

The 73-year-old wellness coach from Olympia appeared on NBC’s “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” on June 28.
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The 73-year-old wellness coach from Olympia appeared on NBC’s “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” on June 28.

Nat Jackson is the jump rope king.

Years ago, the 73-year-old wellness coach from Olympia claimed that title. He has it sewn in orange lettering across the panels of his signature cap.

He’s practiced with unwavering persistence since he started jumping rope in 1984, at 40 years old. And he’s never met anyone his age who can jump faster.

Jackson has long known his capabilities. Now, the rest of the country knows, too.

In April, while taping an episode for Steve Harvey’s new show on NBC, “Little Big Shots: Forever Young,” Jackson broke a national record.

“I’m very proud of it,” Jackson said. “I’m very blessed, very fortunate.”

With an official from USA Jump Rope clocking him, Jackson recorded 90 jumps in 30 seconds — a national record for a man 70 or older.

Nat Jackson (right) breaks a national jump rope record on the NBC reality show "Little Big Shots: Forever Young" on June 28. Ron Batzdorff - NBC

The audience in Los Angeles cheered, as Jackson smiled and waved.

He wanted to show others that age doesn’t have to be limiting. He has worked in wellness for about 16 years and health, he said, is his top priority.

“The body is an incredible institution,” Jackson said. “There’s no reason old folk can’t be as strong as young people.”

Jackson has dedicated much of his life to understanding the human body.

When he was 19 years old, living in Louisiana, his 26-year-old sister had a fatal asthma attack.

She had walked into the living room, not breathing, and Jackson tried to resuscitate her. She died in his arms.

“My promise, as she was choking to death with asthma, was that I’d live for her,” Jackson said.

He researched disease, studied agriculture, and searched for ways to optimize health.

For many years, he was a jogger. He’d jog — in any weather — around Olympia, and in cities across the country when he was on business trips.

Jackson kept that up until he went on a jog through Central Park in 1984 that caused him to rethink his exercise plan. He didn’t feel safe running through secluded stretches of the path alone, and thought of his then-1-year-old son, Nate.

Jackson said a prayer — “If I get back from here, I’m not jogging again. I’m going to start jumping rope.”

He returned home and started a daily routine, although he hadn’t jumped rope since childhood.

“My goal was to get through the rope 10 times without stepping on it,” he said. “That was a hard goal.”

The tally increased over time, and he eventually stopped counting when he reached 500 iterations. He added speed to his workout about six years ago.

“I’m just doing the best I can do, trying to be the best I can be, and trying to feel the best I can feel all the time,” Jackson said.

“Little Big Shots: Forever Young” discovered Jackson on YouTube, in a video where he is impressively jumping rope up and down the steps at the State Capitol building.

Jackson’s record-setting episode aired on Wednesday, and is available for streaming on NBC.com until Sept. 2.

Jackson said more people have noticed his jump rope king cap and approached him at Lacey Ultimate Fitness Center, the gym he regularly attends.

People have told him they’re inspired by his story. And he encourages people to take responsibility and control of their own health.

“You are with yourself 100 percent of the time,” Jackson said. “Your body is speaking. Listen to it.”

Harvey asked Jackson if age was catching up to his jumping routine.

“I’m getting fired up, I’m getting faster,” Jackson told Harvey. “I’m going to jump until I’m 90. That’s my goal.”

But later in the segment, Jackson said he might not even stop at 90.

“I might go further,” he said.

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12