Q&A: Olympic athletes share experience competing professionally

November 15, 2016

Gabbie Matl

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     Olympians, like most athletes, had to start as beginners and work their way to their goals.

     Kara Winger, Olympic javelin thrower, and Mike Tagliapietra, Paralympic pistol shooter, presented in the GPS 1010: Club Med class on Oct. 27 to share their experiences as award-winning Olympic athletes with freshman students.

     Winger competed as part of the Olympic track and field team in 2008 and has since won six national titles despite undergoing multiple injuries and major surgeries. At the 2010 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, she set a new national record with a throw of 66.67 meters.

     Tagliapietra competed in shooting events after an accident in 2003 and has placed in a number of international competitions worldwide.

     The shooter’s success in 2014 and 2015 led him to being named USA Shooting’s Paralympic Athlete of the Year twice. Tagliapietra competed in more than 30 road races using a handcycle or racing chair from ‘09-‘12.

     The Scribe interviewed Winger and Tagliapietra and asked about their experience competing professionally.

     Q: How did you get to the point you’re at in your sport?

     A: (Tagliapietra): When I committed full time to my sport, I trained six days a week, and that’s only because my coach told me to take Sundays off.

     A: (Winger): (It was) a lot of hard work but a lot of fun too. I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t enjoy it. I made a lot of changes and had a lot of good people around me to keep moving forward.

     Q: How do you improve your performance?

     A: (Winger): People say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If there is something that hasn’t been working, don’t be afraid to change it to get a different outcome.

     Q: What does your diet consist of?

     A: (Tagliapietra): Eat clean. I don’t eat fast food and I don’t overload on carbs. If you eat smaller portions but more frequently, you won’t overeat.

     Q: How do you recover from injuries?

     A: (Winger): Staying healthy is a lot about listening to your body and listening to your coaches because they know what’s best for you. Do what they tell you to but don’t do more unless it’s aiding in your recovery. Be patient with yourself. Take the good days with the bad days. It can be frustrating, but if you can find victory in some part of your day, you can keep moving forward.

     Q: What is the best advice you’ve received from a coach?

     A: (Tagliapietra): Just focus on your process and go out and do what you know how to do.

     Q: What advice would you give your younger self?

     A: (Tagliapietra): Stop screwing around. Yes, have fun. But focus on more of the important things in life.

     A: (Winger): Sport isn’t life. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, but you need to have other things that are important in your life. Being multifaceted isn’t a bad thing. Don’t lose sight of life in trying to win at your sport.