Serving Olympic Fuel is Liz Fusco’s Dream Job
By Ed Moran • August 7, 2016
RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil – Liz Fusco is no stranger to a room full of hungry people, some she has never met before.
Growing up in a 19-room bed and breakfast in the Berkshires of Massachusetts made her very comfortable cooking large meals and providing comfort. So, it’s no surprise she is right at home working across the street from the Olympic rowing venue in Rio de Janeiro.
Fusco, who is currently working as a contractor for the USOC but will soon join the staff of USRowing as a sports nutritionist, has set up shop in the Flamingo Sports Club near the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas Olympic racecourse, which has become the off-course home to not just the U.S. rowing team but up to 120 American athletes from four other teams.
“It was meant to be for about 40 people or so, rowers and staff mostly,” Fusco said. “But today, we’re serving 102 people out of this kitchen. The volume has increased from what we had planned.
“We’re feeding men and women’s rugby, Judo, gymnastics, women’s basketball, and, of course, rowing and staff. They’re long days and they’re strenuous days, but the athletes are very thankful and it’s very impactful for them.”
It’s the kind of situation that should make Fusco wish she was somewhere else, or at least in a bigger kitchen than the small space she is working in. But, this is what Fusco has been trained to do. What she loves to do.
After 19-years working in her dad’s bed and breakfast, an undergraduate and graduate degree in nutrition and sports physiology, Fusco is in athlete foodie heaven.
“I was always into sports when I was younger, and my coach in high school was into nutrition was a sport dietician, so I learned about nutrition at an early age, when I was 14, which is pretty unusual,” she said. “I went to the University of Rhode Island for my undergraduate degree in nutrition and exercise science, and I started participating in sports nutrition research as a sophomore. I had a couple of incredible mentors. After undergraduate school, I went to San Diego State University and did a three year masters in nutrition and exercise physiology.”
Fusco’s Rio operation was supposed to be just as a supplement to the meals being provided on the venue and at the Athlete Village.
“So, I ordered about $10,000 worth of protein bars,” she said. “The initial plan for this space was just to be for foods like jerky, trail mixes, bars and smoothies. Then we came to the conclusion that some of the venue meals might not meet the needs of the athletes, so I decided to start doing prepared sandwiches,” she said.
And that tuned into hot meals. The men’s rugby team requested hot food. “They eat like rowers.” Soon her kitchen was like the one back at her dad’s place in the Massachusetts mountains.
“Having this location, having the nutrition here, having a place to rest and an area to have a supplementary workout and having a location close to the race course and the training area is clearly an advantage we feel we have,” said Curtis Jordan, USRowing Director of High Performance. “We’re grateful that Liz is here and that the USOC has made this possible.”
“It’s incredible to be contributing to the athletes here,” she said. “I’ve been working with the endurance sports for about 18 months now, so to come here and provide for them is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid. I used to watch the Olympics all the time when I was younger, so this is my dream job.”