Snowboarder Maddie Mastro Is 'Not Worrying About Expectations' Heading Into 2022 Olympics

"I've had a lot of time to grow and learn and reflect on my past contest years and in a more conscious way than I did when I was 17 or 18," Maddie Mastro says of her Olympic debut in 2018

Maddie Mastro
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty

Maddie Mastro is ready for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics — because she's been preparing for it her whole life.

The 21-year-old from Wrightwood, California, grew up a short distance from Mountain High, the popular winter resort located just over an hour away from the beaches of Los Angeles. Mastro says her parents taught her how to ski when she was just two years old because taking her with them to the mountain was "cheaper than childcare." She'd transition to snowboarding four years later when her parents bought her a pink board.

Now, Mastro — a Red Bull athlete — is preparing for her second go at the Winter Olympics, where she'll compete against the world's other top snowboarders for a place on the podium.

That is something Mastro came up short of achieving in her debut at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018, where she placed 12th in the halfpipe. Mastro says she's made use of her time since competing in South Korea and is more than ready to make an impact in China.

"I was 17 turning 18 at the last Olympics, so I was young. I've had a lot of time to grow and learn and reflect on my past contest years and in a more conscious way than I did when I was 17 or 18," she tells PEOPLE. "I'm going to go into the next Olympics not worrying what people are going to think, not worrying about the expectations or the pressures, whether they're exterior or my own."

This time around, Mastro says, she is focused on having fun and executing her game plan.

"The rest of whatever those expectations or pressures are, that will all follow, that's secondary to snowboarding," she explains. "I'm just going to prioritize having fun and landing tricks, which is something I wish I did more of in 2018, because I did let those expectations or pressures, kind of, eat away at me a little bit. And this time I'm just going to go treat it like any other contest and have fun."

Maddie Mastro
Sean M. Haffey/Getty

For Mastro, snowboarding is both a sport and an outlet for expression all in one.

"I think snowboarding consumes probably 98 percent of my thoughts," Mastro, who is dating fellow snowboarder Ryan Wachendorfer, says. "When it all comes together, the way you want it to come together and how you visualize it in your head, it kind of is like you're an artist [of] some sorts. In a different way than traditional art, but you definitely are creating a masterpiece ... when you land your dream run or your dream tricks."

"Snowboarding is like a blank canvas. Like, you can dress however you want, you can snowboard however you want, you can put on whatever style you want, grab however you want and just really make it your own," she adds.

Mastro says she was competitive as a child, especially with her older brother and male cousins. She soon became hooked on competing and winning and has never let go of that feeling.

"It's the adrenaline I get from it, that crossing over the fear boundaries that you think you have or doing things you didn't think you were able to do," she explains. "Then, just being able to do things your way in snowboarding, being able to do the tricks you want, in the way you want, with style or whatever it is."

"Just being able to go and express yourself however you want, I think that's something I love about snowboarding — I can just go and do whatever I want on any given day and I'm going to enjoy myself and have fun doing it," she continues.

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While in Beijing, Mastro's mindset of having fun will also extend to her rituals before contests. Unlike other athletes who may listen to a specific song or perform a physical routine, Mastro says she simply turns to Dunder Mifflin Scranton manager Michael Scott.

"I watch The Office every time before I compete because it just helps," she says. "It's my favorite show, so it helps just calm me down, and also I might laugh here or there and then."

Sometimes, Mastro says, having a good laugh is all you need to do your best.

"It helps keep me in a more lighthearted mood because you can get pretty caught up with the serious factor of competing and all that stuff," she says. "It's good to remind yourself to not take it too seriously."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

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