Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Team USA Snowboarder Louie Vito.
We talked about a variety of different subjects; everything from his performance in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver to his time on the hit ABC series Dancing With the Stars, his plans for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, and his participation in Oberto’s America’s PROtein Campaign.
So, without further ado, here is FanSided’s one-on-one with interview with Team USA Snowboarder Louie Vito.
FanSided: Any good story starts at the beginning, so let’s start there. How old were you when you really knew that Snowboarding is what you wanted to do with your life?
Louie Vito: I grew up in Ohio, and I learned how to ride there on a 300 vertical foot hill, and it was kind of just something that was new. I just loved snowboarding. I started with my Dad, it was pretty great. It was a family activity with my Mom and my Sister, we were all into snowboarding.
It wasn’t anything where I was like ‘Oh, I’m gonna be a professional snowboarder,’ because I didn’t even know you could do that. I just like to snowboard. The more I got into it, the more I started doing these amateur snowboard series called USASA where they have Nationals with kids from all over the country. So, I started doing that. I’d have people tell my Dad ‘Oh, you know Louie is really good,’ and so on, but I’m always hard on myself, so I never really thought about it like that. I always wanted to get better and better.
Being in Ohio, I was competing against kids from out West. By the time we hit Nationals, I was already two months off of snow, because our seasons are so short. I was kind of middle of the pack, and that was always frustrating to me because I wanted to do better.
Then, when I was in seventh grade I got third place at Nationals, and that was huge for me. I finally cracked the top three.
When I was in eighth grade, I went to a snowboarding school called Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, and that was really cool because I actually went to the 2002 Olympic Games and watched, and that was when the U.S. team swept the podium. Ross Powers won, and Ross Powers graduated from Stratton Mountain School. That year at Nationals I won Nationals in my age group, and things started clicking. I won Nationals, and I’m starting to do better and better, I’m going to a school where an Olympic Gold Medalist graduated from, so I think I’m on the right path. This might be something that I can actually do for a living.
I think in eighth grade when you start to get a little older, you start to get a little more aware of the possibilities of the sport to be for you. Plus, I started riding better and getting ample time on snow, having a coach, having school not trip out when I miss school because the school worked with you and your schedule making sure that you got a great education, but also you’re able to travel to contests. I think eighth grade when it kind of started to sink in.
FanSided: That usually is about the time when you start to really think about your options and what you could be doing. Then you say to yourself, “Well, I really love doing this. So let’s see what this does.”
Louie Vito: Exactly, and I was always really good in school, and I love when people ask me “What would you be doing if you weren’t snowboarding?” I tell them that I’d probably be going to school. When I was in early middle school I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. I wanted to go to MIT. I was really into school.
It’s kind of cool to know that I can fall back on academics, and then I had something that I had such a passion and a love for that I could potentially do this as a job and wake up every day and go snowboarding. That was a pretty cool idea to me.
FanSided: Now, when you are getting ready for something, and you’re trying to come up with that next big trick; the one that is just going to take you over the top, what is your thought process? What do you go through to create that ‘Next Big Thing?’
Louie Vito: Well, for me, it’s kind of just that you always want to stay on the forefront of new tricks that are going down. You know, when the double cork came out, you hear rumors of people trying different ones, and then you try to figure out what works for you.
A lot of times, like I have a bunch of different doubles, and I learned them all on snow. Just do or die as I say. I didn’t have a foam pit, or anyone who would give me a private pipe to learn it, so you kind of envision who you think it’s going to work out. Sometimes it works out just as you thought, and sometimes it kind of morphs into something else. I have a double cork that’s called a double Michalchuk, and if you watch someone do a double Michalchuck and you watch me do my double Michalchuk it’s two completely different tricks, but it’s just the way that it works out for me. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. If it brings you to your feet and that’s the way your body wants to go in a double I just kind of let it be.
It’s a lot of visualizing, talking with your coaches; someone who you really trust, because you’re putting your life in their hands. Then it’s just going out and doing it; taking a deep breath and just having the confidence and the commitment that, no matter what happens, you’re going to do it no matter what.
