Olympic 2016: Gymnast Sam Mikulak shares his Must List
The U.S. men’s gymnastics team may be hitting the mats hard as they vie for Olympic gold in Rio, but it turns out they’re also accomplished couch surfers back home. Second-time Olympian Sam Mikulak — who first represented Team USA in the 2012 Games in London — says entertainment is a staple in his training routine.
“You always have to have some healthy outlets,” Mikulak, who competes Wednesday in the men’s individual all-around, tells EW. “You can get pretty stressed out when you’re trying to make the Olympic team or things aren’t going your way, [so] you have to make sure you’re handling it in the right way.”
EW talked to Mikulak about the pop culture obsessions that fuel his workouts, and yes, the 23-year-old is just as infatuated with Finding Dory as your toddler.
“I keep joking with my teammates that Nickelback should be our walkout song. I think everyone secretly likes at least one song. During training, we all just sit outside and talk and listen to music, and ‘This Is How You Remind Me‘ came on. Everyone kind of eyed each other like, do we go by the general consensus and pretend to hate it, or do we go all out and sing? They’re not my favorite artist, but I’ll stick up for them.”
2. Finding Dory
“Finding Dory just stole my heart. Little Dory was the most adorable thing in the entire world, and Ellen DeGeneres killed the game. I liked the flashbacks to the past — it gave you a bit more perspective and appreciation for certain characters.”
3. Game of Thrones
“I just love that medieval time, like kings and magic and wars. Something about it is so primal. The mystery of it all is what really pulls me in. I think this last season was the best because it kind of got out of [author] George R.R. Martin’s hands and went more to the producers. When Cersei blew up all of her enemies in the town hall, that was like the epitome of this whole season. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this girl will stop at nothing.'”
“It’s that tropical house vibe where it’s happy and upbeat with an electronic synth. It really puts me in a good mood. I literally love everything he does.”
5. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
“I started re-reading Harry Potter just to throw myself back into my childhood. I forgot how awesome the books are. I’m on the fourth one, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, now, and I’m just going to keep on going. You kind of feel like there’s this whole side of the world that you haven’t really ventured into, and maybe there is some possibility of magic. That hope is kind of what I’m holding onto.”
6. The Walking Dead
I think everyone envisions what their life would be like if they were to live in this post-apocalyptic world. I love the idea of fighting every day to live, because it kind of applies to gymnastics; I feel like every day I need to be in control and focused and stay on edge. I think because of gymnastics I would thrive, so I’d be one of the stronger people in this zombie world. [Negan] is just insane. He’s really smart, but he uses it in a very evil way.”
7. The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss
“These are my favorite books that I’ve ever read. The author hasn’t come out with the third one yet, but he’s been waiting like 10 years and just editing it forever. [He] said he’s dropped over 1,000 hints about how it’s going to play out, so I’m starting to reread it and highlight things, trying to make predictions. It’s like a treasure hunt.”
8. The Division
“It’s [a video game] set in post-apocalyptic Manhattan. You pretty much live in this virtual world, and you can exist in this virtual world with other people from real life. I like being able to level up. It’s very goal-oriented, and that’s the kind of person I am.”
9. Elder Scrolls
“[The video game is] like Game of Thrones in that it’s during medieval times. You get to live in this very magical world with great scenery and go on adventures and quests.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.