This Olympian Fencer & Model Wants To See More Athletic Female Bodies in Mainstream Media
Did you know that Olympians don’t really make any money?
Well, maybe if you’re Michael Phelps and signing a bunch of brand deals. But, for a female athlete in a niche sport like fencing, funds are limited—and it’s tough to work a fulltime job when you’re focused on training.
That’s why Monica Aksamit models on the side, and started a go-fund me to help support her dream to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
While Monica was able to reach her funding goals of $21,000 and will be going for gold in Tokyo, she’s still definitely not your average Olympian (I mean, is there really such a thing as an average Olympian?).
We talked to Monica about her hope to have more athletic female bodies shown in mainstream media, her wellness tips, and how to spot an unsupportive dude from a mile away.
So you’ve spoken about the truth behind financials as an Olympian in a more niche sport, and to help support your fencing you also model. How does being a professional model and a professional athlete sort of go hand in hand?
I’m not entirely sure that modeling and being a professional athlete go hand in hand because stereotypically, athletes and models have slightly different body types. I’m trying to change that. I think it’s important to showcase athletic female bodies. Girls around the age of 14 start to quit sports because they see their bodies changing, becoming muscular, because from a young age they are seeing slender women in campaigns or in magazines. Sure, things have slightly changed since the time that I came to an open call to Wilhelmina at the age of 14. I showed up in the hopes of becoming a model, and they told me that I had to choose whether I wanted to be a model or an athlete. I was told that the only sport a model can do is yoga. I remember being shocked and replying, “no thanks, I’d rather win an Olympic medal.” I’ve fortunately done that, (as you can see I was a very outspoken teenager), now I want to show girls that there’s nothing wrong with being strong and athletic.
Both careers involve being extremely regimented and healthy, can you tell us about your morning routine?
They definitely do! I try average around 9 to 10 hours of sleep. I wake up and go to brush my teeth and moisturize. I then head to the kitchen where I drink a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon. I pour myself a cup of coffee, let my dogs outside, and make myself my morning smoothie.
What’s the weirdest odd job or gig you’ve had?
I think that the weirdest one would have to be when I helped run a corporate fun day. It was done through a marketing company that hires people to help with different events, typically you’re promoting a product. This one had us setting up different activities inside of the L’Oreal office in New Jersey, and also outdoors. I can’t complain because it was actually fun, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected when I showed up.
What kind of diet do you have and how does that impact your performance and physique?
I mostly eat plant-based. Though I must admit that I am a sucker for eggs, as well as a good cheeseburger from time to time. I stopped eating meat over two years ago, and I’ve definitely seen and felt a change. I gain muscle very easily, which is a nuisance as models have to stay on the slimmer side, even in fitness modeling. I also feel less sluggish and lighter on my feet. It’s unfortunately a little difficult to maintain when we travel overseas, but I bring my plant-based protein powder for when I have a hard time finding filling plant-based options.
What kind of supplements do you take?
I take a few supplements: probiotics, hyaluronic acid, collagen powder in my smoothie, calcium, and I recently started taking Perfectil for my nails. My hands tend to go through a lot with fencing and my training, and I’ve found that since starting Perfectil I’ve already seen less breakage and stronger nails—which comes in handy when I have to get a professional-looking manicure for a photoshoot.
Obviously, most of us aren’t professional athletes, and most of us aren’t models either (although nowadays we all pretend to be on the ‘gram), what are some aspects of your healthy lifestyle you would recommend for the “average” person?
I think the one that most people slack on is hydration. I started paying a lot of attention to my nutrition before the 2016 Olympics, and I found that I’ve never been drinking enough water. Now my friends laugh at me because I’m always carrying around a massive bottle of water with me. I definitely recommend the same to everyone and to drink at least three liters of water a day. I feel less tired, I find that I don’t snack aimlessly, and people compliment my skin. I also think EVERYONE should invest in a good eye cream. And my last piece of advice is, if you’re flying a lot, use sheet masks. I started using them and my teammates are always asking me why I’m the only one that doesn’t look like a raisin after a long flight.
How did you get into fencing and when/how did you make a conscious decision to pursue it professionally?
I got into fencing at the age of 8 or 9. My first fencing coach, Janusz Mlynek, was a client at the bank that my mom worked. He talked to her about the sport and that it would be worth a try to bring me in. She brought me in, we played some games, and then they handed me a sword. They told me to hit the other kid (of course we were both wearing the proper protective gear) I hit them, everyone cheered. I was sold. I mean what kid doesn’t want to be able to whack other kids and be praised for it? I decided to pursue the Olympics at the age of 14 when I watched the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. This was the first time that my event, women’s sabre, became an Olympic event, and my 2016 Rio de Janeiro teammate, Mariel Zagunis, won gold. I watched from my grandparents couch in Poland, and told them that I also want to be an Olympian one day. It was also pretty incredible to compete alongside Zagunis at the 2016 Olympics where we won bronze together as a team.
To be honest, I think I can speak for me and the rest of the Galore readers when I say I learned about fencing from the Lindsay Lohan version of “The Parent Trap.” Can you teach our readers a quick fact about fencing that they probably don’t know?
Oh man, this is tough. I think the quickest and easiest fact to teach is the fact that there are three different weapons in the sport of fencing: sabre, foil and epee. The three types of swords all look different, have different target areas, and different rules. Foil and epee are thrusting weapons, meaning that there is a button on the tip, and you have to poke your opponent with a certain amount of pressure, to register a hit. In sabre, you can score by thrusting or by slashing.
You posted a caption on Instagram about an ex boyfriend who wasn’t supportive of your Olympic dreams (and lashed out pathetically after you dumped his ass). I’m not sure if you have time to date with everything going on, but if you do—is it easy for you to spot men who are intimidated/unsupportive now? (and if so, can you tell us so we can avoid those losers too?)
I definitely don’t have the time, but I try to anyway. I can’t spot them 100% of the time, but I’ve gotten way better at it. I think the biggest deal breaker is when I have a competition and they don’t ask for the livestream, or don’t watch the livestream after asking for it. It’s pretty clear that they’re not going to be as supportive as I need them to be. Obviously not everyone is a professional athlete, but I think it is a good sign when a man is asking a lot of questions about what you do and genuinely tries to understand it. Being a professional athlete is more than a career, most of us aren’t even getting paid. It’s more of a passion, and there’s a small window of time that you can be successful. I’ve also never had a man that I dated ask me how he can help support me and what I need from him to feel support, so if you find one that does, keep him!
What’s next after Tokyo?
To be honest, I have no clue. It’s a little bit stressful to not know what’s next considering I’ve always have a plan until now. It’s definitely more stressful to think about it than not know. Unfortunately, this seems to be everyone’s question, but sometimes it’s ok to not have a plan, or that’s what I’m telling myself!