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25 Famous Women Athletes on Their Superstitions

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

The life of a professional athlete is one of precision. Often from childhood, they study their sports, their history, the legends who came before them, and, of course, their technique. Speaking to an athlete about their process is like interviewing a scientist about their career-defining research. A runner can meticulously describe how the downward force of a foot engages the spike of a shoe. A gymnast instinctively knows the angle their body must cut to glide through the air with grace. A swimmer might analyze the way a slightly curved hand propels them through water differently from a straight one.

Beyond victory, the goal is perfection.

And yet despite that capacity for careful calculation, they understand there will always be elements beyond their control. Which may be why many athletes lean just as much on their pregame rituals as they do on their months of preparation. Because in the seconds before the big match, tournament, or race, who wouldn’t want any help they could get? Read on as Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Eileen Gu, and more discuss the lucky charms, mandatory routines, and superstitions that help them get competition-ready.

1. Serena Williams, tennis player

“I have too many superstitious rituals and it’s annoying. It’s like I have to do it, and if I don’t, then I’ll lose. And I’m not losing because I didn’t play well, I lost because I didn’t tie my shoe the right way and it’s totally ridiculous because I have to use the same shower, I have to use the same sandals, I have to travel with the same bags.” — Evening Standard, 2012

2. Sam Kerr, soccer player

“I’ve been wearing the same shin pads since 2007. I’ve been wearing the same sports bra for two years now. I always have to take my hairbrush and brush my hair in the change room before the game and at halftime. There are about eight or nine things that are little, but if I don’t do them across the day I feel underprepared.” — ESPN, 2019

3. Naomi Osaka, tennis player

“Every time I’ve come [to the Australian Open], I really don’t like stepping on the lines or the ‘Melbourne’ logo at the back [of the court]. I’m not really sure why that developed …I also need my water bottles to be completely straight.” — The Daily Mail, 2022

4. Christen Press, soccer player

“We have a little bit of a superstition on the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are very, very particular about our bus buddies and our row in the bus. Once you get that seat, it is cemented and it is yours for the rest of your career. I learned this the hard way because in my first camp I sat in Alex Morgan’s seat unknowingly. Lucky for me, she was gracious for a while and she let me sit there, and she and her bus buddy Tobin had to sit in the row behind. But finally, she just couldn’t take it anymore. It was the Olympics and this was our superstition and she was like, ‘Chris, I’m sorry. I hate to do this, I know it’s stupid, but that’s my seat and you’ve got to get out.’” — FOX Soccer, 2016

5. Carissa Moore, surfer

“My boyfriend has to wear lucky socks [when I compete]. It’s so funny. All the heats that I’ve lost this year so far, he hasn’t been wearing the socks — so it’s pretty much his fault when I lose! ” — Women’s Health, 2014

6. Eugenie Bouchard, tennis player

“I listen to the same song right before walking on the court: ‘Danza Kuduro.’” — Tennis World USA, 2022

7. Crystal Dunn, soccer player

“I’m [DJing for the team before matches] just trying to get everybody right for the game and just connect with the players through music. And I think that’s something we really enjoy, that time in the locker room to have a bit of a laugh but also kind of refocus and go out to the field and get the job done.” — Yahoo Finance, 2021

8. Jessica Korda, golfer

“If I don’t play well in an outfit, I usually don’t play in it during a tournament. If I play well in an outfit, you will see me rewear it a good amount..” — Golf.com, 2021

9. Eileen Gu, freestyle skier

“Before I compete, I do my track warm-up, so A-skips, B-skips, C-skips … (I’m in ski boots, so it looks kind of dumb). I do everything in sets of eight because eight people make finals. Then, I put my poles down: One pole has to be up, one pole has to be down. And when I drop into the half-pipe, I’ll tap my poles two times behind me, hands two times, thighs and shoulders two times, head two times. So, it’s like tap taptap taptap taptap tap. I’ve looked into psychology and it says that superstition is really good for competition and that it creates mentally stronger athletes.” — IWC, 2021

