Two Time Olympian Christina Loukas dives into her next chapter
By Colette House
At 30 years old, Christina Loukas has accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. She’s a two-time Olympian in Women’s Diving, a nine-time national diving champion, an Indiana University grad, and, most recently, a candidate for her doctoral degree in physical therapy from Northwestern University. Only a few years post-retirement from competitive diving, Loukas is focusing on finishing school, staying active, and enjoying life in Chicago.
GOLD: What was the transition like after retiring in 2012 and starting graduate school?
CL: After 2012 I was ready to be done with diving. I was so burned out and I just was at that point in my life where I’d been to two Olympics and I was ready to move on. Luckily, I did have something to move on to. I took some time off and did nothing for the first six months and kind of figured out how I was going to approach the whole thing and I was able to start going at it (applying for PT school.)
GOLD: Do you ever miss diving now and want to go back?
CL: Yeah, for sure, all the time. Only parts of it though, you know. All of it together is, it’s a lot; it’s a big commitment. But I definitely miss my teammates, my coaches. I miss traveling all over the world.
GOLD: How do you stay active now that you’re no longer competing?
CL: Now it’s hard to just go to the gym and just run or workout and lift weights ‘cause I’m like what am I training for, what is this for? My way to overcome that is signing up for an event that is out of my comfort zone. I think my first year I ran a half-marathon. I signed up for it again the next year and then this year I signed up for a “tough mudder” [a 10-12 mile mud and obstacle course]. Knowing my competitive nature, I needed something that would push me to workout, so I’ve recently tried Orange Theory. I go to those workout classes with my mom--always having someone to do it with makes it better.
GOLD: Retiring in 2012 wasn’t the first time you chose to stop diving. You retired for a short time after the 2008 Olympics as well. What was going on at practice that made you realize you were unhappy in the sport?
CL: I just wasn’t training because I would cry at practice, and then I’d go to a meet and I’d compete. I would compete fine. I was so stressed out, I was miserable. Someone finally asked me, like randomly, are you happy and I was like, no I’m not, and tears started coming. It finally just hit me: Why am I even doing this if I hate it so much? I knew I needed to take the break because it was affecting everything else in my life. I think the reason why I let it drag on for so long was I was so scared to quit diving. Feeling like a failure was scary for me.
GOLD: You went back into the sport to train for the 2012 Olympics. How did you know you were ready to start diving again?
CL: I knew I was ready to come back because I just realized that I would regret it if I didn’t even try.
GOLD: Do you think taking a break earlier, when the mental blocks started, would have changed anything?
CL: I think I would have had more confidence and wouldn’t always be thinking about that dreadful mental block in the back of my head like, what if it triggers right now and then I can’t do anything?
GOLD: You’re in school for physical therapy at Northwestern. Anything you’ve learned now about injuries that you wish you’d known when you competed?
CL: I had to train through those [injuries], and it’s frustrating as an athlete because you want to get better, and you want to keep training, and you need to compete at that high level all the time. When someone tells you that you need to let your body rest, it’s really difficult to understand why they’re saying that. And in your head, as the athlete, you’re like “they just don’t get it; like I can’t take a break.” So just understanding how it all works. It makes sense why they would tell you to take a break and that it really is necessary to let your body heal.
GOLD: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
CL: My dad always said, it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.
Photo at top: Jen Lowery/USA Diving