FanSided: Now, when you actually start training and you really get into that mode, what is an average day in your life like?
Louie Vito: It depends. A lot of times we might be riding in Copper with the U.S. team, and we have private half-pipe time for the U.S. Snowboard team from like 10:30 – 12:30. You can stay longer when it opens to the public, but I’m one of those riders that I like to get in and get out.
I’m very big in goal setting, and I’m very big in coming up with a plan for each day. You go into the mountain with that plan in mind, and so I’m just going to work on that plan, do what I have to do, get what I need to get done, and get out; especially since we have such a heavy winter.
This week coming up we have our first Olympic Qualifier, so I don’t want to beat myself up too much, but I want to make sure I get all the check marks done that I need going into the first contest. So, normally I put in about 2 hours on a normal training day. I mean, I don’t really call it training days, but when I’m riding I put in a good 2 hours. Maybe you have to stay longer, maybe it’s shorter. It just depends on how your day is going and how the tricks are coming along for you.
FanSided: I know that a lot of different athletes in a lot of different sports have superstitions or rituals that they do on their game days. Like sometimes hockey players have certain ways they lace their skates or tape their sticks. Do you have any of those superstitions or rituals for your competition days?
Louie Vito: For me it’s more that I listen to music every time I go snowboarding. I have an on deck song, a song I listen to when I’m strapping in, when there is maybe like one person before me waiting to go, then when I drop I just kind of listen to the same song because I know it gets me to a certain level mentally, and my adrenaline to a certain level and I’m ready to go.
Other than that, maybe there is a little certain thing that I wear, like a certain pair of socks; never dirty. I’m a very clean person. I always like to have clean stuff, but mostly just music because I practice with that song and I’m like ‘Alright,’ in my head in practice; we gotta win, we gotta get going on this run right now. I put that song on and it naturally just puts me in the zone.
FanSided: Music is so influential on people. It can really change your whole outlook on things. It can get you pumped up or it can bring you down. You’ve got to me careful about what it is you’re putting in when you’re getting ready to go.
Louie Vito: Exactly.
FanSided: Now, talking about your mindset, when you drop off onto the slope, what’s going through your mind as you’re rushing down the ice?
Louie Vito: Before I drop in, I usually go to a certain spot where I start. Cause even if it’s live TV, you can take your time. When they say go, you don’t have to go right away. So I go to my spot, make sure that my bindings are tight, my song is going and it’s loud. I take a deep breath, I do the sign of a cross, and I pretty much go into autopilot. I pretty much block out the music about halfway down.
You’ve got to just let your muscle memory take over because you don’t have much time to think. As soon as you do one trick you’re going right into another. There’s not a lot of time for thinking.
FanSided: Now, we all know that you spent some time on Dancing with the Stars. What was that experience like?
Louie Vito: That was a whole new world. I was kind of like dipping my toes into something, and then I jumped all the way in. I went all the way under the water on that one. My theory was I have like 22 million people watching my season, you’re doing a routine that you have not a lot of confidence in because you just learned it, and you know that it’s not how well you do, you just get ripped. Like, yeah that’s the best one ever and then the judges are like ‘You did this wrong, and this wrong,’ and you’re just like, ‘But, I thought I did it perfect. That was the best I ever did it.’ I was wearing clothes I wouldn’t even wear on Halloween. It was really fun.
You have a live audience, live judges, the spotlight on you; and when they say your name “Louie Vito and his partner Chelsie Hightower” and that music drops if you have a sneeze or you’ve got an itch, you better hold it because you’ve gotta go right then and there. That was definitely hard, and there’s a whole new set of nerves I had to deal with.
Then, with the 23 million people watching, I thought if I could take less than a percent of those people and introduce them to snowboarding, that’s a lot of new eyes and people introduced to our sport. If you think about it, if you watch a sport and you don’t know anything about it, especially when you go to Australia and you’re watching Rugby. Rugby is like ‘Yeah, it’s cool,’ but if you go there and say this is our team, and we really like this person. Now, we’re cheering for a team, we’re cheering for a player, and it’s way more exciting. So I just wanted to introduce more people to snowboarding. Maybe they’ve seen it, but now they actually know someone that’s a snowboarder, and bring them into the sport.
