We always love it when TKFLASTANIS come back on the show, so we’re thrilled that modern pentathlete Samantha Schultz had some time to chat with us about her experiences in Tokyo.

We talk with Samantha about competing in the heat, life in the Olympic Village (how were those beds?), and how the post-Olympic lows have been, as well as what’s on tap for her future.

Modern pentathlon’s not known for making headlines during the Olympics, but Tokyo’s women’s competition did — and sadly, not for a great reason. Annika Schleu, who was leading the competition going into the horse riding portion, had a horse that refused to jump partway through the competition. This led Schleu to visibly break down, and her coach also hit the horse on the rear, an action that’s prohibited by the sport’s rules. Schleu’s medal hopes were dashed, the coach was sent home from the Games, and the international federation had a PR nightmare to clean up.

The result is that the UIPM, the federation, annouced this week that after Paris 2024 (which will see a shortened 90-minute modern pentathlon), the riding portion will be replaced by a sport yet to be determined. All of this is in hopes that the event will be included on the sports program for LA 2028.

This news has caused quite a stir with many of the sport’s athletes, and we talk with Samantha about her thoughts on what riding means to the modern pentathlon.

Throughout 2021 we’re revisiting great stories from Atlanta 1996! For our Atlanta 1996 moment this week, Alison tells us all about the waving men.

We also have news from TKFLASTANIS of Team Keep the Flame Alive, including:

  • Jacqueline Simoneau
  • Connor Fields
  • Ness Murby
  • Ginny Thrasher
  • McKenna Geer
  • Phil Andrews

We have an update on the Raven Saunders podium protest at Tokyo 2020, with a decision as to whether or not she should receive sanctions.

Also, we have news from Beijing 2022, or really, the lack of it where foreign journalists are concerned. Will the organizing committee allow foreign press access to venues and pre-Games events as they initially said they would? Will the IOC ensure this happens. We discuss the implications of the organizing committee’s actions on the global interest of these Games.

And, in time for the 1000 days out from Paris 2024, the IOC has launched a global store!

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo by Shannon Grey, courtesy of Samantha Schultz.

RESOURCES

Follow Samantha on Twitter and Insta

Modern Pentathlon update, official statement and letter to athletes

Germany’s kit

Team USA’s closing ceremonies kit

The Waving Man

China’s men’s hockey team update

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China Statement on Olympic Coverage


TRANSCRIPT

Note: While we make efforts to ensure that transcripts are correct, they are machine-generated and may contain errors. Please cross-reference the audio file.

 

Episode 212 – Modern Pentathlete Samantha Schultz’s Tokyo 2020 Experience

[00:00:00] Jill: Hello, fans of TKFLASTAN and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host Jill Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host Alison Brown. Alison, hello? How are you?

[00:00:40] Alison: I’m a little frustrated because apparently I need to start watching Sunday Night Football again.

[00:00:46] Jill: How come?

[00:00:47] Alison: Okay. So first Deanna Price made an appearance at a game a couple of weeks ago. Would you like to know who made an appearance this weekend?

Chuck Aoki.

[00:00:56] Jill: What??

[00:00:57] Alison: At the Dallas- Minnesota game. Yeah.

[00:00:59] Jill: Wow.

[00:01:02] Alison: Missed it. Cause I don’t watch football much anymore and yeah. Saw the post after. And, in sort of a collision of our world, Chuck Aoki was with John Register.

[00:01:14] Jill: Oh my. That’s a sign that Chuck Aoki needs to come on the show and talk to us.

[00:01:21] Alison: And I promise you, Chuck, I will not be an embarrassing fan girl, at least the whole time,

[00:01:29] Jill: Guess who I saw this weekend..

[00:01:31] Alison: I’m afraid to ask now.

[00:01:32] Jill: Mike and Maya!

[00:01:36] Alison: No!

[00:01:38] Jill: Yes! Mike and Maya, for, if you are a new listener, during our Tokyo 2020 coverage of the games every day, we would talk about the Toyota first date add starring Mike and Maya, and Mike asks Maya out to the dance, but he does so, via being on a screen, on a robot in school. But this is the first time I’ve seen the ad. I don’t know, a couple months.

[00:02:02] Alison: Since Tokyo, I mean, we didn’t, I never saw it again.

[00:02:05] Jill: Right. I flipped on the mixed curling, the curling mixed doubles US trials, which wasn’t even a, if you, when you go to the Olympics. It was, if you win, you had to go to the Netherlands to get a qualifying spot in the Olympics. So this was just like step one.

But turn it on. And there they were. Mike and Maya. And I was like, Maya! and I really wanted to be like, Hey girl, what’s up?

[00:02:29] Alison: How you been?

[00:02:30] Jill: I know. And then Mike is right there trying to ask her to the dance. And by now it’s like, well, how about a winter formal? And let’s put on some other clothes, but maybe they’re in Southern California where they can wear shorts to school all year round.

[00:02:43] Alison: Right. We had a very long, one of our discussions was what time of year is it? And where do they live? So we did come up with they probably were in the warmer areas of the country.

[00:02:56] Jill: I did have to pause and say catch up with Maya just a little bit. And then Mike could do his thing.

[00:03:02] Alison: Well, this bodes well that either we will see Mike and Maya, again during Beijing, or is there a chance we could get a part 2?

[00:03:12] Jill: I would love a part 2.

[00:03:14] Alison: Arrive at the dance in their Toyota vehicle or their parents’ Toyota vehicle because the children are like 12 or 13, we decided.

[00:03:22] Jill: Right.

[00:03:23] Alison: I mean, there’s endless possibilities for Mike and Maya.

[00:03:26] Jill: And as you say, endless possibilities, which is the whole Toyota campaign.

[00:03:30] Alison: See it subliminally got into my head.

[00:03:36] Jill: I will have to, I still want to put together all of our clips about Mike and Maya and make a little, a little short movie about that. So keep hoping, folks, that I get to that.

[00:03:47] Alison: That will be our Christmas present to everyone.

[00:03:49] Jill: Oh, that would be great. Okay. That gives me goals. All right. We would like to thank our Patreon patron of the week. This week. We are excited to thank silver metal patron Manu Paavola. What can you say about Manu, except for anytime he posts a story in the Facebook group, it is amazing.

[00:04:12] Alison: And he introduced us to celebration cake, which I wholeheartedly approve of.

[00:04:18] Jill: And it’s great because he’s a real good history buff. And he brings in a lot of history, not just of different Olympic moments, but we get– he’s from Finland. So we get a lot of about Helsinki, which is also very interesting and broke the news that I did not know for biathlon and oh, biathlon season is coming up. Team Sweden, there was a romantic partner swap.

[00:04:42] Alison: Oh, yes. We’ve talked about this.

[00:04:43] Jill: So thank you, Manu. We couldn’t do the show without you. Your, your listenership means so much to us and thank you for bringing so much to the show as well.

If you would like to be a Patreon patron of the week, check out our Patreon site at patreon.com/flamealivepod.

Okay. Today’s interview. We are catching up with TKFLASTANI modern pentathlete Samantha Schultz about her experience at Tokyo 2020. And if you remember the modern pentathlon competition, there was tremendous controversy around the horse riding portion of the women’s event.

So we got into that and the news that modern pentathlon may be dropping riding for the LA 2028 games. Take a listen.