10. Sanya Richards-Ross, sprinter

“I have a bullet necklace that my mom gave me when I was in the seventh grade. She told me I was faster than a speeding bullet, and so I wear it to all of my competitions as kind of my good-luck charm.” — Women’s Running, 2020

11. Stephanie Rice, swimmer

“I’m very superstitious, especially before a race. I go through exactly the same routine prior to standing on the block. I do eight arm swings, four goggle presses, four cap touches. It looks really weird, but it’s so comfortable to me it comes second nature now.” — CNN, 2012

12. Abbie Eaton, racing driver

“I have one main one that’s a bit silly — whichever toilet I go into first on a race weekend, I have to continue to use that same toilet for the weekend. Sometimes if the weekend isn’t going well, I say sod it to the superstition and choose another toilet hoping it might give me some more luck!” — Female First, 2021

13. Jennie Finch, softball player

“At the field, I always place my bag in the far end of the corner — us pitchers are kind of known for crazy routines. I would always head out to the bullpen 27 minutes prior to game time because 27 was my number — that was part of my routine.” — Women’s Health, 2014

14. Francesca Lollobrigida, speed skater

“I choose my underwear according to the colors that have brought me luck in other races. But for each event — 1,000, 1,500 or 3,000 meters — I have different colors. And to avoid clashes in some cases, I put on mismatched socks sometimes.” — Olympics.com, 2022

15. Laura Unsworth, hockey player

“[My teammate] Ashleigh has really curly hair which she straightens before important matches, but I’ve made her stop since she straightened it and we did badly in a match.” — the Standard, 2012

16. Laura Trott, cyclist

“Before I leave the hotel room, I have to make sure I’m wearing a new pair of socks and I have to step on a wet towel before I leave. It’s just stupid things. I have to make sure I’m wearing my lucky hair band. I’ve got a bracelet that I normally wear … which is lucky. ” — Food and Lycra, 2014

17. Chloe Logarzo, soccer player

“I always make my bed and fold my clothes out in perfect alignment as well as my bag and everything that I need for the game. I also have to juggle the ball at least 50 times before we play possession.” — Women’s Health, 2018

18. Vashti Cunningham, high-jumper

“The night before the competition, I watch Kill Bill, and then the pre-competition is just me and my dad doing a Bible study before I go out and get ready for warm-up and jump.” — People, 2021

19. Nelly Korda, golfer

“I always have to have three tees in my hair. Once I break ’em all, then I can put three tees back into my hair.” — EssentiallySports, 2023

20. Jade Jones, Tae Kwon Do champion

“I always wear [lucky Union Jack underwear] in training, although obviously I washed them! I’ve got a few more pairs now. I’ve always been really superstitious. I used to take my grandad’s lucky brown boots to training with me.” — the Daily Star, 2012

21. Melissa Stockwell, Paralympic triathlete

“Now I have kids — I bring a little mini-dinosaur that my son gave me along to races for good luck.” — People, 2021

22. Becky Sauerbrunn, soccer player

“I’m usually very anxious on game days, so, for me, a really important ritual is nap time. Or it’s also just kind of like listening to some tunes on the bus rides and doing visualizations, so I’m like replaying plays in my head … and that seems to calm me down a little smidge.” — People, 2021

23. Jazmine Fenlator, bobsledder

“My pre-race is the same undergarments: all black and all stretched out, which probably is not doing much for me. It’s the same ones for the past three years, and they have holes. My brakeman has nipped me in the butt loading into the sled a few times, which is where the holes came from.” — Women’s Health, 2014

24. Lindsey Vonn, alpine ski racer

“I’m a weird person with colors. Everything has to match: my underwear, my bra, my turtleneck, my suit. And if I don’t do well, that color is out the window.” — ExtraTV, 2018

25. Tina Thompson, basketball player

“I had a huge load of classes my freshman year, something like 16 or 18 units. I was rushing through my days, my days were packed, and I just left my [now-signature red] lipstick on. I played a really, really good game, and one of my friends said it must have been the lipstick. I’m like, maybe, and I just started wearing it for no other reason than that.” — the Hartford Courant, 2013

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25 Famous Women Athletes on Their Superstitions