Rio Olympians Share Their Quirky Pre-Competition Rituals
"I focus a lot on my breathing... I have these really big, flashy noise-cancelling headphones, and they deter people from talking to me. I find that those menial conversations take away from the practices that I need to do before I compete. Whether that's focusing on myself, thinking positive thoughts, or envisioning myself doing well. So I wear these big, gold headphones, and I'm not even listening to anything most of the time. It's just so that I can focus on myself and my breathing. I find that really focusing on taking in a ton of air and expelling as much as I can, for whatever reason, calms me down and walks me away from the ledge a little bit. It eases any anxiety or pre-competition jitters I may be having."
—Ibtihaj Muhammad, five-time Senior World saber team medalist, VISA athlete
"I wear two necklaces: one is an apostrophe for the apostrophe in my last name, O'Hara. My mom and my sister and my brother's fiance all have the same necklace so that's kind of a fun family thing. And Under Armour made necklaces for Lauren Holiday and me after we won the World Cup. It's a gold bar that says, "I will what I want" and on the back, it has the date of the world cup final. They're not really good luck charms, but I like what they stand for and whenever I see them, they make me happy. I can't wear them when I'm playing, but before the game, I usually always have them on."
—Kelley O'Hara, Olympic soccer gold medalist, Coppertone athlete
"I wake up and I go for a 15-minute jog in the morning just to get my mind and body loosened up and prepared. Then I keep it light with food. I don't need to eat the same things, I just make sure I keep it light—usually it's a banana before the game."
—Carli Lloyd, two-time Olympic gold medalist, KIND athlete
(She's onto something—science says that bananas are pre-workout snack gold. )
Nom an Egg McMuffin
"In 2009, I had a McDonalds egg McMuffin when I was going to the pool. I was in Edminton; I wanted a breakfast sandwich and there was a McDonald's. I went to the pool and broke my first world record that day. So, fast forward to 2016, every time before I race, I eat a McDonald's Egg McMuffin in the morning. Then afterwards, I always have a sweet treat in my bag—I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups."
"As for lucky charms, my mom and dad have never missed a meet. Ever since high school, my mom would always give me a thumbs up in the stands when I was at the starting block. I always try to figure out where she is in the stands, and before I get on the blocks, if people play close attention they'll see looking up to my mom, and sometimes I'll give her the thumbs-up back."
— Mallory Weggemann, Paralympic 50-meter freestyle gold medalist, Hershey's athlete
*All* the Lucky Things
"I always wear the same lucky socks, sports bra, fight shorts, and belt. I always pack my bag the night before. I always say a prayer before I leave my room. I always listen to the same exact playlist before I fight, in the same exact order."
—Kayla Harrison, judo gold medalist
"I always wear makeup, like I have my war paint on. I always have the winged eyeliner on. Whenever I compete, I always put a little war paint on. And I always wear purple when I compete because that's my power color."
—Paige McPherson, Olympic TaeKwonDo bronze medalist
(Try these pro eyeliner tricks to nail your own war paint look.)
"At the very end, I always take a water bottle of the pool. So I have pool water from Athens, Beijing, and London, and now I'll have some from Rio. You're supposed to dump it in the pool at the next Games, but I don't want to get rid of it. And I always eat a banana before I race. I don't know why. It's not like I need to; it's just the only food I really want to eat."
—Jessica Long, 12-time Paralympic swimming gold medalist
"I like to use the same stall in the bathroom, and I like to wear my lucky underwear and sports bra. But none of those things are like every single time. Sometimes you forget stuff; it happens. I did change my socks at the Olympic trials because I was like, 'these don't feel right.' So I changed my socks 10 minutes before my match."
—Adeline Gray, three-time world champion in women's freestyle wrestling
Braids On Braids
"I've worked (and continue to work) hard at eliminating all superstitions. I believe it takes away from your own true power and ability. But I always wear my hair in a braid, mainly because it's functional. I think it looks okay, and it means it's one less trivial thing I have to think about before competition. But I do believe all of that contributes to me performing my best, so in a way it's a lucky charm."
—April Ross, Olympics beach volleyball silver medalist, Ralph Lauren athlete
Poppin' Gummy Worms
"I shouldn't admit this since I usually try and do well with my nutrition, but my pre-race tradition is to eat gummy worms the night before a big race. There's nothing that I wear that's lucky, but I have a small picture of my husband and son taped to my bike and I think that's lucky enough!"
Chicken & Pancakes
"If I eat two meals the day of a game, for breakfast, it's always Chobani yogurt and eggs. Then for a pregame meal or lunch, it's pancakes and chicken for lunch. It's super random but it just works with my stomach."
"I'll usually wear tape or something around my left finger because I like to wear my wedding ring as much as I can, but that's not always possible in a soccer game."
—Alex Morgan, Olympic soccer gold medalist, Chobani athlete
A Prayer with Mom
"I call my mom and we pray before every race. It started back in high school, and we still do it now. Even if she's at the race, I'll still call her earlier in the day. When I'm across the world, it's always good to know that family is there to support you. It brings a little piece of home with you. I also have a cross diamond necklace, that my mom gave to me during my first Olympics in 2004. It's something I always compete with. I typically practice with it too. But I've actually lost it twice (oops), and she's replaced it each time."