Well Samantha, congratulations on getting to Tokyo and competing. How was travel for you?

[00:05:34] Samantha: Well, thank you very much. It’s so good to talk with you guys again and traveling to Tokyo well, that was oh my gosh, it was a whole plethora of things that we had to do between getting apps downloaded on our phone with QR codes and multiple testing that we had to do.

At least the testing was from home. They had these really cool systems where we just had a stick, a little thing up our nose, and we had a little battery pack being the, basically we put the dropper in. And then you sit there and just wait for it to tell you negative, hopefully. And then we just put all of that stuff into a system and it built you all these QR codes.

Our coach was doing a bunch of stuff, basically leading up to the Olympics saying where we were at, where we were going to be at the Olympics. So kind of just like tracking where all the athletes were to make sure if we were exposed to anyone that we were quarantining and that we weren’t exposing. Just all these protocols in place.

And so it was kind of finally, like when we got on the plane and we’re walking through the airport and you finally clear the airport and you get like the little credential and you’re sitting in that room, just waiting for that last test to tell you you’re negative. And then you go off to either the village or we went over to um, we were staying at a hotel where the equestrian team was at.

And so we were staying at that hotel in and training at the high performance center. So it was kind of up until that moment. You’re just like, oh please God, like, just let me get through, like I got on the flight, I got here, just let me get a negative test. And then I think once that happened, it was like, okay, now I know, like I can stay in my bubble. I can stay safe. I’m here, the Olympics are happening. So that was just one thing after another.

[00:07:15] Alison: And how often did you get tested while you were there?

[00:07:18] Samantha: While I was there, we had to do a saliva test every morning. So we had to spit into a little saliva thing and then our coach would take it in.

And that also too is a little nerve wracking because you don’t really, I mean, every time you get a test, even if you don’t have symptoms, you’re like, what, what if, what if somehow I got exposed to someone and all you can do is just be careful, wear a mask and keep your distance from people. But you’re in the Olympic village. You’re around all these people. You want to interact with them. And it’s hard. Like, pretty much the only interaction we really had was trading pins. I mean all the little barriers, but in the dining hall, you see everyone’s sitting there, but even then, like you could hardly talk to someone through them because it was loud in the cafeteria and then they were pretty thick.

[00:08:01] Jill: What was the village like, or the village experience that you got to have?

[00:08:06] Samantha: The village was a really cool experience. I absolutely loved it. Just being around all these different countries. I’ve been to Pan-American games twice. And at the Pan-American games, it’s a lot smaller, so you’re not having quite as many athletes and as many countries. So I kind of got, I think, groomed into seeing what a village life is like, but then I was like, wow, this is.

A million times bigger. Building after building. All the flags. And then athletes are just constantly walking around, like all the time. Because athletes are competing at weird times and weird parts of the day. It was super hot in Tokyo. So people are out working out early in the morning or super late at night.

So it’s like 24/ 7 things are going on like dining hall. There’s always people there. You can eat whenever you want. There were certain hours for kind of like the, a different part of the village where you could get your nails done, your hair done. They had the shop. That had more specific hours, but everywhere else, it was pretty much like 24 hours. Everything was open, athletes everywhere.

[00:09:05] Alison: Did you get your hair done at the village?

[00:09:08] Samantha: No, I did not get my hair done. I only get my hair cut, like maybe once a year, maybe twice. And so I was not about ready to have someone. I had no idea. But, I mean, I watched it, I got my nails done and that was really fun.

They, the Japanese women were so sweet, they did such a good job. They were so intricate, and I was watching some people get their hair done while I was getting my nails done. And I was like, oh, they actually, they’re doing a pretty good job. Like I contemplated doing it, but I was like, no, I’m, I’m going to stay in my comfort zone on this one,

[00:09:40] Alison: Blow out after competition. You got your hair wet when you swam. You know, you need to get it fixed.

[00:09:46] Jill: How was the food? Was it good? Was it difficult to like, not be tempted by everything they offer?

[00:09:53] Samantha: I think the food was great. I really enjoyed the food. It did get old after a couple of days. Cause it’s the same, pretty much the same thing. They would rotate through a couple of different things and there was so many different options. I think that was the hardest for me. I don’t even know what to eat. Like I feel like I would go into the dining hall and I’d be there for like over an hour just because I would walk around and I’m like, I don’t even know what to eat because you have so many different options.

And I’m like, I don’t really know what that is. And like, do I want to try it? Or should I wait? Like, I’ll try to stick to stuff I’m more familiar with. And that was good. It’s so many different options. If you want to have a hamburger and pizza, you can do that. Or if you want to try some Japanese cuisine or they had like pho or curry, some Indian style food, Mediterranean. They had a gluten-free section. So if anyone with food allergies and then they have like a whole salad bar, fruit bar and dessert bar, ice cream, everything. So for me, it was more like, Okay. Just try to limit what don’t eat too much.

Try to stick within what, you know, what you’re comfortable with. And then after competition, that’s when I tried a little bit more of the Japanese cuisine and was like, okay, I’ll try like octopus or some of this like different kinds of sushi. I was disappointed with the sushi in the village. It was not good at all.

But I can understand when you’re trying to make that much food for so many different athletes and you’re keeping it out for like all day. It just didn’t taste. It kind of like got old after a little while, but I still, I mean, every time I went in there, I was like, oh my gosh. It was crazy. And the recycling, the recycling there as crazy too.

So you’d go to the trash cans and they would be like, okay, your, food goes here, liquids, go here, bottles, go here. Bottle caps, go here, cardboard plastic, like you had to separate everything. And there was someone standing at the trash can to help put things in different places. Cause we don’t, I mean, in America you’re like, Hey, recycling and trash, that’s it.

You don’t really separate all these different things like they do. And so learning how to do that. Oh, yeah. Like where do I put it? Just tell me.

I mean, they take it to a whole nother level there.

[00:11:59] Alison: Okay, so we heard a lot about the paper

beds

[00:12:01] Alison: How was your paper bed?

[00:12:03] Samantha: Oh, it was very uncomfortable.

Um, The pillows were great actually, but the bed was so hard. The first night I slept there, I was like, oh man, this is going to be rough. Like I was tossing and turning all night and just being in a new place too. But I was actually roommates with a couple of weight lifters. And since I was near the end of the games, They were finishing up.

So they were leaving in a day or two. And one of the girls, I asked her, I said, did you get a mattress topper? I’ve heard that we could order them off Amazon, but at this point, like I’m going to get it and have two days left in the village. So for me, it’s not worth, I’ll just I’ll suffer through, or maybe grab someone else’s mattress and put two on my bed or something when they leave.

And she’s like, oh yeah, I have a mattress topper. I never even took it out of the box. And I was like,. Oh my God. Can I please have it? And the second I put it on my bed, I slept like a baby the rest of the time I was there. So, which was so nice because after the jet lag and competing, there’s just so much going on. I just felt like I had a hard time going to sleep because you’re just constantly on that, like adrenaline rush, you’re getting ready to compete and then you finished competing.

And so it was just kind of non-stop. But I did not like try to jump on the bed or break it. They were pretty sturdy though for being cardboard beds. I was surprised.

[00:13:16] Alison: Did you get to see anything else?