Now, I have people who follow me on Twitter that now follow my friends because of that. We’re just trying to create more people with interest in our sport.
FanSided: Now, from what I understand, you were doing your normal training and your preparations for your routines on Dancing with the Stars; how did you balance that?
Louie Vito: I just had a trainer come out and we would do it at night. I was already in pretty good shape so Dancing with the Stars never really put a toll on my body. You do rehearsals, then when you get that done you go home and chill for a little bit, then you get a workout in the evening.
FanSided: I’ve seen a lot of the behind the scenes things with these Dancing with the Stars routines, and I’ve seen even the most fit people crack just doing their preparations for the show, so I can imagine trying to do two things at once is kind of like, wow.
Louie Vito: It was fun, though. I have a lot of energy, and I was 21 at the time so I had youth on my side, so I was able to handle both.
FanSided: Now that the show is over, do you still talk to any of the people from Dancing with the Stars like your partner or any of the other contestants?
Louie Vito: Yeah. Chelsie and her family are really close to my family. I saw here in the fall time when she comes into Utah. We always go to dinner and stuff. When I’m in LA I try to meet up with her. She is family to me. When you spend 6+ hours a day together for multiple months, you’re either going to love each other or hate each other, but Chelsie and I had a great chemistry and we have a great friendship.
Kelly Osbourne and I, we had mutual friends already, so we really connected. Chuck Liddell I still keep in contact with. Melissa Joan Hart is someone I really stay in contact with. Then some of the dancers like Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and now his brother is on the show, Val, I’m good friends with both of them. Everyone, Louis van Amstel , Tony, those are guys that when I see them it’s like you never missed a beat from the last time you saw them. I made some great friendships from the show.
FanSided: Now, you competed in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. How did your performance in Vancouver kind of shape your plans for the upcoming Olympic in Sochi?
Louie Vito: In 2010 my whole goal was podium, podium, podium. That’s all I wanted to do. Our sport is a subjective sport. It’s not timed, it’s rarely judged beyond that day, so I put down the best run that I could. I mean, the crowd may not have agreed with the score, but at the end of the day, I can’t control any of that. I can only control what Louie Vito does.
So, going into Sochi I really started paying attention more to worry about what I’m doing, what I’m in control of; everything else is out of my hands. If I put down the best run that I can put down that day, then I can’t really be disappointed in myself. I can’t control what anybody else does, I can’t control how the judges score me; the only thing I can do is how good of a run did I do that day, and that’s what I’ve really been focusing on.
Apolo has been a great mentor of mine. He tells me “Louie, just enjoy the journey. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” That something I’ve really been trying to focus on because it’s about the hard work you put in, it’s the blood, sweat, and tears you put in; the Olympics is the fun part. The journey of getting there is something that I’ll never forget.
I’m a one time Olympian. There are not many people in the world that will ever be an Olympian. So of the biggest athletes in the world that will never be an Olympian. The fact that I have the chance to be a two-time Olympian is amazing. They say once an Olympian, always an Olympian; never past or present, you’re always going to be an Olympian. That’s something I always have to remind myself of. Whatever happens, happens, but as long as I look back and have no regrets, I can’t look at it as a failure.
FanSided: Now, when you’re thinking about that next big move, is there anything in particular that just inspires you and makes you want to set these high goals. Like you said, when you go into these competitions, you goal is the podium, so what is it that makes you strive so hard for that?
Louie Vito: Well, I’m a very competitive person. Anything I do, even if I play you in tennis, you can be Roger Federer, and I don’t care. I’m still going to try to beat you, it doesn’t matter. Be happy, don’t be satisfied. You should always strive to be better and push yourself.
Friends, family, and even people in other sports inspire me. It’s just always trying to strive to be better.
FanSided: When you tell yourself that you’re satisfied with your performance, I think at some point you can actually tend to pull off a little bit and be like ‘Oh, that was good enough.’ And it really stops you from reaching that next level.
