The Most Superstitious Olympic Athletes

Aug 7, 2012
Outside Magazine

It's no secret that a lot of athletes are superstitious. Hockey player Bruce Gardiner used to dip his stick in the toilet during scoring droughts to punish it so it would perform better. NBA point guard Jason Terry sleeps in the shorts of his opponents the night before a game. Baseball player Moises Alou peed on his hands to make them tougher—a belief not entirely grounded in science as urea has properties that soften skin. Olympians are no exception. Here are some of the strangest rituals and good luck charms of Olympic athletes.

United States soccer player Alex Morgan puts on her right sock before her left sock, her left shoe before her right shoe, ties her left boot before her right boot, puts on her left shin guard and then her right shin guard, rolls her shorts over one time only, makes sure never to tuck her jersey in, and then pulls up her socks before folding them over so she has a little shin guard showing—in the same order before every game. Why? “There doesn’t have to be a why,” she says.

Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice does eight arm swings, four goggle presses, and four cap touches before each race.

Sailor Luke Patience of Great Britain will go out the evening before a race and smell and taste the water. He also carries a green bean bag around in the shape of a frog.

During events, synchronized divers Kelci Bryan and Abby Johnston of the United States put a rubber ducky between their bags facing the pool.

Cyclist Evelyn Stevens of the United States wears a lucky blue sports bra given to her by her older sister.

Sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross has worn a bullet necklace that her mother gave her in every race since an NCAA finals event, when she did not wear it and finished third.

Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo slaps his chest incredibly hard several times before he races in order to wake up his body.

Swimmer Michael Phelps of the United States removes his headphones and swings his arms three times before the start of every race.

Gymnast Danell Leyva of the United States puts the same towel over his head between exercises to help him focus. His towel has its own Twitter account with more than 13,000 followers.

Swimmer Alicia Coutts of Australia won't cut her nails before a swim.

Tennis player Serena Williams of the United States will bring her shower sandals to the court, bounce the ball five times before her first serve, bounce the ball twice before her second serve, and sometimes wear the same socks during a tournament run.

Shot putter Jillian Camerena-Williams wears a yellow ribbon given to her by her grandmother in every event.

If you know of any others, please include them in the comments section below and we will add the best ones to the list.

—Joe Spring

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