[00:13:18] Samantha: Unfortunately, I was not able to go see any of the other events. They actually held the modern pentathlon competition in the rugby stadium. And so they built everything up. So we weren’t even in the pool that all the swimmers swam in. We couldn’t go to the track and field events. We couldn’t go to equestrian, which really sucked.

You could only go to the events that was on your credentials. Like for me, that kind of broke my heart. We did get some athlete interaction in the village, but it would have been really cool to go watch some of the events. And I wish they would have allowed us to do that. Getting to meet other athletes from other sports was still really a great experience too.

[00:13:55] Jill: So competition. How, did you feel going into the ranking round for fencing?

[00:14:02] Samantha: Going into the ranking on for fencing, I felt really good. I know fencing is not my strongest event. So for me, I was just like, I just got to go out. I’m at the Olympics. I made it here. So I tried to just take that pressure off myself.

Like I don’t have to, instead of being like, you have to win, you have to win. Yes. Deep down. I wanted to win. Trying to kind of take a little bit of that pressure off myself mentally to go out there and just be like, stay relaxed, enjoy yourself. This is the Olympics. And so I kind of found myself just trying to kind of look around and take a deep breath between times when I was like, oh my gosh, like, get feeling myself, get that pressure and get nervous. Cause it is a big event and you want to do well. So it, it is challenging to kind of settle those nerves, but also embrace where you’re at.

[00:14:47] Jill: Did it really feel different compared to a world champs or the Pan-Am games? Or, was it Olympic that you thought it would be?

[00:14:55] Samantha: I think for me, it kind of just felt like a normal competition because we didn’t have- as sad as it is, pentathlon doesn’t really have a ton of spectators. If anything, it’s just the other athletes and our coaches. Um, Maybe some parents that come, and so looking up in the stands, you’re kind of like, okay, this is kind of sad. Like there’s no one here. They did put t-shirts on some of the chairs that were signed, so that was cool. And I guess other than it being sad, it kind of just felt normal. Cause you’re like, oh, well normally we don’t really have that many spectators anyway.

So I think it would have been. I would have been a lot more nervous, I think, if the stands would have been full and there would have been tons of people there, because I would have been like, I don’t, I’m not used to this, this doesn’t normally happen. So for me it kinda just felt like a normal competition just with the Olympic rings everywhere and Tokyo 2020.

I mean, I think at the end of the day, it’s like, I think I may have performed better in some events because I didn’t quite feel that anxiousness from all the people. But I also think too, sometimes you can thrive off the crowd and the energy, and especially having your family there for the Olympics.

I think that would have been a really amazing experience and I’m sad that that couldn’t happen, but they were all cheering me on and having watch parties in the middle of the night, back here in Colorado.

[00:16:13] Jill: So, going into the second day you had a great swim. How was the pool?

[00:16:18] Samantha: Thank you. Yes, I swam a personal best time. The pool actually, I thought it was great.

They built that pool in the stadium, so as soon as rugby got done, they transformed that stadium into a pentathlon arena, which was really cool. They made the pool. So it was kind of up on this platform. And thenthey had the riding and the running and shooting all in that stadium, along with the fencing strip.

We swam early afternoon. if you were in the sun, it was so hot and that water felt amazing to jump into. But apparently I think the pool was getting too warm because the sun was heating it up. They were throwing chunks of ice, huge chunks of ice, like bigger than bricks into the pool, just to cool it off.

So as soon as we got out for our warmup, we’re like looking over and I’m like, oh my gosh, are they throwing chunks of ice in the pool. And so I think it, it was just getting too hot because how hot it is in Tokyo and just that sign was baking. And like, you couldn’t walk barefoot on the pool deck. It was so hot, it would burn your feet. So it was like, all right. Flip flops on. And so I splashed water onto the blocks before I got on. Cause I was afraid that they would, it was just going to be too hot for my feet and kind of just get in my head. But I enjoyed the pool. It was a little weird, but that’s why we have a warmup.

So you can kind of get used to how the walls are, just how the pool feels. And I was behind, I didn’t know how far behind I was until I watched the replay, but I was like a body length behind. Kind of had no idea where I was at ,trying to just swim and race, and I felt good that last 25 and just pulled ahead.

And when I looked up on the board, I was like, whoa, I won my heat. And I swam a personal best. So I was super excited. I was really happy and I got a little extra camera time for me to be able to wave to my family and say hi, which was really cool.

[00:18:07] Jill: Fencing bonus round. What was that like in person?

[00:18:11] Samantha: The bonus round for fencing is always key. It’s always really quick. And I feel like you go from swimming to, you’re all like, loosey goosey and then you have to go change really quick and get ready for fencing.

You don’t really have much of a warmup. And so you’re kind of just getting up there a little bit. Like wide-eyed and you’re like, alright, time to like, turn it on for fencing. And instead of one minute bouts, which is what we’re used to in the round robin, it’s 30 seconds.

So it’s a lot quicker and that’s just to keep it flowing. There’s a lot of bouts they have to go through. And for us, I think it’s more strategy because if you are the upper range athlete, you have priority. So essentially that other person has to come after you for the touch. If you’re going to play an advantage to that.

So that’s a little bit different than just fencing one one-on-one when you both, no one has priority. And so it just kind of changes it a little bit, changes the dynamic, but it happens all pretty quick. And just having everything on a big stage. It’s just a little bit different than having a round robin fence where everyone is fencing at the same time.

But I think it’s exciting for people to watch, kind of get people that can win multiple times in a row or they get bumped out. So it kind of adds that element of that competition level of working your way up the ranking system.

[00:19:26] Jill: Poor modern pentathlon is always the sport that like don’t know if we’re going to stay in the Olympics, but you got all the news with the horse round, but your riding round was actually quite good. I thought. Right.

[00:19:40] Samantha: Thank you. I did have some issues with my horse in the warmup. He was very slow and would not want to move forward. And so I’m kind of trying to get him, get the energy going. Cause he’s jumps were big at the Olympics. They maxed out. Every single jump was four feet high.

And when we normally go to a world cup, maybe one or two jumps are at that height, not the entire course. In the course of the Olympics, you’re on the biggest stage that only happens every four years. And so nerves are high already. You’re on a horse you don’t know. And we don’t normally see jumps that are that big.

I mean, everything was so extravagant. They did an amazing job with all the jumps. They were beautiful, amazing, like decorated to a T. But when I was in the warm-up ring, which is in a whole different arena, my horse got over 2 warm-up jumps. You’re allowed six, warm-up jumps with the horse and 20 minutes to warm up.

And so I had 2 warm up jobs that went fine. And then all of a sudden he like would not jump at all. I started panicking. I was like, what are we going to do? Like I’m at the Olympics. I’m not even going to be able to get through the ride. And just disaster started spinning in my brain and I was like, Nope, stop.

And this is where a lot of that mindfulness and a lot of that mental training comes in handy because if you start getting those ideas in your head, that can just destroy you. You have so many emotions, and the horse can feed off of that too. And so I was like, no, this horse is going to get over these jumps.

I didn’t come all the way to the Olympics to ride for zero, to have my family watch me on the big screen, not even get through the riding course. So just changing that mentality and being like, I love horses and I am a horse person. I am a super kind person at heart, but I’m like, this horse is not my friend right now. And it will get over these jumps. And that’s kind of that mentality you have to have. And I’m like, this horse is capable of doing this. And I think when I changed that mindset and I was like, we’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to get through this. I’m still going to be a nice person. I’m not going to abuse the horse.