Louie Vito: Exactly. My Dad says be happy, don’t be satisfied. As soon as you’re satisfied, you start to plateau. You can apply that to anything you do in life. You always want to do better and push yourself because you never know where the end line is, and you can always do better than you think.
FanSided: Now, I know that there are a lot of things that can affect an athlete when they are getting ready for a competition. Exactly how important is something like nutrition in your training ritual and getting ready for that competition?
Louie Vito: I’ve heard so much about nutrition from John Schaeffer whose been doing it for 40 years, you know. He’s working with world kickboxing champions, and Olympians, NFL players, power lifters, I mean, he’s done everything. He’s been studying for so long it’s not just a personal trainer you have it’s a sports scientist you have. You can put in all the work, but if you don’t put in the proper nutrition before and after it’s like you did all that work for nothing. Proper nutrition is key, and is a huge part of my training.
I’m the official Stokesperson, because I like to say the word stoked a lot, of Oberto’s PROtein campaign. They focus on a lot of the same things that I do. They focus on all natural, they have an all-natural jerky line; not just beef jerky, but turkey jerky and everything. It’s high in protein, and I always have protein in every meal and every snack that I have. There’s no artificial ingredients, and it’s made in the U.S. which is great because I’m American and very proud to be American. I’m proud to represent my country, and I’ve learned often that if you have something that you might think of as healthy, but it has preservatives, it has this, and it has that in it and to have a company like Oberto that you know is all-natural and is good, quality protein for you; it’s great to have with me at all times.
FanSided: So I guess you can say that is pretty much what inspired you to get involved with that program is to be able to let people know how it is all-natural and good for you, and really could help you out in the long run?
Louie Vito: Like I said, I’m all about eating healthy. To be excellent, you’ve got to eat excellent. What I think what we need as Americans is to pay attention to what we are putting into our bodies. I mean, they do say that your body is a temple. It’s not just a cliché term, it’s true. What you put in your body effects how you perform, how your body recovers, how you get over injuries; it’s such a big part, and to have Oberto which is, like I said, all-natural, good for you, and high in good quality protein, it’s perfect; especially when you live an active lifestyle like I do.
FanSided: Now, I know you obviously don’t want to give too much away because you don’t want to give all your secrets out or anything, but what could fans of yours be looking forward to in your performance in Sochi? What are you trying to put out there?
Louie Vito: I just want to put it all out there. I want to leave Sochi knowing that I did everything that I could and have no regrets. Leave nothing inside; just put it all out there. You’re gonna see Louie Vito put it all out there and give the best run that he can, giving 110%.
Whatever that ends up being is what it is. I’m never going to let go.
FanSided: What would you say to someone who is like you were when you were younger and is looking to start down your path? Are there any words of advice that you would give to someone?
Louie Vito: Yeah. I’m a kid from a small hill in Ohio with no half-pipe or anything, and I’ve made it to the Olympics in half-pipe back in 2010 and hopefully in 2014. Anything you work hard at, and really set goals and push yourself, you can achieve anything in really any aspect of life.
My Dad told me a quote that he made up, and he gave me a coin that says ‘If you’re good enough, they can’t ignore you.’ That’s true because no matter what people say there are people who are going to try to rain on your parade and bring you down, but as long as you keep doing what you do and just push yourself, you’re going to come to a point where no matter how much they don’t want to credit you, they’re going to have to because you’re good enough that they can’t ignore you.
As Louie said before he is the official “Stokesperson” for America’s PROtein campaign by Oberto. The program is in place to help inform people about the importance of protein’s role in helping people lead an active lifestyle.
Over the course of the campaign you will get to see a more videos chronicling Vito’s training, and really get to know him a little better as he prepares to head into the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
They are also giving away plenty of cool prizes. They’re giving away hundreds of bags of Oberto Beef Jerky, as well as a snowboard autographed by Louie Vito himself.
Here is a look at Louie Vito’s first video for the campaign.
If you want to learn more about Louie Vito or a chance to get your hands on that autographed snowboard, you can head over to http://www.oberto.com/americas-protein to enter. You can also like Oberto on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.