As the New York State Dairy Princess, I had the opportunity alongside the Alternate Dairy Princesses, Holly Niefergold and Elizabeth Hyman, to ask U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist English Gardner about herself and how dairy has affected her track career.

New York State Dairy Princess Shelby Benjamin interviews U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist English Gardner.

From the Beginning

Being curious, I started at the beginning… where is she originally from? Gardner said she was born in Philadelphia but when her track career really took off, she was living in South Jersey, where she still lives now. She also spent five years in California (Who wouldn’t want to say they lived in California at one point in their lives?).

Following Her Father’s Footsteps

Interested in knowing how she got into sports, more specifically track, I asked her.

Gardner told me she originally loved basketball even though she was the smallest person on the team. But what made her turn to track was, at 7- or 8-years old, Gardner got in trouble at home and her dad couldn’t catch her because she was so fast. He took her to track tryouts the next day.

In the meantime, Gardner’s grandmother had pulled out some old scrapbooks with clippings of her dad running track. Gardner didn’t know that her dad ran track – or even that he was good at it! – because he wasn’t one to brag about himself. I could relate! I had a personal connection with Gardner at this point because my second love, other than dairy, is basketball and my dad was very good at it and wouldn’t often talk about himself being good at sports either.

Dishing on Dairy

Next, I wanted to know when Gardner first start using milk in her diet. She replied, it began with her mother, who always made sure to have milk readily available and included in meals.

Gardner had grown up drinking milk and says she was “obsessed with it for a long time.” As she got older, she admits she got side-tracked and went through a period in her life where she didn’t consume as much milk — not on purpose, but it happened.

Gardner’s self-proclaimed love for milk resumed as she became more competitive in sports. She realized milk could help her support the demanding nutrient-dense caloric intake she needed to maintain as an athlete. “It’s been a game changer,” she says.

More recently, sick with COVID-19, Gardner lost a ton of weight and had to “work hard” to get back. She’s there now, and says milk is part of her daily diet. She adds milk instead of water to her whey-based protein shakes for some extra nutrients, proteins and vitamins. “COVID-19 just kind of snatched it all way.”

English Gardner, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist in track and field

Lactose Intolerant Living

With her clear obsession with milk (and cheese!), it’s surprising to learn that Gardner is lactose intolerant. So I asked if she ever worried about the way dairy was going to affect her body. She kind of giggled and answered yes, “It was a love-hate relationship at the beginning.” But that did not deter Gardner from her love for dairy. She was determined that milk had to be part of her diet, plus she enjoyed the taste. Gardner slowly started incorporating dairy – eating lactose free Greek yogurt and switched to drinking 2% milk and slowly kept drinking more. She says her Team Milk partnership opened her eyes to different ways she can continue enjoying milk. “It’s been awesome.”

Making the Dairy Industry Proud! 

Finally, I asked Gardner why she is a proud promoter of the dairy industry. Gardner proudly says she met dairy farmers and witnessed how passionate, hardworking and dedicated they are to providing a nutritious product that is used to feed millions and millions of people.

“I took for granted the white milk on the table, not knowing that someone literally poured their blood, sweat and tears to produce that white milk.”  Gardner says it gives her pride to be able to say she’s a Team Milk athlete – not only running for her country and herself, but for the dairy farmers too – and using her platform to inform the public about the dairy industry.

I really enjoyed talking to Gardner and getting to know her and learning how much she appreciates the dairy industry. She was extremely nice, super genuine and wants to make the dairy industry proud as a Team Milk athlete.

U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist English Gardner