But we’re going to make him get over the jumps. And after we went over, we got him over some more warm-up jumps. And then I got into the arena. He really wasn’t wanting to move forward. And so I kind of yelled at him over the second jump and he ended up doing a pretty big buck. I don’t know if you guys were able to see that on the live feed.

Someone got a picture and I’m about like two feet out of the saddle and somehow stayed on and he kept moving and we had a pretty slow ride, but we were still able to get through. And for me, it felt a lot worse, but when I saw the replay, I was like, oh, like that wasn’t nearly as bad. And then after seeing kind of some of the rides that happened after me and just hearing how the riding was going, I was like, oh man, like maybe I did have a better ride than I thought I did.

Um, And I got through it, which was, I was just thrilled about that. I was able to get the horse through it, get myself through it and the horse was fine, but yeah, it was unfortunate that there. Some not so good rides and some bad press for our sport in the riding aspect, which is, is really unfortunate.

[00:22:49] Jill: Were you first or second on your horse? Because I hadn’t realized that the horses go through this twice.

[00:22:55] Samantha: Yes. So there’s 18 horses and each horse goes twice. So they’ll do the bottom half riders first. So I was the second athlete in the arena. The first horse, the first rider, she was in 36th place. I guess they pulled her off in the warm-up ring.

So they felt that she was not capable enough to ride. So they pulled her off and just said, I don’t know if that was her coach’s decision or if that was a technical delegate that made that decision, but they do have the authorization to make that decision for you say like, Hey, your warmup’s, not really going well. We want to make this decision to pull you out. So that first girl got pulled out. And then the second girl that went in was the Brazilian that unfortunately fell off twice. And I’m standing there on my horse, hearing all this happening, trying not to pay attention to it, but just trying to go over the course in my head and stay in the zone.

And then I went after her. And then yeah, after that first round of horses goes, the horses will go a second time through.

[00:23:54] Alison: So then are you just sitting, watching everybody else’s round? How aware were you of what was happening through the rest of that horse riding round?

[00:24:03] Samantha: It was very, very hot in Tokyo, so when I got done with the ride, I was literally dripping in sweat. Especially after wearing a long jacket and pants. And so I put the ice vest on, I took an ice cold shower. I went down into the, where the changing rooms were and I just put ice – I tried to cool my body off. I really didn’t know what was happening because for me, I was like, this is out of my control, me sitting here watching the ride, especially if it’s not going well, it’s depleting my energy stores.

And I was like, I still have a job to finish, two more events. So I just went off into my zone, but I was in that changing room and I kept seeing girls coming in sobbing and just like crying. And I’m like, oh geez, that’s never a good sign. Like something must not be going well.

Once I finished changing and I came out to one of the watch areas that they had, and that’s when I saw a couple more rides and I was like, I can’t watch, I can’t watch this.

It’s hard as a rider to see that. And as, also as an athlete, it’s hard to see your fellow athletes go through that too, because you know how hard they work, they’re not here to have a zero ride or get eliminated. And so I think it, I just kind of walked away from it and it was like I’m going to focus on the next event. And not this, cause I can’t control that unfortunately. And it was hard to watch.

[00:25:18] Jill: How hard is it to take an unfamiliar horse over fences that are so tall compared to other competitions that you have?

[00:25:27] Samantha: But a lot of it is that timing and having that impulsion and that power going up to the jump because the horse has to lift itself and you over that jump. And when those jumps get bigger, It makes it even more important to have that correct distance leading up to the jump. And once the jumps get bigger, if a horse has to take a long spot or a short spot it makes it even more more significant when the jumps are that much bigger. So any kind of error just gets magnified. And especially when you don’t know the horse too, because a lot of times some horses like going from far away. So I’m like getting really, really close. I’m like going slow or fast. And as an athlete, you have to try and adapt and kind of figure that out in such a short time.

So when the jumps are that big, it can also be a little bit scary in your head ’cause even though all the horses passed the jumping tests, you still kind of question it. You’re like, oh man, like it gets in your head a little bit too. So just being able to trust that horse to a point, because if you trust them too much, then they might be like, oh, they’re not paying attention.

Like they can just start slamming on the brakes and they know like they know a lot more than we really think they do.

[00:26:41] Jill: So laser run, how was that? And of course we’re still dealing with the heat and the humidity. So what were the conditions like and how was the run for you?

[00:26:49] Samantha: Our warmups started around seven o’clock at night, and so at least the sun had gone down and it wasn’t quite as hot. It was still pretty humid, but thankfully we had had, because we were able to come and train at the high performance center a week before I felt like I was a little bit more adapted to that humidity. And I’m a Colorado girl. I will take altitude any day over that humidity. Oh my gosh. I was like, I feel like I’m sucking in water and like sweat, it just doesn’t stop. I’m like take me back to like a dry Colorado.

And so. With that being said, just having a little bit of extra time to train. It almost felt a little bit cooler by the time we got to that 7, 7: 30 time that we were doing the combined event. And so most of it was just like trying to get my core temperature back down after warming up. So I had an ice pack that I was kind of putting on the back of my neck right before we started limiting that warmup time and just, being like. I’m warmed up enough to where I know I’m ready to go, but I don’t want to overdo it because when you’re at the Olympics and you’re like, oh, more is better, more is better. It’s like, no, like it’s already hot. Just you got this. Make sure your gun’s fine. Have everything set up. The course was awesome. We just ran a couple of loops inside the arena. And then we ran up this little hill to where the platform of the pool was and came back down. So I thought it was a fun course. And as soon as the gun went off, I was just like, you know what, I remember looking up into the stands and I was like, you’re at the fricking Olympics. This is so freaking cool. Like this is so cool. And even though I hadn’t really had the best start to what I wanted to be my Olympic debut, I was like, I’m here and I’m just going to do the best I can. I’m just going to run as hard as I can, shoot straight and just try and go out there and execute.

Like I’ve trained so hard for this. And I think for me, that was the time I was just like, this is fun. And those last two laps were definitely, that’s when the heat starts to kind of- you just feel in your head, it just starts rising. And those last two rounds of shooting, you just have to focus so much more.

And so I definitely felt that, but at least I’d had that practice leading up to it, to where I felt like I was like, alright, you know how to deal with this, you’re fit, you’re in shape. Just kind of push through. And I moved up from 27th to 21st. So I was really happy, especially in a field full of so many strong runners to be able to move up that far in the last event.

[00:29:10] Alison: So overall happy with how you performed.

[00:29:15] Samantha: Yes. I’m very happy with the way I performed. Of course I always wanted to do better, but overall just looking at everything it’s. I had a successful time in the swim. I had a PR I got through the ride. I had a great run, great round of shooting.

My fencing kind of got in my head and, I did the best I could. And so just looking at all of that, like I gave 110%, if not more. And that’s all I can ask for. And I enjoyed myself. I had a great time, but it’s like, it happens also quick. I’m like, wow, is it already over

[00:29:48] Alison: How much cool swag did you get?

[00:29:52] Samantha: Oh, my gosh, I have so much stuff. My husband’s like, we need to get a whole new closet for you. In a lot of this stuff. I’ve also, I’ve given away to some friends just a lot of supporters, a lot of people. ’cause I’m like it is so much stuff then it is kind of cool to have all this Team USA swag, and a lot of it, I couldn’t wear in Tokyo because it was so hot.

