If all goes well for 24-year-old gymnast Alicia Sacramone, she’ll end her sports career with a bang this August at the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London. Sacramone is one of the older competitors on the women’s gymnastics team, which gives her the advantage of being more experienced, but the disadvantage of possibly being aged out by younger, more flexible girls. No matter, says Sacramone, who’s competed at the international level for several years now. Even if she doesn’t make it to the Olympics team this year — which she’s heavily favored to do — she’s got a plan B. Sacramone’s going to finish school and work in fashion, she says. She’s already got one fashion line under her belt — and she designs all her own leotards.
And that’s not all: Alicia’s also teamed up with P&G Beauty to help raise money for the Team USA Youth Sports Fund. She’s encouraging all of us to “like” P&G Beauty’s Facebook page; for every like, P&G will donate a dollar to the sports fund, which supports athletic programs around the country, up to $100,000.
Check out our interview with Alicia after the jump!
What does this Olympics mean to you?
This is definitely not my first time around the block. For me, this Olympics is a little bit more about redemption and showing people what I’m made of, because in Beijing [where she won a team silver medal but no individual medals] it didn’t exactly go picture perfectly.
After Beijing, I stepped away from the sport feeling a little bit unfinished, but I just needed to get my head clear. I needed some down time. After almost two years, I came back and started competing again in 2010. And now I’m training for the Olympics, and it would mean the world to me to make the team and represent the U.S. and be on the competition floor. There’s really no feeling like the performing aspect of gymnastics.
It seems like big part of your experience is being a role model and big sister to your teammates. Can you speak to that?
I’m the baby of my family, but as I got into gymnastics I found a lot of comaraderie and it was great having these girls to go through life experiences with. It’s a bond that can never be broken. To have their respect and support means a lot to me, because I have been in this sport a long time, and those relationships are what you strive to have when you finish your career.
Speaking of relationships, how does training for the Olympics impact your personal life?
Time management is a key skill when you are an athlete. You have training, diets, travel plans, family and boyfriends fill up your schedule– with sports you learn discipline and respect. You have to learn how to properly take care of yourself, and learning how to do that is going to help you learn how to take care of somebody else. I date another athlete [pro-footballer Brady Quinn] and he understands what the commitment is to training and keeping yourself in good shape. It definitely teaches you a lot of life skills I wouldn’t have learned as quickly without gymnastics.
You got into the sport pretty young — what are some of the misconceptions about gymnasts?
A lot of people think we are sheltered, naive children. And I’m 24 years old. A lot of these girls are wise beyond their years. They grow up very fast. They have to handle a lot of responsibility and pressure at a young age. They’re a lot more mature than you’d think. It’s astonishing to watch how a 12- or 13-year-old can have the mindset of an adult.
What do you think are some of the advantages you have in competing as an older competitor?
I have the experience. I’ve been to five world championships and numerous international competitions. I know what to expect. I know how to handle the pressure.
What’s your sense of where the sport is now in terms of protecting young women and girls?
I think it’s definitely come a long way. When I was going through it, I definitely didn’t have anybody to look up to for guidance. I think coaches are more in tune with their athletes and are now thinking of them more as their own kids. You’re never going to want your own kid to be hurt or have a bad diet or have bad tendencies. It helps that I’ve been through it — good, bad and ugly. It’s hard; being in the spotlight at a young age and trying to look and feel your best is hard — and it’s an adjustment for most girls.
Not too long ago you posed for the ESPN magazine body issue; can you talk about your journey of body acceptance?
I wish I could sit here and say I never had body issues — but every girl’s had them. It was a long way to come to do that. I honestly felt like it was a big step for me. I work really hard for my body so I thought it was a good time to do it.
What are you beauty must-haves?
I love Olay Face Moisturizer every night. Secret Outlast for my one sweaty armpit — I just have one! My left one. And I’m a big Cover Girl Lash Blast fan.
What do you do to take care of your skin and body?
I do try to take care of my skin. I do put it through a lot with being in the gym and sweating and faceplanting on a few mats now and then. I make sure to wash off all my make up and moisturize and get natural Vitamin D. Living a healthy lifestyle and ot doing too much partying or going out. If you’re an athlete or not, that’s really important.