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A Medical Breakdown of a Winter Olympics 2018 Athlete

What does it take to be an Olympic athlete?

Is it possible that with enough hard-work, patience and practice, anyone could become an Olympic-level athlete, or is it something you're born with? That's what NBC 7 set out to ask sports medicine doctors in San Diego Thursday. 

“If you practice any given trade or skill you can perfect it, that holds true for a lot of things," said Dr. Amy Leu of UC San Diego Health who is also a physician for the U.S. Figure Skating team. "However, particularly for Olympic-level athletes, some of them are just born with incredible athletic ability, and it’s probably a combination of both."

But what does it take to become the best of the best? Is it enough to work hard and practice? Something to ponder as you watch the Olympics 2018 opening ceremony. 

Two key elements in the formula to greatness are performance optimization and injury prevention, experts add. 

"Athletes can get focused on their training schedule and trying to get better, faster and stronger, but recovery is key to excel at the top of your game," said Dr. Leu. 

That means emotional, physical and nutritional recovery. She said some athletes like to meditate, while others pick up a fun hobby outside their sport that relieves stress. 

Some athletes to watch this year are Shaun White - American snowboarder as well as Lindsey Vonn - American Alpine ski racer. 

Dr. Leu adds for anyone, it is important to try to exercise 150 minutes a week to stay healthy. 

"That means doing an activity that gets your heart pumping and might make you break a sweat," she added. 

Doctors also recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. 

The Winter Olympics 2018 dates and schedule are now available. Make sure to watch the Winter Olympics on NBC. 

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