By Sarika Dani and Ian Sager
When four years of training leads up to a single moment, Olympians want luck on their side. For the superstitious ones, that means practicing rituals they know and trust.
Lee Jin-man / AP
U.S. swimmer Brendan Hansen always checks the water's temperature before competing.
For example: Swimmer Brendan Hansen, who won bronze in the 100m breaststroke, checks the pool water’s temperature before racing. “I always put my hand in the water to see how cold it is,” he said. “I’ve done it since I was a little kid. It calms me down. It seems to work!”
Triathlete Hunter Kemper likely watches what he puts into his body during competition, but the night before a race, he liked to relax with one of his favorites: a slice of pizza. “It was kind of a pre-race ritual. I just love pizza anyways…so it was an excuse to eat [it],” he told TODAY.com.
Sarika Dani / NBC News
Triathlete Hunter Kemper's pre-race preparation used to involve pizza.
But as his career took him to more far-flung locales, Kemper eventually retired his pizza practice: “I couldn’t always find it in international places, so I didn’t want that to be the thing, you know?”
So now that pizza’s out of the picture, Kemper said his current rule is to never train two days before his race, a practice he adopted years ago.
For divers Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston, who earned the U.S. its first synchronized diving medal, their common ritual comes down to a bath toy.
“We have shared custody of a rubber duck named Alfred. He made the trip across the pond with us,” Johnston told TODAY.com. “When we started training together, we realized we both liked rubber ducks. So we adopted Alfred.”
Joe Scarnici / Getty Images
A rubber duck must be good luck for synchronized divers Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant: Their silver medal is the USA's first Olympic medal in the event.
Like a real duck, Alfred doesn’t stay put. “When we train, we put him between our bags so he can watch us,” Johnston explained.
The little yellow duck even made the trip across the pond for the Olympics, but he didn’t come along to the TODAY set with the divers when they appeared on the show Monday.
“He’s in the village, waiting for us to return,” Johnston said.
Sarika Dani and Ian Sager are covering the Olympics for TODAY.com. They've been eating press center food each day in London, but not for luck.
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