Q&A with Mia Manganello
How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?
My parents are the sole reason I am where I am today. They have completely dedicated their lives to making sure I have every opportunity to become the best in whatever I have chosen to do. They have gone as far as to uprooting their lives not only once but twice. First being within the state of Florida and the second being all the way across the country.
They have also supported me financially so that I have been able to dedicate myself to the fullest in chasing the Olympic dream. I do what I do because I love it but deep down I do it to make them proud and make all their sacrifices worth it. I will never be able to thank them enough, but making the team will be pretty close.
Do you have any pets?
I currently am petless but the day I retire getting a dog will be one of the first things I do. The training and traveling schedule we have as professional athletes doesn't make for the best living environment for a pet.
In your hometown of Crestview, Fl., what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?
The number one place for me when I get to visit home is my parents Italian restaurant, Dominic's Pizzeria in Valparaiso, FL just 20 minutes outside my home town. My parents have had an Italian restaurant for the majority of my life. Growing up in restaurant was an amazing thing. Not only was I able to eat as much pizza as I could consume, but I also was taught the insides of a business. I would spend hours in the kitchen and even waiting tables and running the register. Life lessons were made in the restaurant and I would not change it for anything. The kitchen will forever feel like home.
The only other must-do when I go home is visit the beaches. Fort Walton Beach and Destin have some of the most beautiful beaches and the softest white sand. The waves crashing against the shore and a salty breeze are all I need for relaxation.
What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?
Typically it's around 7:15am but some days can be around 5:15am when I get to train with the short trackers.
Sleeping is everything in sport but aside from night sleep I try to get home between training sessions to relax and possibly get a 20-30 minute nap in.
How much time do you spend training each day?
Anywhere from 2-6 hours a day. This depends on the necessary training for the day.
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
No two days are the same in a week of training for me but for an average of them may look a bit like this:
7:15 Wake Up and get some grub
8:15 Arrive at the [Utah Olympic] Oval for morning training
2-3 hrs of training
12:00 Cool down, start recovery and preparation for the second practice.
12:30-1 Arrive at home to relax and possibly a nap
2:00 Head back to the oval for round 2
2-3 hours of training followed by cool down and recovery to prepare for tomorrow’s training
5-5:30 Get back home, clean up and start preparing dinner.
9:00 Start focusing on tomorrow's training and getting everything ready for the morning practice.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
Never lose focus of why I'm here. I lost sight of that once and have promised myself to never lose sight again.
What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?
Right now I love them all, because I know no matter how simple or grueling a workout may be it helps me get one step closer to the Olympics.
Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?
Well after taking 6 years off everything is pretty much experimental. Last year was my first season back and I pretty much just jumped in after my cycling racing season and started skating. So I had a great base built up from riding but not a lot of skating specific strength. I decided to not race this summer on the bike to avoid any possible injuries and focus more on the skating specific training. It's been interesting to try and figure out how to get my base back up to the level I need without racing and fitting in as much skating as possible as well. I very happy with how everything is going so far and can't wait to put all this hard work to the test.
What does a typical day of eating look like during training?
I tend to not eat too much during training, for me my energy is provided from meals prior to the workout. Coming back from training for cycling I've had to change my idea of nutrition. With cycling I was taking in more fats that would help and be burned in the more endurance training needed for the sport but with skating it's all intensity so I've had to drop most of the fats and bring in more carbs, which I'm not too upset about haha.
If you are to indulge, what's your go-to snack?
Pizza, forever and always.
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?
I grew up in a skating family but instead of ice it was on wheels, which means I was skating when I was still in diapers. I didn't start ice skating till I was 13 years old. So in one form or another I've been skating my whole life. When I was younger, I tried other sports such as gymnastics and tennis but never seemed to last because I would choose skating over them all. When I was 13 I attended a intro to speed skating class in Salt Lake City and absolutely fell in love. I love the technical challenge and brute strength of the sport along with the beauty and grace of gliding across the ice. I've always been raised to be the best you can be at whatever it is you choose to do. Luckily I have parents that have given me the opportunities to do just that with a sport I love.
What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
I don't really have a specific moment from watching the Olympics that has driven me to get to this point. I think it more is from the determination I have to be the best and making the Olympics and performing well there is the top of the ladder. So that where I want to be.
Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?
When I started ice speed skating at 13 the dream of the Olympics was, of course, there but I had a lot of work to be done. I continued to train and compete as a junior doing pretty well. When I was 16 I joined the U.S. National Team and started training with people I had admired, past and sure to be future Olympians. I knew at that moment this dream could really come true. In 2008 we got a new coach that changed the way I trained and looked at the sport, all for the better. I improved so much that year and was only looking to get better going into the Olympic year of 2010.
