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Julia Mancuso is making herself 'shine'

Gevrina Seferaj works as the "Nike Field Reporter," a position that has her travelling the globe to report on and interview some of the world's best female athletes.

The first thing you notice about alpine skier Julia Mancuso is that this girl is Bad Ass. She has claimed three Olympic medals, recovered from serious injuries, and even started her own lingerie line. But the woman who rocks a pink tiara when she races is still finding new ways to express herself:

"By being out there and putting everything on the line, it's a given that you are tough, but the fact that you can do all that and wear a tiara or rock pink is just to prove a point that you don't have to be a certain way. It's all about self-expression."

In a career that's netted her more Olympic alpine skiing medals than any other American woman in history, Mancuso splits her time between Squaw Valley (Calif.), Hawaii and hotel rooms across the globe. A four-event athlete from the start of her World Cup racing career, Mancuso was a NorAm champion at 16 and an Olympian at 17. She set a U.S. mark for Junior World Championships medals before she was out of her teens, and started her twenties by capturing two medals at the 2005 World Championships in Bormio, Italy. The 2006 Olympic champion in the giant slalom, she added a pair of silvers (downhill, combined) at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

She's not all snow and ice, though. Mancuso loves the ocean life in Maui, where she spends most of her down time. A big fan of stand-up paddling, surfing and yoga, she finds new ways to Make Herself every day. As part of Nike's Make Yourself campaign, Mancuso is inspiring and motivating women everywhere to be the best they can be. I caught up with her to ask her some questions on skiing, surfing and shining:

Gevrina Seferaj: What does Make Yourself mean to you?

Julia Mancuso: To me Make Yourself means it's all in your control. There are no excuses; it's all about you. Set goals, reach goals, make new goals.

GS: What did it take for you to achieve your level of athleticism?

JM: I spent my whole childhood focused on sports. I played soccer, skied, waterskied, played softball, ran track and cross country. I just kept practicing and always had the desire to improve. I think there was only one month a year that I didn't play a sport growing up. Playing energized me.

GS: What are your current athletic goals?

JM: I want to continue through the next Olympics [in Sochi, Russia, in 2014] and I want to be on the podium again. Another gold is up there on my goal list.

GS: What is your favorite exercise?

JM: I really like to bike. I just think it's great to cover a lot of distance with your own power. It's really fun to track how far you go, how fast, and much vertical you climb. In the gym, I love to do core. I can really feel myself get stronger and also the stronger my core, the more balanced I feel.

GS: What exercises have been most important in helping you Make Yourself into the athlete you are today?

JM: Probably intervals. They teach you to not give up, and they get you in great shape.

GS: If you could encourage all aspiring athletes to do one exercise, what would it be?

JM: Pilates. In skiing, you see too many injuries, and I think with better knowledge of proper body alignment and movement you can prevent tons of injury.

GS: How do you balance training with family, friends, school and other interests?

JM: For me, the best way to meet up with friends or family is to invite them to a training session, or go hiking or do something athletic. I think that's the best way to socialize!

GS: What kind of diet do you have to follow to Make Yourself fit for sports competitions?

JM: Biggest thing for me is to have lots of energy. I try and stay away from wheat. I eat lots of veggies and chicken and fish and rice.

GS: What are tips you have for eating well when you're on the road?

JM: Eating well on the road is tough, but I actually try and cook for myself. I travel with a rice cooker and you can steam veggies and make rice in there. I don't love restaurants at the hotels. I'm picky!

GS: What was your worst defeat and how did you recover from it?

JM: World Championships in 2009 was very difficult for me. I had a tough couple of weeks due to injury, and it taught me that I never want to feel that way again. I pulled myself together and it gave me motivation to not only get healthy again, but to look for that podium. It pushed me to go out and get stronger.

GS: What role do your friends and family play in your success?

JM: My friends and family are very important to me. I love spending time with them, and it's hard to be on the road. I love it when they visit. They don't care if I win or lose; it's nice to have unconditional support.

GS: How do your involvement in Right to Play and your other non-profit involvements help you Make Yourself?

JM: I believe "What goes around comes around." I feel like it's only right to give back the support that so many have given me.

GS: What websites do you check every day?

JM: Facebook, my boyfriend's website and Surfnewsnetwork.com. I can't miss a swell!

I'm so glad I got to catch up with this amazing woman, athlete and humanitarian. Julia Mancuso is Making Herself "Shine" by getting out there and trying new things every day. What are YOU doing to Make Yourself? You can find further inspiration from more Nike Women around the world at: www.facebook.com/nikewomen