And so now finally, like a lot of this Ralph Lauren stuff that is so soft and like I have pants and jackets, I’m finally able to start wearing it now that it’s getting a little bit cooler. And it’s cool because people are like, oh, are you in the Olympics? And so I kind of get to tell them about pentathlon and um, so that’s really cool.

And unfortunately they only give you the women’s kit. So my husband kind of feels a little bit left out, but he’s gotten stuff over the years, so he’ll be good.

[00:30:38] Jill: How were the closing ceremonies, because you did get to go to those, right?

[00:30:42] Samantha: Yes, I did get to go to closing ceremonies. They allowed me to stay an extra day. I would have had to leave that day based on kind of protocols that they have, where you have to leave 48 hours after your event. But somehow kind of worked it out to where I was able to stay and it was so amazing. I’m sure you guys saw my post on social media where I. was an alternate for the Rio Olympics.

And I got to go to Rio as a spectator and I sat in the closing ceremonies as a s pectator watching all the athletes out in the stadium after they had finished and seeing them there, seeing it extinguished. And for me, just kind of being able to see that flame in Tokyo and walk out as an athlete. I just remember telling myself in Rio, like you will be there in four years, you will be walking in closing ceremonies. You will be at the Olympics. And to know that I’ve stuck with that. Even through five years, ended up being five years that I stuck with that and I kept that fire inside of me. I kept that drive, and I think that’s honestly what kept me going for a lot of COVID is just like, you, can do this, you’ve worked so hard. You can’t give up now. And even though that’s just one little piece of my athletic career, I think just bringing it all full circle is a really cool and a humbling experience. Also just meeting the other athletes, especially the ones that won medals, and they’re wearing them.

You get to interact a little bit more with the other athletes too, which through COVID, that’s been really hard, really isolating. So finally getting that opportunity to be like, what’s your sport? What do you do? Where do you live? Where do you train? What is life like for you? Just being in the atmosphere. A lot of times we don’t get that. And we miss out on that a lot with COVID.

[00:32:24] Jill: So you mentioned the roller coaster since. How has it been? We hear about that happening, but what’s it like going through that?

[00:32:33] Samantha: It’s hard. You kind of know that you’re going to have this low when you come home. And you’re like, I kind of know that I just worked really, really hard for the past, like four or five years for this huge moment in time.

And you feel, so everyone wants to talk to you before the Olympics. So if you’re going to the Olympics and this and this and this, and it’s so exciting, and then all of a sudden it’s over and it’s like, people don’t want to talk to you or they’re not like reporters aren’t reaching out. And so you’re not really feeling and you’re done competing.

So your body’s like built up all this stuff, and then you almost kind of just feel like you’re not important anymore. And I hate to say that because it’s not true, but I think just that feeling of like, there’s such a big lead up to the Olympics and then it all just like drops off as soon as it’s done.

And so I think that’s the hard part. Is it just kind of all of a sudden goes away. And your identity is so tied with that for the time being there’s so much more to almost every athlete on who you are and what your background is, what else you can offer as a person. And I think sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for you to realize like, Okay., that chapter and that window is closed, but there is still so much more um, regardless of what you do, if you keep going or if you go a different path, but that identity for so long has been focused on the Olympics and kind of just getting your body to come down after that and, and realize like, okay, now we just need to focus on something else, but what is that? What’s going to be next?

And so trying to kind of focus my energy in a good way um, that’s productive instead of just going back out and just like working out. Cause that’s all I know what to do. It’s like, how can I be better about letting my body rest, letting it recovery and mentally and physically doing the good things that I need to do for what’s right for me as a, as an athlete and just as a person

[00:34:25] Alison: And figuring out who, who you want to be.

[00:34:29] Samantha: Yes, exactly. Which I’m still asking myself. I’m sure a lot of people still ask themselves that even as they, they get older and older and I mean, I’m, I’m only 29, but it’s like, what am I, what do I want to be? Like, what am I going to do? What am I. So it’s and I’m just really grateful that I’ve had the support system I’ve had.

And I have the people around me to help support me and appreciate me for not only what I’ve accomplished as an athlete, but to help me through kind of this transition right now, too.

[00:34:59] Alison: So are you officially retiring or you haven’t decided?

[00:35:03] Samantha: It is not official, but I’m pretty sure that I am closing that door of being a modern pentathlete.

I did take a little run or a little go at track and field. I got recruited to run the Army 10 miler. And I had a great time with the short amount of time that I had to train for it. But the track and field coaches with WCAB for like, oh, you know, maybe you could try track and field and so kind of gave that a thought for a little bit, but at the same time too, it’s like, I’m pretty worn out and it’s been a lot training for five events and wanting to try to kind of look at having a family, at least within like two or three years, which kind of hits where Paris hits. And so just not sure, really where that lines up.

So, I’ve already got a job teaching Pilates part-time. And just looking at other opportunities for some part-time work. So if I do want to keep pursuing, you’ve being an athlete or running, I can always do that. And I haven’t really closed that door, but I think the pentathlon chapter is closed.

It’s so much time commitment and it’s time for me to focus a little bit more on my relationships and my husband and my family.

[00:36:14] Alison: Of course we have to ask you about the decision or the partial decision of the governing body to possibly eliminate horse-riding from pentathlon because of the issues that happened in Tokyo. I know you posted something on Instagram, which I read, so I know you have a very strong opinion about this. So go ahead with a strong opinion.

[00:36:38] Samantha: Yeah, I would, I’m sure a lot of athletes can attest to this too, but it’s not the same sport if you take the horseback riding out. I mean, it is a very challenging aspect of the sport and it can be very dangerous, but I think if the governing body can take some of that money and give it to national governing bodies to help riding programs get started.

‘Cause I think that’s the thing is a lot of people just don’t have the funding to ride horses at the level that we need to for these events. And we come to world cups and the horses. And the courses that we do aren’t at that Olympic level. And we know when we come to the Olympics, they’re going to be big, but it doesn’t mean that athletes aren’t preparing.

It’s just that we may not have the right resources in our respected countries. Like South America probably doesn’t have the resources that Europe has, they definitely don’t. We don’t have that. Even being here in the U S with such a big equestrian community. And so I think that’s the hard part is being able to find these, areas that we can train and we can jump horses to this height.

And having coaches say like, no, you need to go ride and making it a priority. It’s a cultural thing. The whole culture needs to adjust to make it a priority. And if that means that they need to lower jumps at the Olympics, they need to lower jumps at the Olympics. It’s better to have a more technical course with lower jumps.

You’re still going to test athletes and we’re riding capabilities, even if they have a technical and more challenging course with more terms, more challenging timeframes. But if you lower the jumps, you’re still requiring that athlete that has a higher level of riding skill to hopefully be more successful.

And so I think there’s other ways around it, but I think changing around the sport and adding in cycling, or just eliminating it completely. and it’s so heartbreaking to see that cause all these athletes that have worked so hard for so many years to have it just completely taken out doesn’t make sense.

[00:38:37] Jill: During your time in the sport, how has it changed?

[00:38:42] Samantha: So when I first started pentathlon, they were just switching over from pellet to laser. So I actually originally started with pellet. So we still shot an air pistol, but it was pellets. We had these little tiny pellets and we had to load them into our basically into our pistol and so shooting, like it was unheard of for anyone to shoot 10 seconds. It was like good to shoot 30 seconds back in those times. And so we actually had, they did three by 1000 meters. So we only had three rounds of shooting and the three by 1000. And so it was different. That format was different, but we still had the combined event just without the laser pistol.

