A book inspired US Olympic athlete Natalie Vie to start fencing. “When I was 18, a senior in high school, I read Catcher in the Rye and there was a fencing scene in the book and it sparked an interest,” she tells PEOPLE CHICA. “I looked up a fencing class and took one. I hadn’t done it before, but there was a feeling about it I loved. It felt really natural. It’s exciting that you have swords,” she adds with a laugh.
The 31-year-old of Argentinian descent, who grew up in Arizona, is training for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “My heritage as a Latina prepared me for fencing,” she says. “Latinos have been through a lot, so you have no option but to learn how to fight.” Besides weightlifting and cardio, her entire lifestyle is tailored around fencing. “Everything I do is part of my training. The way I eat, the way I sleep, the happiness level in my life. Meditation is really important to me. That’s one of the biggest keys,” she reveals.
She also poured her love of yoga and creativity into a cartoon superheroine called Super Sonic Nava, an alter ego her fans love. “I believe in a lot of ways she is what I aspire to be. She is a young yogi and she meditates and she helps young girls when they have issues,” she says. “It’s something that I doodled just for fun.”
Like Super Sonic Nava, she is saving the world in her own way. Being a positive role model is a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly. “I’m really committed to a healthy lifestyle because, as an athlete, that’s something I need to do to live my best life possible,” she says. “As a society, we do a lot of things to undermine our health. I’m vegan and I’ve made a lot of lifestyle choices that may be a little rebellious to American society, but they are led by my commitment to my health and to the earth and the environment.”
Her cravings are for not chips, pizza and ice cream, but for avocado, curry lentils and mushroom soup, Vie says of cultivating her diet. “I eat a lot of seaweed, that’s my favorite snack, and dried cranberries.” How does she stay on track and avoid certain temptations? “The biggest thing that keeps me motivated is my little sister. She is eight years younger than me and from the time she was born, she tried to do the things that I do,” she says of Jerica, 23. “I never got in trouble because I knew she was looking up to me.”
Vie enjoys traveling the world as a fencer and her adventurous spirit keeps her moving forward when hard times arise. Early in her career, before joining Team USA, she had to travel with very little money. But eventually, “doors just opened for me as I knocked,” she says. “You don’t know where the road will lead if you don’t take the first step.”
The athlete swears by the Ashtanga yoga tradition and recommends doing “sun salutations A and B” exercises to keep the body in shape. “It completely energizes you. A daily routine of that just 15 minutes will completely start to reshape your body. Take off your shoes and do it outside if possible,” she recommends.
Positive affirmations are also really important, she emphasizes. “We all have the goal of winning a gold medal in Tokyo. As a team we know it’s possible,” she says. “A lot of times we stop ourselves because we don’t think it’s possible.”
Vie’s mother taught her to believe in herself from a young age. “My mom tells me to tell myself: ‘Soy la campeona‘ [I’m the champion]. I say it over and over and eventually the psyche changes and starts to believe it,” she concludes. “I’m not driven so much by awards, accolades and medals, but by something inside of me. There is a spiritual journey I’ve taken since I started fencing, and I’m uncovering things about myself and my psyche. That’s what keeps me going.”