Twenty-six-year-old fencer Monica Aksamit’s has been preparing for her Olympic debut since she started in the sport at age 9. She’s just back from Germany, where she’s been putting in the final days of her Olympic training (though she typically trains at Manhattan Fencing Center, sweating it out for five to eight hours each day), and now with nine days to go until the games begin, the final countdown is on. Aksamit, who originally hails from Matawan, New Jersey, is one of the top ranked female saber fencers in the U.S. and she’s eager to make a big impact during these Olympics. Here, she talks about how she first entered in the fencing world, the music that motivates her, and more.

What originally attracted you to the sport?
At the age of 9, I think it was the fact that I was taller than most of the kids and I was beating them with my reach. It also didn't hurt that I was allowed to hit kids with a sword and no one yelled at me.

What was your first major victory that made you think you might really be good at it?
At my second national tournament in the Under 10 category, I walked away with a bronze medal.

What’s been most distracting to you as you train for Rio?
The most distracting thing would be dealing with finances. Most athletes don't make millions of dollars on contracts. During the vigorous training schedule leading up to the games I still have to make sure that I'm able to bring some kind of income in so that I can pay for transportation to training, as well as food.

Do you have any good luck charms or something you always bring with you when you compete?
It's not an "always" sort of thing, but this past season I've been wearing the same shirt and sports bra during the first day of the competition.

What’s always in your gym bag?
I always have a Quest bar in my bag, a bottle of water, headphones, extra hair ties, Ban deodorant, and obviously a change of clothes.

What songs/artists do you like to listen to as you train?
I mostly listen to Drake, some Beyoncé songs, Rihanna and old Lil' Wayne songs.

Who will you call first if you win in Rio?
It depends on who will be there with me. I'm currently working on trying to find the funds to bring my mom and sister with me. If they're not there, I would obviously call them immediately after. Otherwise, I would probably call my boyfriend first.

What will you do first if you win in Rio?
Jump around and hug my teammates with tears of joy streaming down my cheeks.

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Olympics begin August 5 on NBC.