And then they switched. I can’t remember what year that was. I think it was like a year or two after that. So I started pentathlon in 2010 and that was right when that switch was happening. Because London was the first Olympics that they used the laser pistols. And then shortly after that, they changed it to the four by eight hundreds.

So we had four rounds of shooting four times 800 and the run went from third or 3000 meters to a 3,200. So over that time, it’s definitely transitioned a lot and they have also added in the bonus round for the fencing. So making all of the events a lot more compact into one stadium happening a lot quicker.

So there has been a lot of transformations. And even now for Paris, they are trying to get everything within 90 minutes and they’re trying to do an even shorter format. And so that I don’t know a whole lot about as of right now, it’s all pretty complicated. So my goal was like to get, I was like, I’m not focused on that.

So for the Olympics, I was like, this is the format. I don’t care what happens after, but this is what I’m doing now. So I don’t know anything of what I’ve just kind of heard of a little bit of changes that they’re doing. But, and that’s kind of like as athletes where we learned to adapt and change, because we know the sport has to stay relevant and we want spectators to be interested in what we’re doing, but it’s like, at what point are we engaging people or are we losing the integrity of our sport?

[00:40:50] Alison: It seemed like this issue of eliminating the horses came up so quickly and they’re moving so fast. Has there been discussion before Tokyo about this?

[00:41:02] Samantha: I think after Rio, they had similar issues in Rio with the horseback riding that they did in Tokyo. It definitely did not hit quite the the storm like it did in Tokyo, but there was talk of trying to change some stuff. Things didn’t really happen. And then all of a sudden it’s like, wait, what? I never knew that riding was in jeopardy of being taken out. I knew that there was changes that need to be made, but I didn’t ever hear that riding was just going to be completely taken out of the sport.

[00:41:33] Jill: I know the sport is Eurocentric, but how Eurocentric is it?.

[00:41:38] Samantha: I mean, very. I think it’s hard for it to, because all of the events are so centralized in Europe or in more of like overseas, just not in the US. And so for them, it’s a lot easier to go to events, to have these systems where they have funding that’s either provided by the government or provided By a governing body. That’s funded a lot better than what’s funded here in the States. And so I think they’ve just had a lot more depth and a lot more athletes. So they have these programs and these really good training facilities to bring up a lot of athletes and just have the centralized area.

They can go and do training camps um with other athletes and go stay places. So I think it’s just been able to grow and expand a lot more in Europe, which is why they’ve had more success and they are at that higher level than a lot of other athletes that might kinda not be be a little bit more scattered. And we’re a little further away from all of that.

[00:42:36] Jill: Right. I don’t want to say it’s not like they don’t care that the sport doesn’t grow in other regions, but it’s almost like, well, we’ve got enough people to make the sport happen in other regions and qualify to be in the Olympics. But we’re not necessarily concerned about making sure the sport grows in, the Americas or Asia or Africa, because Egypt gets represented, but it doesn’t seem like the rest of the continent has much of a presence in the sport

[00:43:04] Samantha: Yeah, unfortunately, and I think that kind of showed at the Olympics. I mean, two of the riders that were before me from South America did not make it through the ride.

And it’s like, I wonder if that was on that side of things, their governing body just doesn’t have the resources to be able to give that to them, which is sad and they don’t, they don’t have the resources to, to go to all these world cups and get more of that experience. And so that’s also too, if they don’t have the money in the support system to go to these events and get the experience jumping different horses. Because, yeah, the more you compete, the more times you get on an unfamiliar horse, you just get used to it and you kind of get more into a flow of how to figure them out. What, what different horses are like. And so I think, yeah, those resources that are available it’s unfortunate, but I, and I don’t know what the international federation can do about that. And I don’t know how much they support the national federations. Or if that kind of just comes down to each country and their Olympic committees respectively. I’m, the whole system. I mean, as an athlete, there’s a whole lot more that goes on. I don’t understand. And it would be really cool to learn about that. And see kind of more of that to understand it more. Because I think for me, it’s like, I want to be able to fight for us and fight for pentathlon and fight for these athletes, but I’m not really sure what that looks like.

And I just know, at least I, I wrote an email to our international federation and posted links for that, for people to, just to kind of help out and support in that way to help try to keep the integrity of the sport. And as I learn more I mean, I think it will be very eye-opening. I mean, so it’s kind of yeah. Learning curve for sure. On a lot of different aspects.

[00:44:44] Alison: And it’s not like these other countries don’t have equestrian traditions, South America, certainly Argentina, Brazil, and then Egypt, where we were talking about in Africa, these countries have equestrian traditions So it’s interesting that that aspect of modern pentathlon doesn’t seem to translate.

[00:45:02] Samantha: Yeah. And I think one thing comes down to it too. A lot of these people that if they have horses that can jump big jumps like that, they’re probably not just going to let some rider, just go get on a horse. And I think that’s the hard thing is finding those people that are willing to say, yes, you can come and get on my horse.

Or you can come and ride my horse for a fee for a price if you’re willing to pay that. And so I think that’s where you kind of get that. The people that are more willing to say like, oh, if you pay me, I would let you, but do they have that have the ability to pay for that based on all the other events that we have to try and fund and do and go to events.

But it definitely needs to be a priority. And hopefully finding those facilities that say like, yeah, we, will allow pentathlete to come in and train on these horses. We want to help you guys. You are a part, even though you are not underneath equestrian, we still want to see that. We want to see the success and not that frowned upon.

And so I think they could step in and help out too. That also might be something else. The equestrian federations being able to step in and be like, Hey, we’ll help support you guys to help your riding skills because we care about horses and we care about your safety. So being able to try and pull forces together to increase that that could be an option too. But then that’s a lot of work um making those connections, being able to find the right places to, to have facilities for that to happen.

[00:46:21] Jill: Yeah. Just imagine calling somebody up. Hi, I’m Samantha. I’m a modern pentathlete.

I need to ride a lot of strange horses. Can you help me? Stable after stable? No, especially getting over jumps that are that high, because I mean, the horse has to be trained for that much.

[00:46:42] Alison: The horse can get injured very easily as well.

[00:46:45] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:46:46] Jill: I was reading a little bit about like, just the evolution. I mean, modern pentathlon just continues to evolve over time, just with the way the shooting used to be. And it used to be moving targets and stationary targets, and now everything is so–

[00:46:59] Alison: they did, they were there a lot of pigeons involved?

[00:47:02] Jill: I don’t know, but it was moving targets.

[00:47:05] Samantha: I think they have like flip-up targets. So they shot, they shot .22s and they had flip-up targets, which, I mean, totally. We did that off at basic training for army. And I was like, oh man, I wonder if this is what pentathlon was like back in the day. It was, it was pretty cool.

But I was like, that would be fun. And they actually, for the horseback riding, they used to do cross country. In cross country, those jumps don’t fall down. Like you and the horse are going down. So I’m like, at least we’re not doing cross country anymore because people would really be dropping left and right.

Like that’s a lot more dangerous.

