Vegetarian Olympians excel in Rio
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games have come to a close and the Olympic buzz is slowly (and sadly) fading. Team SA is returning home on Tuesday with 10 medals, making it one of our most successful Olympic campaigns to date. The last couple of weeks have been both nerve racking and incredibly exciting as we found ourselves glued to our screens in support of our athletes. Their world-class performances exceeded our expectations and the hearts of our nation will swell with pride as we welcome them home with open arms.
While my attention was focused mainly on our athletes, I couldn’t help but wonder how another special group of athletes were performing. These Olympians who performed on the world stage – where it is necessary to scrutinize every aspect of your training in order to be (and compete against) the best – were choosing to fuel their performances with a plant-based diet. Not only were they keeping up with the best in the world, they were kicking ass!
Australian sprinter, Morgan Mitchell reached the semi-finals of the women’s 400m. The 21-year-old, whose unbeaten 2016 season earned her the national title, has been a vegan for a year and a half. She claims that her newly adopted lifestyle has assisted in her energy levels and overall health.
Kendrick Farris is a 3-time Olympian and holds the US weightlifting record in the 85kg weight class. He competed in the 94kg category in Rio and finished 11th in the men’s final (3rd in the “B final”) achieving a combined lift of 357 kg (787 lbs). He has been following a vegan lifestyle since 2014.
Needing no introduction – Serena Williams is arguably the most decorated tennis player in history. She is the current world no. 1, having reached this status for the first time in 2002. She transitioned to a plant-based diet in solidarity with her older sister, Venus, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2011. Venus Williams is a former world no.1 tennis player and is currently ranked 6th. She won a silver medal in the mixed doubles in Rio. The sisters have seemingly gone from strength to strength since transitioning to a plant-based diet.
Lizzie Armitstead is an English professional track and road racing cyclist. She has been a vegetarian since age 10 and achieved a “disappointing” 5th place finish in Rio given that she is the reigning national, commonwealth and world champion in road racing.
These incredibly talented athletes are proof that transitioning to a plant-based diet does not equate to a sacrifice on sports performance, even at the most elite level. Even though most of us are not even close to competing at this level, the transition to a (partial or wholly) plant-based diet can be daunting as questions are raised ranging from “but where will I get my protein from” to “how do I adequately fuel myself before/during/after a race?!”. These are fair enough questions and since we don’t have a team of chefs preparing nourishing plant-based meals specifically designed for athletes like they do in the Olympic village’s kitchen, it is up to us to educate ourselves and learn how to create nourishing and delicious cruelty-free meals to fuel our passion that is trail running. RID will address these concerns in upcoming posts, so stay tuned. Who knows, we might have a plant-based mountain runner bring home the Olympic gold medal in the not too distant future 😉
Do you know of any other current VEGAN or VEGETARIAN Olympians?!