Getting Personal: Gia Lewis-Smallwood

Getting Personal: Gia Lewis-Smallwood

Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, a chat with Gia Lewis-Smallwood, a professional track and field athlete and Olympian who is the associate program director of the University of Illinois YWCA.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I get up at 5:45 and head to the gym.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

I had south Indian-style vegetable curry at the YWCA while working.

Best high school memory?

Everything! I really loved high school. (Champaign Centennial)

Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.

I am in love with tennis shoes. I collect them the way most women collect high heels. My favorite pair — Nike Air MAX.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

Reading, cooking and doing active-recovery exercises.

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

As a young child, "The Hungry Caterpillar." As a teenager, I loved "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy. Yes, I still own it and read it.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Being a professional athlete, I have traveled around the world a bit. Currently, I am dying to go to Greece and Scotland. Greece is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so I can't wait to spend a few weeks there. I have always had a secret crush on Scotland from learning about the history of the wonderful Scottish accent. I would love to go on a castle tour.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

My Australian shepherd, Sebastian Emanuel. He is a really smart, awesome dog with a great sense of humor.

Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?

I would say I have become like both parents. My parents really think things through before they act. I have definitely embraced that as I become older.

What would you order for your last meal?

Butternut squash soup; Mediterranean salad with salmon flakes; ribeye steak; cauliflower mashed potatoes; vegetable medley with spinach, peppers, squash, mushrooms and eggplant; and for dessert, sweet potato pie.

What can you not live without?

My relationship with God.

Who do you have on your iPod?

So I guess I should let the cat out of the bag: Thanks to Pandora, I am now a huge film score junkie. My iPod has been taken over by film scores such as "Chronicles of Narnia," "Braveheart," "Last of the Mohicans," to name a few.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Getting married, competing in the Olympics and the day I realized that God's love for me knows no boundaries, is eternal and is deeper and more incredible than I could possibly conceive of.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison and the Dalai Lama, with James Horner's music surrounding us.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

No person knows your destiny. No person can predict what you can become. No person has the inside track into your life. No matter the circumstance, no person knows what you are capable of overcoming and becoming. Listening to people's opinions about what you are not capable of is completely pointless. Do not ever, ever give up!

What's your best piece of advice?

My favorite quote is by Albert Camus: "In the midst of winter I learned there was in me an invincible summer." Find your invincible summer — the deepest, most sacred part of yourself that cannot be extinguished or denied. It is that summer that will illuminate your path, remove all obstacles, make all things new and give you the courage, love and support to achieve heights that humanity cannot conceive of.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

In a movie theater; $5 an hour, I think.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

The 2008 Olympic trials was such a disaster, I had to decide whether it was worth it to keep going. I decided that I needed to keep going, that I love throwing the discus regardless of the outcome and living without it was something that I was not willing to do. One of the best quotes that sums up my career is, "It is not only a question of if you love it; it is a question of can you live without it."

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

Leaving socks lying around my house.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Through meditation and prayer.

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