[00:47:38] Alison: Right. Or could they change the horseback riding element too? Like you were saying, lowering the jumps or making it a different format that would be safer for both horse and rider and keep the integrity of the competition, because what happened in Tokyo, it makes you question the integrity of the competition, because clearly these horses were not in a position to handle what they were asked to handle, which isn’t fair to you as the athlete.

[00:48:01] Samantha: Absolutely.

[00:48:04] Jill: I have you gone back to watch any of this?

[00:48:06] Samantha: I have, yes. I mean the articles after articles from like, oh gosh,

[00:48:13] Jill: but just to see Annika Schleu just break on the horse is really heartbreaking in a way, because you feel all the pressure of the event, of the pandemic, release itself on her face at that moment. You still have another combined event after that. How do you pull yourself together?

[00:48:34] Samantha: Yeah, it’s heartbreaking. I’ve been in situations in Mexico City. Or we remember

[00:48:38] Jill: that on

[00:48:40] Samantha: The horse slid out from under me and I mean, you’re just like it, it’s scary. You’re shook up about it and then, yeah, you’ll have to pull yourself together to go and finish the competition. But even for her, it’s like the medal, a medal was on the line. And I mean, that’s hard when you’ve worked so hard for so long. And that’s a part of being an athlete. It’s just those emotions learning how to navigate and control those, but being in a situation like that, it’s, I mean on a stage, like the Olympics it’s hard. And when you feel everything just crumble underneath you, out of something you really can’t control. That’s, that’s where you saw. Yeah. Like you said, all that emotion just got let out.

[00:49:19] Alison: How was that locker room after the riding portion? Like where you all kind of feeling that moment?

[00:49:27] Samantha: Yes. And we all know each other very well. I mean, like I said, when I was in there kind of trying to relax, you’re just looking around and like athlete after athlete walks in and like there’s tears, or like someone’s happy, someone’s crying. And then Annika walks in and I was just like, oh my gosh, what just happened?

And so it’s kind of like, there’s nothing really you can do. Like the Brazilian girl. I know she, her wrist was pretty injured and she didn’t really speak very much English, but I just went over and I gave her a hug and I was like, it’s like, I mean, you don’t, you don’t know what to say to them because you’re just like, I’m sorry. That sucks. And you just, that’s all you can do. Like it’s hard. Um So like, and I mean, Annika had her teammates, her coaches there to talk with her through that and just make that decision. It’s like, all right. Just, finish out the event and do the best you can at this point. I’m sorry.

[00:50:19] Alison: Yeah, we got it. We got to do better for the athletes and the horses and everyone involved is not doing okay with the, with where we are right now.

[00:50:27] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:50:28] Jill: So you’re in the army. Are you staying in the army or do you have like a set tour?

 

[00:50:33] Samantha: I’ve been in for a little over four years now and I’m still like learning all kinds of new stuff. So, yes, I will get out of active duty in December. And I did sign a contract to start with a National Guard unit here in Colorado Springs, starting in January. So I’ll do that for a year. And then that also too will kind of allow me to, if I do want to decide to keep going as an athlete I have the opportunity open.

And if not, I have another opportunity too, with a medical company that I’m getting involved with to work on some medical stuff. I’ve always had a huge passion for the medical field. And then, like I said, I have this Pilates position, so I’m planning to start teaching more. Once I get out of active duty and I’m not doing so much with– getting out is quite the– in the military, they do not make it very easy. Um But I they also do want to set you up. And a lot of those people that have joined say when they were 17 or 18 and they get out after three years and they think they can just go out and get a job. It’s like, well, How are you going to pay for where you live, like all of this stuff, putting your resume together.

So they try to utilize and give you really useful tools to go out into the workforce and succeed, have more success, give you those financial tools, veteran benefits, all of that stuff. And I also will be going to. There’s the National Strength and Conditioning Association that’s here in Colorado Springs. So I’m going to get my, I’m going to start studying for my CSCS, the certified strength and conditioning specialist. And then from there, I can kind of see if I want to pursue more with personal training or coaching in that sense. But I figured that would be a good way to get my foot in the door. If I want to pursue a master’s degree. Kind of have a lot of different options, which is difficult.

And I’ve had to navigate that the past couple months because it does- December’s coming up quick. So I’ve had to kind of. I worked through a lot of this stuff, but the army has been very supportive and I think they’re sad to see me go, but they also understand that it’s yeah, your family. Your family is important and they really respect that.

Especially being in the military, you are a family and I’m always going to have that family of athletes and my leadership that I’ve had there and all those teammates from different sports and my sport. So knowing that I think it was, I didn’t want to leave and I didn’t want to be like I’m, I’m done, but I also, I didn’t want to be in for another three years, at least through the Olympics. I knew that we wanted to have a family. And so making that decision of being like, okay, I still want to do some time in the military and give back, try the National Guard. And so gonna give that a try and stay here in Colorado Springs. So that’ll be, that’ll be good.

[00:53:12] Jill: Is it difficult to try to, instead of follow directions or follow the regiment of your training to create the direction of where your life should go.

[00:53:23] Samantha: Oh, yes, absolutely. I feel so lost. And I feel like I am not productive with my time because I’m like, I’m kind of being pulled in all these different directions and I’m like, I need to build a schedule. Like I need to, like, at this time I need to go for a run. And if I know that I’m like, okay, before my run, I can do this.

And after like, I just needed to start prioritizing things because yeah, I was like, every day was still regimented on I swim and I run it this time and I fence it this time I’m going to shoot. It’s like every bit of every day was like structured and scheduled. And I, I like that as a person, like I know where I need to be and go and do stuff.

And so now being able to make those other priorities and make that schedule and also to kind of Be a little bit more forgiving with myself and just say like, it’s not normal to work out four times a day. Like that’s not realistic. You can’t do that as a normal person. Maybe some people can, but like, I need to learn how to tone it back.

And my husband was like, okay, one workout a day. And I was like, can I at least get like two, maybe two? And then we’ll like ease in from there.

[00:54:29] Alison: We’ll ween you off it.

[00:54:32] Samantha: Cause it was like, and maybe a slight addiction. At the same time too. It’s yeah, that regiment, I think it does help me stay more productive because if I know, like I have this time blocked out to go for a run and I’m like, I have something to look forward to.

So I’m like, okay, I just need to get this done. And then I can go for a run or I need to do this. And um so that’s kind of helped, but figuring that out has been definitely. Yeah. it’s been confusion. And I think that’s where like that mental fatigue kind of comes into. Cause they’re just like, I I, I could do this and a lot of people want to help, which is amazing.

There’s so many great connections, but at the same time too, it’s overwhelming because you’re like, I need to figure out what I want. And I think some do on some kind of deep digging on that side of things too, is where having your family support you and kind of ask you those hard questions of what do you really want?

Close, the athlete mind for a minute? What do you really want to do? Just try. If you fail at it, you can try something else. And I think that’s the hard part as an athlete. You don’t want to fail. You want to keep trying hard and you don’t want to quit something. And so it’s like telling myself it’s okay to end this door.

And if I don’t enjoy it, I can start something else. Even though that might be challenging, it might be hard. It’s not quitting. You’re just trying to find a different path that you’re, you have more passion or you are going to excel more at.

[00:55:47] Jill: How’s your body been transitioning from competition mode down to couple workouts

a day

[00:55:54] Samantha: I think it’s probably, it’s probably liking it a lot more. I’ve been sleeping a little bit better. And that definitely, I just think I was like chronic. I had like chronic fatigue and stress. Over-training and so like, my foot is finally feeling a lot better.

