As told by Team USA medalists Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin!
In terms of life accomplishments, nothing, NOTHING tops winning an Olympic medal. It’s the peak test of mind, body, and soul.
Although winning RuPaul’s Drag Race is a pretty close second.
It’s an achievement many of us will never accomplish, so we have a lot of questions of what it’s like to win Olympic hardware. How much work do you put in? What’s post-victory life like? What do you…do with an Olympic medal, LOL?
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One of the best places to keep your medals? Socks!
Lindsey said she keeps her medals in socks to protect the metal coating on the medals. You don’t want them rubbing against one another. I guess this is a problem only multiple-time medalists have, and Lindsey and Mikaela fall in this category. Talk about a humble brag!
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You might lose track of where exactly you keep your medals in your house, TBH.
BOTH Lindsey and Mikaela have had trouble keeping track of their medals. Lindsey asked family members to bring her previous medals over to South Korea, but they had trouble locating her bronze from 2010. Mikaela told us she thinks her gold from 2014 is somewhere in her bedroom, but she’s not exactly sure where. There’s also a practical reason to not tell everyone where your medals are.
“I think people don’t like to say exactly [where] because it’s like, somebody could just walk into my house and steal that,” Shiffrin said.
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And you also won’t really wear your medals much after you win them.
Lindsey said after all the ceremonies, she’s never really worn her past medals, although she knows other athletes who carry them everywhere (but they get tarnished faster that way).
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They’re surprisingly heavy. Like, really heavy.
Gold medals in PyeongChang weigh 586 grams. That’s almost a pound and a half.
“It actually kind of hurts my neck! But it’s OK, I will take the pain any day,” Vonn said.
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Traveling with your Olympic medals is kind of difficult because they might catch security off-guard.
Vonn recounted several times when she was traveling through airport security and things got “dicey.” One time they even thought she was a water skier, LOL.
“They were really confused,” she said.
But sometimes there are also perks for being recognized as an Olympic champion.
Shiffrin said she flew business class on her way to the Olympics this year. While she was in line for the bathroom, one of the flight attendants recognized her and told her she should use the fancier first class bathroom.
Um, I would train to be an Olympian for that perk alone!
Being on a Wheaties box is as cool — and perhaps even MORE cool — as it sounds.
“It’s a symbol of awesomeness,” Vonn said.
Not only has the company sent her a bunch of notebooks with her Wheaties box as the cover, but in 2015 the cereal brand made her a SECOND, custom box to commemorate a hole-in-one she hit at a charity golf tournament. How many other athletes can say they have two different Wheaties boxes for different sports? THAT is talent.
There’s A LOT of equipment involved. You might travel with 60 pairs, and own even more than that!
Shiffrin actually didn’t know how many skis she brought over to South Korea (the New York Times reported she brought 35, which is actually low for her.) Vonn said she probably brought 50-60 pairs, and has another 150 pairs at home in a garage. That’s…a lot of skis.
And lugging that around isn’t easy — you’re going to need like 20 bags, several cars, and maybe even a storage unit.
Getting 15-25 bags of skis alone isn’t easy (and that isn’t including other equipment). It means transporting all that gear in several cars, checking a lot of bags at the airport, and sometimes even shipping it all around in large storage containers.
“It’s a huge pain, but whatever makes you ski fast,” Vonn said.
But if you’re a top athlete, you literally have someone whose full-time job it is to keep track of and tend to your equipment. Must be nice!
Vonn and Shiffrin actually don’t handle all that gear themselves (hence why Shiffrin didn’t know how many skis she was actually toting at the Olympics). At this level of competition, you literally have a serviceman devoted to handling all your equipment. They travel separately with all the gear, and handle all the bags. I think I speak for us all when I say everyone could use an equipment guy.
Being an Olympic athlete means you literally have to travel around the world all year — from Europe for races to the Southern Hemisphere for training in the offseason.
In addition to racing in the usual locales in North America, Europe, and Asia, Shiffrin trains during the summer in Chile and New Zealand (probably because of ~seasons~ and the Southern Hemisphere).
And you will get really, really cold. Ski suits aren’t very warm at all — they have to be as thin as possible.
Racing suits are meant to be aerodynamic — “paper-thin” according to Vonn — but this means they aren’t warm in “any way, shape, or form.” Skiers don’t take their outer jackets and pants off until RIGHT before this race.
“The fastest skier is the coldest skier,” Shiffrin said.
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We’ll cut to the chase: Peeing in your suit is so difficult, it could be an Olympic event in and of itself.
Because you have to take off most of the suit to pee, accidents “happen to everybody,” Shiffrin said.
Vonn described the process for us. First you take off the top and the sleeves, and are careful the sleeves don’t fall into the “wrong spot,” which unfortunately happened to her once.
“I had to continue skiing the whole day with a wet sleeve. Don’t tell anyone,” she said. “It was the worst thing ever. No one knew but me. Until now.”
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And finally, this should be really obvious…but you’re going to go really fast. Like, death-defyingly fast. And you KNOW you’re risking your life when you go down the slopes.
“You can’t focus on anything but what you’re doing,” Vonn told us, because you’re going down the mountain really fast — so fast, skiers have crashed and died.
Shiffrin shared this sentiment when asked if she ever has any weird thoughts when she’s going down the mountain.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a weird thought. I think that everybody should have this thought or they’re insane,” she said. “There’s moments when I’m like, ‘I’m going to die.’”
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Thanks for spilling the gold medal tea, Lindsey and Mikaela!
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