Avoiding black cats, not walking under ladders, crossing your fingers. These are all superstitions. But none that Team USA’s winter athletes worry themselves with. Their superstitions include putting their left shoe on before their right and wearing their lucky underwear for a big competition. Call it a superstition, call it a routine, but whatever you want to call it, they’ve got them. Here are 16 Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls who have their own sports superstitions:
Sadie Bjornsen, Cross-Country Skiing
“Jessie [Diggins] always puts glitter on us before races. At the beginning I used to run from her because, uh, not necessary. But now it’s turned into a superstition thing. I have to go find her and put glitter on.
“And also, race-day braids. You can see on our women’s team we all have to have our specific braid. It’s like a way to get rid of nerves in the morning and be our self.
“And then on relay days we wear these socks that have been with us for probably six years now. We only break them out on relay days and it’s like putting on your true American spirit. It brings us all together. They’re nothing special, but the one extra touch that makes us unstoppable on relay day.”
Annie O’Shea, Skeleton
“I have spandex shorts and a sports bra that I pick based on what day of training I went the fastest, so I wear them again.
“And I like to put on so much heat cream that my body is burning. If I’m not burning, then I don’t think I’m going to be good.”
Kacey Bellamy, Ice Hockey
“I have a routine every game day: I have to shower, blow dry my hair, straighten my hair, do my makeup. And then if we’re on the bus or walking to a game, I listen to the same song, Van Halen’s “Right Now.” And then if we’re on the bus, I pound Meghan Duggan right before we get off the bus. And then if I’m a roommate with Brianna Decker, then right before we leave the hotel we pound each other. It’s a little superstition we have to do.”
Jamie Sinclair, Curling
“Curlers are very much set on routines. We’ll even sit in the same seats in the car on the way to the arena just to be as consistent as we can.
“When I’m curling I wear two pairs of socks because my feet are freezing standing on ice for two and a half hours. The first pair is ankle socks, and then on top of that I have these big, black, fluffy socks that are higher up. Those socks I don’t change during competition. But it’s not gross or anything because I have two pairs on. The ankle socks I have underneath. And the black ones are just the perfect thickness to go inside my curling shoes — so I can’t mess with it.”
Danelle and Rob Umstead, Para Alpine Skiing
Danelle: “We have a process, for sure. Sometimes my process is not the same as his, but the number one thing we do is we have to fist bump. That means we’re ready. Every time.”
Rob: “Buckles, knuckles and go.”
Danelle: “Yep. He checks my buckles, do knuckles and then we go. That’s kind of us connecting and being ready, like Team Umstead, Team Vision4Gold. Take a deep breath and go.”
Jackie Wiles, Alpine Skiing
“This is kind of weird. I do have my typical stretching, visualizing, go over the course many times in my head — that sort of stuff I do. But I have this mushroom coffee that I love to drink that I feel gives me a really good burst of energy before I race.”
Alex Rigsby, Ice Hockey
“I always carry around a tennis ball before. As soon as I get to the rink, I have my tennis ball. It’s with me up until game time. I throw the ball against the wall, just to get hand-eye coordination going. And between periods I’ll be holding on to a ball. It’s something that’s stuck with me.”
Karen Chen, Figure Skating
“Before I go into the competition arena my mom is there, so I always give her the biggest hug and I feel a lot better after that. It gets my nervous energy out. I also wear a jade necklace that I’ve never taken off ever since I started wearing it when I was 9. That’s when my mom gave it to me. When she was younger her mother had given her a jade necklace and every time she wore it she felt safe. So it’s kind of done the same thing for me."
Kehri Jones, Bobsled
“Consciously I wear the same undergarments every race. I know it looks good under the uniform, but I guess maybe it’s a superstition.”
Breanna Huckaby, Para Snowboarding
“I like to listen to music. I like to just calm myself, which doesn’t make sense because you would think I’d need to be aggressive to race. But no, I like to be calm. And if I have a really good training day I wear the same socks again when I compete.”
Declan Farmer, Sled Hockey
“I’m not really superstitious, but I guess I do have a routine. I like to warm up a lot. Get on a handbike, do some puck handling before the game. I like to be really busy before the game and get my body ready to go.”
Matt Mortensen, Luge
“All athletes have routines definitely, but I don’t want to get stuck into that type of situation. But I do have one thing that I do hold onto still is I always put my right glove on first. Because once I started, we had a good race so I have to keep doing it. But that’s the only thing because I can control that. At no point am I going to have two left-hand gloves, so that one’s OK.”
Kali Flanagan, Ice Hockey
“I always have to put my right skate on first. Everything right: right elbow pad, right skate. I’m not sure why. It just kind of became a thing, I guess.”
Jayson Terdiman, Luge
“For me, if we have a great competition or a great race, I’ll try and wear the same underwear the next race. And if it works again I keep it going. If it doesn’t, I’ll start over.”
Aja Evans, Bobsled
“I’m not superstitious. I feel like I work too hard to let one little thing — like a sock or something crazy — change my whole game and mentality. I do like things a certain way. I like to lay out my clothes the night before my race. I like to pray with my mom before I go down every run. So things like that help me to stay at peace and stay focused. But at the end of the day, I’m not going to let a superstition mess up my game.”