Great things are possible, just one step at a time.
Two-time Chilean national 100m champion Maria Ignacia Montt joined the Team Novo Nordisk ambassador program in 2022, with the track and field star being the first ‘non-cycling’ national sprint champion in the history of the team.
Hailing from Santiago, Chile and the youngest of seven siblings Maria Ignacia has two older sisters who both live with type 1 diabetes and upon discovering that she was also type 1 her initial reaction was “sort of happy, because now I was going to be like my sisters. But that happiness vanished after a couple of hours.”
Maria Ignacia was 11 years old and despite the initial confusion at the time of diagnosis and with the support of her family she quickly learned to adapt and was back training two weeks after her diagnosis, continuing to follow her passion and a few years later, at 16 making the selection for the Chilean national team.
After qualifying for the Junior World Athletic Championships in 2014 Maria Ignacia won a scholarship to study and train at the University of Portland in the USA. She hasn’t looked back and has gone from strength to strength winning back-to-back national 100m titles in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Away from athletics Maria Ignacia is studying for a degree in Business Administration and Economics at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and likes to spend time with friends and family.
1) Tell us a bit about your family. Brothers? Sisters? Older/Younger?
I’m the youngest out of seven siblings. I have two older sisters and four brothers. We are a big family and most of us live in Santiago.
2) What was your childhood like?
I had a pretty normal childhood and lived in Santiago until I was 18.. I graduated from Saint George’s College (my high school) without problems.
3) Do either of your parents or anyone else in your family have diabetes?
My two older sisters, Denise and Carolina have type one diabetes also. Besides them, we don’t have anyone else with diabetes.
1) Tell us about when you were diagnosed and how you found out?
I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old. My sister Carolina was the first one to notice the symptoms and she took a glucose test at home. I remember I was 350 and had no clue what that number meant.
My mom thought I lost weight due to the track season that was just ending and my throat was because it was summer in Chile.
2) What was your initial reaction?
I was confused, but also sort of happy because I was going to be like my sisters. That happiness vanished after a couple of hours.
3) How did your family/friends/fellow athletes react?
My family, my mom especially, were really sad because they knew what diabetes was and all the new things I would have to do now. My older sisters were diagnosed in the 80s, when the treatment was way different and had no technology to help them out. My mom thought my experience with diabetes was going to be like my sisters’, but she was wrong.
4) Did you think your days as an athlete were over? Did others? What did your doctor say?
I was 11 years old and was just starting track and field. I wasn’t really into it back then, it was amateur level and I never thought it was going to be impossible to be part of it because I had two great role models that were my sisters. I was back to training two weeks after my diagnosis.
1) Tell us about how you got started in cycling
I started track and field when I was 10 years old at my school, just for fun. I started competing with other schools right away, but din’t make the national team until I was 16 years old.
2) When did you start competing?
I made my first national team when I was 16 years old.
3) If you already had diabetes at that time: When you first started competing, did you tell anyone (teammates/coaches/trainers) about your diabetes?
Yes. My mom talked to my coaches when I was younger and everyone knew about it. Now all my team knows about my diabetes and what to do when my blood sugar goes down.
4) What do you think is your biggest achievement in your athletic career?
Winning my first national title at senior level last year. National champion in the 100 meter in 2021 and then validate it this year.
5) What is your favorite memory from a race/competition?
Qualifying for World Junior Championships back in 2014. After that championship in Oregon, USA I got a scholarship to go study and train at the University of Portland, Oregon.
Being part of Team Novo Nordisk
1) How did you learn about Team Novo Nordisk?
Novo Nordisk Chile was my sponsor when I was 19 and they told me about Team Novo Nordisk.
1) How do you spend your time when you’re not training or racing? Any other passions?
When I’m not training or racing, I’m studying. I’m getting my undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Economics at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. I also like to spend time with my friends and family
2) What do you want to do when you retire?
After I retire, I would like to do something related to marketing and sports, but I don’t know yet.
3) What are the three most important things in your life?
Family, friends and health.
4) Married? Kids? Pets?
Just a dog, a schnauzer miniature! His name is Luca
5) What is your biggest accomplishment off the bike (outside of cycling)?
I gave a Tedx Talk in January 2022 about Diabetes and my experience as an professional athlete.
1) What is your best advice for a young athlete with diabetes?
Diabetes is just a condition that is part of the journey. You will never know what you are capable of if you don’t try. The biggest limitation is our mind, not diabetes.
2) How do you stay motivated when training and racing?
This is a good question. For me it is harder to stay motivated during training, than racing. During races is easy, because I just want to win the race and try my best to improve my times. For training I try to set specific goals for the week, the month or the season and communicate those goals to my team, that way they remind me of the goals when I’m not motivated. Working towards a specific goal is easier to work just to get better.
3) Is there a motto, mantra or principle in life that you live by?
Great things are possible, just one step at a time.