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Team USA Athletes Share Some Of Their Little-Known Hobbies

By Lisa Costantini | Jan. 12, 2016, 1:04 p.m. (ET)

Team USA athletes spend a lot of time training and competing for their sports. So you would think when they have downtime, they’re probably using it to catch up on their sleep. Not true. Instead you’ll find them partaking in their favorite hobbies. In honor of January being National Hobby Month, we asked 15 Team USA athletes to share with us their favorite pastimes. See if you knew which Olympian builds her own furniture, which one has a green thumb and which one started a business after finding a love for crochet.

“I enjoy reading military books — in between practices or when I’m traveling — because I have a deep appreciation for our military and the sacrifices they make in order to protect our country. I also like reading them because it humbles you in the things you think are difficult in your life. Some of my favorites are ‘American Sniper,’ ‘Lone Survivor’ and ‘No Easy Day.’ I’m currently reading ‘Fearless.’ –Jake Dalton, 2012 Olympic gymnast

“When I have a lot of downtime in the offseason, I find it meditative to sew. I use my mom’s sewing machine as she’s the one who taught me how to sew and it’s a strong connection to her for me. I find it more of a creative process to come up with designs on my own. I can literally fall asleep thinking of things I could make, and then wake up and try to create it. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes I scrap it halfway through. I wear my creations once or twice when I’m done, and it’s a great conversation piece.” –April Ross, 2012 Olympic beach volleyball silver medalist

“My hobbies are building and sketching — both of which I picked up in college. I enjoy making prototypes for different kinds of things. I enjoy drawing. I bring pencils and a sketch book on all of our trips and try to draw every day.” –Alex Bowen, 2016 Olympic water polo hopeful

“One of my favorite hobbies is bird watching — an activity I’ve enjoyed since I was a little girl. I’ve always been fascinated by migratory birds and love to identify the different species that come to our backyard.” –Sarah True, 2012 Olympic triathlete

“Teammate Emily Sweeney and I crochet! We get real crazy! We started crocheting on the road to pass the time during travel days, and Emily’s sweet headband design became pretty popular so we turned it into a business, Emrin Headwear.” –Erin Hamlin, 2014 Olympic luge bronze medalist

“My favorite hobby is gardening. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, so seeing green was very rare. When my parents got divorced when I was 3, I lived with my dad during the week and my mom on the weekend. I loved her house. Don't get me wrong — I loved my dad’s house as well, but something was different about my mom’s. It always just felt more homey to me. Around the age of 7, I figured it out: REAL plants. So that's where my passion for gardening came from. I've been gardening ever since. I love it because there is a great feeling of accomplishment when you see a plant that you grew from a seed to a 25-foot tree or you get to harvest fruits and veggies, and eat them too. I absolutely love it!” –Chad Cohn, 2012 Paralympic wheelchair rugby bronze medalist

“A few years back I was furnishing my home and as I looked at furniture, I didn’t love much of it. It was generic and it cost a lot for what it was. I thought I could make something more original. So I started making furniture and I ended up loving it. I have made outdoor couches, dining tables, entertainment centers, side tables, coffee tables and headboards. You can check out some of the pieces on Instagram: @sparrowcreativeco. I love looking around my house and knowing that I created the things that make my house a home.” -Kelly Clark, three-time Olympic snowboarding medalist

“My first experience with coffee was in Europe on my first trip over as a pro runner. Not only was I very jetlagged and needed some help to get through the day, but also I was anxious from being in a new place and not knowing the language. I learned very quickly how coffee is a universal language — I immediately fell in love. Coffee is now a staple before training, racing and everyday life. I love the atmosphere of a good coffee shop. It can invigorate, inspire and restore the mind. I have traveled the world with my sport and have taken notes of all the coffee shops I have visited. One day I hope to create the coffee shop of my dreams.” –Alysia Montano, 2012 Olympic middle-distance runner

“I spent my free time last summer in my friend Hugh Bray’s woodshop. He helped me make this vintage custom telecaster. We started at the beginning of the summer with a slab of basswood. After about six months of work, the guitar was finished. In the process, I learned a ton about woodworking and craftsmanship. I can’t thank him enough for showing me the ropes of making my first guitar. We’re already talking about making another one!” –Evan Bates, two-time Olympic ice dancer

"Gardening for me has been a way to connect with my family. As a child, I remember gardening with my father, and still today with my family almost every spring we plant a garden. Gardening allows us to enjoy the outdoors and see the fruit of our labor. There is nothing more rewarding than to pick and eat a ripe fruit or vegetable off the plant you took care of." –Leo Manzano, 2012 Olympic track silver medalist

“I collect koi fish. I’ve been doing it for nearly 25 years. I got started because my dad built a pond in our backyard when I was a kid. I really enjoy it because it’s fun picking out fish when they are babies and watching them grow into cool beautiful fish.” –Nick Taylor, three-time Paralympic wheelchair tennis gold medalist

“One of my hobbies is watching the Seattle Seahawks. I have watched and followed them for as long as I can remember — as far back as to when I was a child. Go Hawks!” –David Wagner, three-time Paralympic wheelchair tennis gold medalist

"I whittle away the hours through a variety of pursuits, but my most effectual pastime would be Latin or ballroom dancing. Although I would never claim proficiency, I believe dancing promotes the hip suppleness necessary to maintain stride length and the footwork improves the ground contact time of my run. Most importantly, watching great dancers inspires moves for my victory celebrations." –Greg Billington, 2016 Olympic triathlon hopeful

“I love to bake! There is something about being in the kitchen and picking the perfect Pandora station that allows me to relax and decompress. I started baking when I was probably 8 and it was always chocolate chip cookies. Now I love to try new recipes or make changes to old ones. The stress comes after the baking is done when I try not to eat it all!” –Lauren Crandall, two-time Olympic field hockey player

“The most important hobby of mine is napping. People may not consider it a hobby but it is to me and has been a part of my life since high school. For a long time, I have had problems sleeping well at night so I was constantly tired during the day, and so I found ways to fit naps in and it changed everything! Some are 20 minutes and others could be 3 hours. I legitimately plan and look forward to my naps. It has become pretty much a daily hobby/habit for me and is a crucial pregame ritual for me. Before every game, I always nap. It is a must because I'm convinced it gives me more energy when I wake up to crush it on the field.” –Kelsey Kolojejchick, 2016 Olympic field hockey hopeful

Related Athletes

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Jake Dalton

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April Ross

Beach Volleyball
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Sarah True

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Erin Hamlin

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Emily Sweeney

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Chad Cohn

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Kelly Clark

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Alysia Montano

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Leo Manzano

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Evan Bates

Figure Skating
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Nick Taylor

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David Wagner

Wheelchair Tennis
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Lauren Crandall

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Kelsey Kolojejchick