STAR ON THE SLOPES
In two Olympics, Julia Mancuso has won three alpine skiing medals, more than any other American woman. Even as a kid, she always had intense focus and a passion for her sport.
You started competing as a young athlete and were always around older athletes. Did you ever feel pressured by them to do anything you shouldn't do from a health and well-being perspective?
There are definitely older kids who do things you don't want to do, but for me, it's always been about being self-motivated. Even though you're on the road, away from your parents, I had to take even more responsibility for myself, and make sure I made the right decisions. Skiing is one of those sports where you have to be very responsible because the consequences are harsh. You could get injured, and you have to be 100% focused.
Why are health and fitness so vital for kids?
You need to get your blood moving every day. It just makes you feel more alive and more focused and I think it's so important, especially now hearing about schools are cutting back on PE programs. It can be really hard as a kid to get out there and motivate yourself to do stuff, so you have to take it upon yourself to go and hang out with your friends. Instead of sitting around and hanging out on the Internet, go out and play games. Kick a ball around or go and play tag. It's all about getting out there and enjoying each other. And like I said, the more you exercise the more energy and laughter you'll bring into the rest of your life. It really helps a lot.
Do you have favorite foods? Are there any indulgences you love but can't have when training?
I think that chocolate ice cream is definitely an indulgence, but you can't eat too much too much sugar when you're training or in general. I really like fish and vegetables. Something that I travel with is Muesli for breakfast and yogurt.
You're big into health and fitness. Why is it important to you to stay in good shape both on the mountain and off?
I was lucky to have very active parents and they were always pushing me to do all sorts of sports, so from an early age that was really all I knew and it's what I loved. The more you exercise, the more it fuels you and gets you motivated to do it more. Competing became really important to me, so I started to realize how important it was to be healthy. I dealt with my fair share of injuries and that taught me even more how to keep up every day. You have to stay on top of your health. The more you do it the more you enjoy it. Even when you don't feel like going out there for a run or playing with your friends, once you do it you'll be so much happier and every day is so much better.
What do you do when you're not competing?
I want to do adventurous activities all the time: hiking, biking, surfing. When I need to get re-energized I go out and exercise. It frees my mind and that always makes me feel better.
Have you achieved your dreams or is there still a lot more that you want to do?
The Olympics were my biggest dream as a kid, and winning gold and doing my best there. I grew up in a place called Olympic Valley, so I really wanted to compete in the Olympics. I've definitely achieved my goal of succeeding in the Olympics, and that was a dream goal, so maybe those have come true. But I have other personal goals that I want to accomplish. I've had injuries get in the way of my full potential, so I'm looking forward to building off of those results and getting better and more consistent. I'm looking forward to the next Olympics.
If there were one piece of advice that you have to give to kids, what would it be?
Be patient and be true to yourself. My biggest advice for athletes that are wondering how to get the edge is to be okay with having bad days. Everybody is going to have bad days just as often as good days, so you just have to take advantage of the good days and give 110% and give everything you have. On your bad days, listen to your body and listen to yourself, and go in early or just take a moment for yourself. It's all about the balance of having fun and listening to yourself and your body. And picking a goal and writing that goal down and believing in it, and having fun. You've got to do everything with a smile on your face. Be positive and be yourself.
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