Q&A with Maddie Mastro
A few years ago, Maddie Mastro was forced to choose between two sports: snowboarding or soccer. Her decision to pursue snowboarding has been paying off and now, at age 17, the Southern California native is one of Team USA's youngest Olympic hopefuls in women's halfpipe.
Earlier this year, we sent Mastro a list of questions. Here's what she had to say.
What's your earliest memory of snowboarding, and what made you dedicate yourself to the sport?
My earliest memory of snowboarding is actually of one of the weekends I was learning. I remember looking at my dad as he helped me turn from my heels to my toes. I was attracted to snowboarding because of the adrenaline rush I got when I was younger and hitting jumps and getting a feeling of flying.
Do you have any favorite memories of watching the Olympics?
Vancouver Olympics, I was sitting on the living room floor staring up at the TV. I watched Torah Bright's runs in the halfpipe and something just clicked. I was 10 years old and I remember sitting there knowing this is what I want to do. I then drew a photo and wrote a note on it to Torah Bright, which I still have in my room.
Was there a specific breakthrough moment in your career when you realized the Olympics were a possibility?
I always had the goal of going to the Olympics. I think my breakthrough moment when I realized I could truly achieve this was two years ago. I landed on my very first Grand Prix podium. I ended up on another podium that year.
For a while I felt like I was being overlooked by brands and contests. I had to work hard for people to see me.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to get to this point?
Snowboarding can be a very expensive sport. It has been very challenging to overcome. My family had to sacrifice a lot to help support me. My mom and I spent summer after summer applying to scholarships and foundations trying to get funds to help pay for me to be able to snowboard competitively. It was a lot of work but it paid off. I have gotten to a point where I am able to comfortably support my snowboarding without having to put a financial burden on my family.
Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t be able to succeed in snowboarding?
I was never told I wouldn't be able to succeed, but for a while I felt like I was being overlooked by brands and contests. I had to work hard for people to see me. My mom wrote a quote on my blackboard in my room: "Be so good they can't ignore you." That really helped push me to be noticed for my snowboarding and not get overlooked.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received is from my mom. She tells me, "Kick the ball hard." She says it every time before I compete, train, anything. That advice translates to, "Try your best, and you will be fine." At contests, I want to do my best and be able to go home proud, and my mom knows that.
What’s something about snowboarding that people don’t normally see?
In snowboarding in general, it really is about friendship, so when you take it to a competition, that friendship remains. With women's snowboarding, everyone wants the best for our sport, pushing it forward together.
Hardest part about snowboarding?
I would say the hardest part of the sport is mental. Being able to overcome fear can prove to be harder than expected.
Biggest fear when competing?
My biggest fear when competing is disappointing myself. When I'm competing, I try not to let my fears of falling enter my thoughts. But like any athlete, I do get them.
Who are your biggest rivals?
I think my biggest rival is everyone. I know that is very general, but you never know what exactly anyone is capable of in this sport. It is constantly changing and progressing. I don't see anyone as an enemy, we all have the same goal of pushing and progressing the sport, but at the end of the day, everyone wants to do the best they can.
What athlete has been your greatest source of inspiration?
Torah Bright. She is someone I look up to in everything she does. Her snowboarding is amazing, she has effortless style. And as a person, she is so kind and a genuine person.
What advice would you give to a young snowboarder just starting out?
My advice is have fun. Snowboarding is such an enjoyable sport. The rest will come.
Do you play any other sports?
I play soccer, it has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love soccer. I have made some of my best friends from playing soccer and learned so many life lessons from the sport.
Which summer Olympic event would you like to try?
I would like to try diving. It blows my mind that the divers are able to do what they do.
What's a typical training day like?
I wake up around 7, have some breakfast and head up to the mountain. I meet my team at 8:15 at our headquarters at the hill. We do a 20 to 30 minute warmup, then put our gear on. We all then regroup at the chairlift at 9. From there, we go and train. I train from 9 to 1 with a coach, and we often stay later to ride more. Once we are done snowboarding, we head back to our team headquarters and do some stretching and watch and review video. I am typically home by 2 to 2:30. I then start on my schoolwork a few hours.
Favorite workout trend?
I work with the U.S. snowboard team, they have a great program set up for me. I just log into my workout account and do the workout set for the day.
Most grueling workout you’ve ever done?
It's hard to say. I have done a lot of gym work, but to this day, I don't think there is a harder workout than playing soccer games in Southern California heat.
I dance and sing non-stop.
Tell us about your pre-competition ritual.
My pre-competition rituals are pretty simple. Once I'm in a routine, I typically stay in it. I get to contests early always, I hate feeling rushed at contests. I take my time getting ready and warmed up. I dance and sing non-stop. Then when I'm dropping in, I have a routine. I strap in about five minutes or so before I have to drop in. I pick out my drop-in song and dance. I run through my run in my head and go through the motions. When it is my turn to drop, I do a secret handshake with my coach and slide to the drop-in. I stand looking at the pipe, then inhale a big breath, exhale and go. I shake my arms to get the wiggles out. I clap, then smile as I pop into the pipe. I do it at every contest. I also watch "The Office" when I get ready in the morning before a contest.
Do you have any lucky charms or superstitions?
I wear a shoe lace around my pants — first off to hold them up, but I also believe that my shoelaces are a good luck charm. Also I wear the same pair of socks on contest days.
What's your music of choice while riding?
I listen to everything when I'm snowboarding. But my drop-in music is either "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" by Cage the Elephant or "Gossip Girl" by Grace VanderWaal.
Do you collect anything?
Converse [shoes]. It all started in 5th grade with neon green Converse. My collection slowly built. I'll get a pair once my current ones get holes.
What organizations do you support?
The Sarah Burke Foundation. Snowboarding is a very expensive sport, my family was unable to afford for me to snowboard and travel without financial support. We filled out over 15 applications for scholarships two summers in a row. Sarah Burke Foundation granted me a scholarship, which was an unbelievable help to my family. I support the foundation and hope as I get older and more established, I can get involved more.
If you weren't an athlete, what would you like to be doing?
I would probably be wanting to work towards becoming a vet.
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?
For me, just being able to go to PyeongChang will be a success. Of course I would love to do well and potentially bring home a medal, whether it is silver, bronze or gold. My goals will be to have fun, enjoy the moment and try my best.