—Allyson Felix, Olympic 200-meter gold medalist, Chobani athlete
Play Some Subway Surfer
"I've always told people that my ritual is to mix things up. I think that a lot of people get into a ritual and they do the same thing every time before a game or practice. If I do that, I feel like I'm getting into a routine, and I'm not a big routine person. I like to be spontaneous and mix things up. But I usually play games on my phone on the way to the game. Right now my favorite is subway surfer."
—Morgan Brian, FIFA Women's World Cup champion, Chobani athlete
"I'm not very superstitious at all, but I love taking my time doing my hair and makeup and listening to music and getting pumped. And I have a St. Sebastian—he's the Patron Saint of Athletes—so on trips I'll bring him with me. He's like a little metal figurine."
—Simone Biles, three-time world all-around gymnastics champion, Kellogg's athlete
"I have a playlist that I love to listen to, it just makes me feel like it's game day and I love the feeling of game day so if I can make me feel like it, it just kind of warms me up."
—Julie Johnston, Olympic soccer gold medalist, Kellogg's athlete
Beyoncé On Repeat
"As I'm getting ready, taking my shower, and getting my clothes on, I like to have "I was Here" by Beyoncé on loop. And I usually have a little gold necklace that my mom gave me that's a little gold track foot."
—Ajee Wilson, no.1-ranked 800m runner, Kellogg's athlete
(Take her cue and try this epic Beyoncé workout playlist.)
Last of the Mohicans
"Before an event, I channel my grandfather and brother-in-law, people who have gone on. I ask them to keep me protected. I talk to my god, and I ask him to keep me protected. Then I always listen to the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. I envision the throw, and I tell myself there's no one out there but me. I think, 'just go out there, and it's like throwing in your barn. Go out there and get it done.'"
—Natalie Bieule, 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships gold medalist (discus), Kellogg's athlete
"Tuna is my lucky charm. If I'm at a competition in the States, I always go to Subway on the day of my meet and get a tuna sandwich on Italian herb with spinach, onions, mayo, and pepper. If I'm out of the country, then I bring packets of tuna, mayo, and crackers like Cheez-its. I think this started while I was in college because we would also go to Subway, Jimmy Johns, or Panera Bread at meets, and I would get a tuna sandwich every time."
—Amy Cozad, Eight-time national champion platform diver
A Second Of Solitude
"It's very important to me to be in the right mindset before an event. Everyone is different; some people like to talk and listen to loud music. I am the opposite, and I've learned that I do best if I have a completely clear mind. I tend to remove myself from other people and review my ideal performance in my mind. It is a kind of meditation for me."
— Laura Graves, Olympic equestrian team
Third Time's the Charm
"Right before a race, I always get up on the blocks and clap three times. I swear if I don't, I'll have a bad race. And I have a lucky pair of shoes that I parade out in before my finals of every race."
—Elizabeth Beisel, Olympics 400-meter individual medley silver medalist
The #6 Legacy
"Depending on the tournament, I may repeat things I did before a strong, successful game. Things like, wearing the same American Flag socks or listening to the same song. During big tournaments, I like to hang pictures of my family and teammates on our hotel wall, along with letters or cards from mentors, friends, and family. There's one letter that is extremely close to me, which I received from a past USA Women's Water Polo player who wore the #6 before me. It talks about the meaning of wearing #6 and the responsibility the player has to carry on its legacy. I wouldn't say it's my lucky charm, but I like to read it before every game and let it fuel my fire."
—Maggie Steffens, Olympic water polo gold medalist
"I always write out a time schedule beginning with the FINISH of my race and going backward from there. I've raced literally hundreds of times in my life, so by now, I should have the routine down by heart. But for some reason, I still need that minute-by-minute time schedule. It's detailed down to what time I get a bathroom break and when I change my shoes. I think it just helps me focus on the ritual of warming up. When I feel like I'm running low on time, it relaxes me."
"I don't really have a lucky charm. The closest thing would be my spikes that I wear in the race. Lots of people have a pair that they wear for training and another pair they wear just for racing. I like wearing the same shoes from training into a race. Sometimes when I'm lacing them up moments before walking out onto the track I think, 'These guys saw all the hard work, now this race should be the fun part.' I know it's silly, but it makes me smile."
—Jenny Simpson, two-time 1500-meter Olympian, 9-time USA National Champion, New Balance athlete
Kisses from Furry Friends
"For me, it's important that I go to bed in a good mood, so that I can wake up in a good mood. I'll set my alarm with one of my favorite songs, a song that's upbeat and makes me feel good. I'll just lay there for a few minutes and spend that time reflecting and thinking of all the things I'm grateful for. Then, I go look for some coffee. I find it important to be in the right state of mind before I get into my day."
"Not sure If I can call it a lucky charm, but I don't leave the house until I get a kiss from my dogs and cat. (My dogs are Rainy, Bolt, Chase, and Peanut and my cat is Boots.) When I say goodbye, it's like they give me their blessing, so I come back home safely."
— Brenda Martinez, Olympic women's 1500m runner, New Balance athlete
'Can't Hold Us'
"I blast the same song over and over— 'Can't Hold Us' by Macklemore"
— Allison Jones, eight-time Paralympian in skiing and paratriathlon, two-time gold medalist