When he was fired the next season my mind and body tired into a mess. I was lost with my training, unsure what to do with my coaching with such an important year ahead. Once Olympic Trials came I was nowhere near my potential and failed to complete the long lived dream of making the Olympics. I "retired" at the age of 20.
For the next 6 years I took up cycling and raced on the professional calendar. In the fall of 2015 I decided to visit the ice again just to have a little fun. When I took my first couple laps on the ice I was in absolute heaven and knew I was exactly where I always should of been. I went back that winter and competed at U.S. Nationals where I set a new personal best time by 4 seconds and became national champion [in the 3000m]. I was hooked and knew from that moment I had so much more to give in this sport and this was the time to do it.
I competed on the road for cycling in the summer of 2016 and could only think about getting back on the ice that fall. Last season was the season of my dreams, skating faster than I ever believed I was capable of and knowing I can go faster. Leaving the sport was the smartest thing I could have done. I was able to mature as a women and athlete and bring a whole new perspective on athletics and the sport of speed skating. Before I did it because it was what I did and had done for so long, I would go day to day doing just enough to complete the workout. Now I'm here because I choose to be. I never do just enough because I have unfinished business to take care of.
What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
I feel the hardest part of speed skating is the technique. You can have the strongest body and mind but if you’re not technically sound it will be very difficult to reach the highest level of this sport.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
Tom Cushman is my coach and the coach of the U.S. National All-round Team. We have been working together since I returned to the sport last winter.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
Not performing to my potential.
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in speed skating?
Always remember to have fun.
Are you superstitious?
I don't believe in rituals or good luck charms. I was told once it's wise to not have anything like this so that you are not reliant on them. You don't want to have the excuse that you performed poorly because you weren't able to complete a ritual or didn't have your lucky charm. I believe that you and only you determine your fate.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
There are two options:
1. Never getting out of my PJ's and watching Netflix all day.
2. Getting dressed up (just wearing heels is dressed up for me) go to 3Cups and have a matcha latte. Then run all my errands. Getting errands done is very satisfying but then dressing up is also nice because as an athlete I don't get to do it that often. It's nice to feel like a women every now and then.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Do you have any fears?
Ugh!!! Not good with squirmy things.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
I am grateful for the places speed skating has taken me and the opportunities I have to see the world. My favorite place I've ever been is Japan. The heritage and honor they carry with them and continue to show in their country is amazing to see and witness. Plus the food is amazing!!!!
What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy gardening… Well, does taking care of potted flowers count? My boyfriend and I potted flowers this spring and taking care of them has been surprisingly rewarding and satisfying. This is the first time in my life I've done something like this and now definitely won't be my last.
My greatest passion aside from skating is cooking. I love all types of cuisine but my favorite would have to be pastries/desserts. I would love to create wedding cakes one day or maybe have my own pastry shop. I have a huge sweet tooth.
What are your personal care indulgences?
My most frequent thing would probably be getting my nails done. I always have mine painted. Other than that and on a day-to-day basis I'm pretty low maintenance.
Outside of training for your sport, what physical routine makes you feel your best?
Cycling for sure. It's an awesome workout and gives you the opportunity to see things you may not have seen before.
What are five must-have items you always keep in your gym bag?
Roll of KT Tape
Snack, usually a bar or fruit
Towel, things tend to get pretty sweaty.
Have you been to South Korea before? What are you most looking forward to about the Games being hosted in South Korea?
I have been once before and that was for the Single Distance World Championships held at the Olympic venue.
This will be my first Olympic Games so I've frigin excited about the whole thing. I have no doubt they are going to do an amazing job creating the Olympic spirit but with the venue pretty much on the coast it's going to make for some beautiful scenery.
Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
I want every race to be the best I've ever skated it. Of course I want that to be good enough to put me on the podium, but if it doesn't I want to cross the line knowing I left it all out on the ice.
Will you head home for the holidays prior to the Games? What do you most look forward to? If not, where will you celebrate and with whom?
The winter holidays fall in a less opportune time. We have our last World Cup mid-December and then only three weeks late we are competing for the Olympic team [at Trials, held January 2-7, 2018]. So more than likely I will be in Salt Lake City spending it quietly with my boyfriend, Craig.
What’s on your Christmas or holiday list this year?
To make my first Winter Olympic Team the following week!!!