That’s always kind of been a nagging injury, kind of like had some nagging shoulder stuff, my knees which I’m still running. So like, my knees still kind of bothered me, but some like other nagging pains, I’m like, oh, they’re finally kind of going away. Like I don’t wake up every morning and just like ache everywhere, just a little, little places here and there.

So I can definitely feel like, I think my body’s a little bit more grateful and I have a little bit more spunk when I go out for if I’m only swimming like two or three days a week, I have a little bit more energy. Cause I’m not trying to crush it every single day. A hundred percent. And so I think kind of being able to go out to, and just, I’m not trying so hard to hit certain times, I’m just going out.

Cause I, I enjoy it and I love it. And having that mentality, I’ve worked so hard as I’ve kind of always had these workouts to accomplish, which I love to do, but just going out and you’re like, I can kind of like do whatever I want, which is kinda nice for once.

[00:57:04] Jill: Thank you so much, Samantha, you can follow Sam @SamanthaAUSA on Twitter and Insta, and she’s a good follow too.

[00:57:13] Alison: She is. She posts some interesting stuff. So UIPM, which is the governing body for modern pentathlon. I mean, since when is modern pentathlon the lead headline of the Olympic story, except when a coach punches a horse and when the governing body decides to do something about it.

[00:57:34] Jill: Very true. I didn’t realize that they had had a similar issue in Rio and this just happened to fall in the right place when people were watching. And somebody said, what’s up with that? With the horse, and the breakdown of Anneka Schleu as she could not control her horse and get it to jump.

[00:57:57] Alison: I mean, as we mentioned in the interview, Sam had that issue in Mexico City where she got thrown twice. I mean, this is a consistent problem in this sport. The horse riding round is unfair. There’s no two ways around it. We’ve all had the experience of getting behind the wheel of a new car. And you don’t know where the blinker is. You don’t know where the windshield wiper is. You, don’t know how sensitive the brake and the gas are.

And it’s like being put in a brand new car, and then they say, okay, go to a Formula One race in Monte Carlo. You can’t do it, and it’s dangerous.

[00:58:30] Jill: Right. And by dangerous, I mean, riders do get thrown from these horses. And that is very, very dangerous. And I didn’t realize how high the jumps were for the Olympics and I get that the UIPM is making what almost seems like a knee jerk reaction of, oh my goodness, we have all this controversy and we can’t have any controversy. Cause we’re always in danger of getting dropped from the Olympics and let’s finally do something to fix it. They didn’t try lowering the jumps or like Samantha said, making the course a little more technical.

[00:59:04] Alison: Or doing something different with the horses. Like Sam was saying, it used to be cross-country, which we know is extremely difficult, but is there something else they could do? But on the other hand, there’s no way having unknown riders on a horse is good for the horse. I mean, that’s gotta be incredibly stressful on those animals. This is not a good system all the way around.

It’s not safe for anybody. It’s not fair for anybody. I think fans can get with weather conditions change, and some people are better in wind and some people are better in heat because you can train for that. You can prepare for that. This strange horse. There’s no way you can truly train for that, because I think about it this way. So if you’ve ever dealt with toddler, whether you’re a parent or a babysitter, any of those things, what works for one upset toddler does not work for another. You have to know the kid, and that’s the same with a horse.

I mean, that’s kind of your level of communication, toddler and horse, and all the techniques you use with one toddler doesn’t work with the next toddler you’re working with. Even siblings. And generally the toddler is not going to throw you across the field and possibly break your bone, or you’re not going to injure the toddler so severely that it ends its career. Both of those options are on the table when you’re talking about horse riding. And I think that’s part of what fans reject the sport, besides the complicatedness, of it besides the inaccessibility of it. But there’s also a truly an element of it just being unfair.

[01:00:47] Jill: Yeah. And, a lot of the athletes are in the sport are speaking out against this change because they love the riding portion and I can get that the horse riding element is probably fun to some extent. I mean, riding horses is a lot of fun, but, and, and of course the other element they bring in is the history of the event. But the event has changed over the years, as you mentioned, cross country course. And we kind of can’t forget that a random guy made up this sport. He’s not even much of an athlete that we know of. And just decided, let me make up the sport. Let me make up this story and let me put these five random sports together in this romantic idea of what a soldier would do in battle a long, long time ago. Not to mention that horses don’t go into battle today.

[01:01:42] Alison: And I don’t see too many people using swords.

[01:01:46] Jill: Right. So we’ll see, I mean, the UIPM is supposed to be making an announcement anytime now, because yeah, they said they have to get this decision made. the other elements of it are it’s being made in secret by an executive board. Inside the Games has had some exclusive stories on this, and they’ve been reporting that, Executive board meetings, not necessarily everyone is present, they’re done in secret. And it sounds like there’s not much athlete input, which I think unfortunately for a good deal of federations, there still isn’t a ton of athlete input. But that sounds like it may be the case, which of course is very distressing if you’re an athlete and you’re going, what is happening to my sport,

[01:02:31] Alison: It’s a major, it would be an unprecedented change, truly.

[01:02:36] Jill: Exactly. But the other detail that is in this Inside the Games story buried in there is that LA 2028is supposed to announce its event program this December. Seven years before the games began in LA. And if you want to go on tradition, this would be the year that LA would have been awarded the games.

I don’t want to say, well, why are they doing the events so far in advance? Because in a way it kind of makes sense because there’s a lot of sports that want to get into LA 20, 28, and they can stop the lobbying, which is it’s probably pretty expensive to get a sport into the games.

You can have plenty of time to do athlete development and, things like that. So, It’s all very weird and it seems like a lot is happening, but it’s almost like LA has too much time on his hands and they’re like, well, we should make this decision now.

[01:03:29] Alison: And what’s also very strange is, what is this going to mean for weightlifting and boxing? They have not gotten their act together.

[01:03:35] Jill: Right!

[01:03:36] Alison: And do you put them on the LA or do you not? I mean, we’re still talking about them getting pulled for Paris. What do you do there?

[01:03:46] Jill: Yeah, that’s a very good point. I don’t know. That will be interesting to see when that news comes out,

ah, that sound means it’s time for our history moment. This whole year we’ve been focusing on Atlanta 1996, because it is the 25th anniversary of those games. Alison, it’s your turn for a story. What do you got?

[01:04:09] Alison: I’m so excited this week, because after my last story, which I did about closing ceremonies, I was feeling very much like all my stories are, done. I’ve kind of found everything I can find. And then I found this.

So, you know, those inflatable tube men with the faces and the arms, and you’ll see them blowing outside of say a car dealership,

[01:04:30] Jill: Right? Nothing makes me want to buy a car more than the inflatable man waving.

[01:04:36] Alison: They were invented for the 96 Olympics.

So artist Peter Minshall from Trinidad and Tobago was inspired by the giant puppets. Those larger than life puppets, you’ll see at Caribbean festivals. So he was working with these tubes of blowing air to say, how could I use these? And in 1995, he was invited by the producers of the opening ceremonies to present different ideas. Several artists were.

So he was working with these tubes and then he got together with Doron Gazit, an Israeli artist who got the idea of putting faces on the tubes. And then they both, they added arms and legs and they created the flyboys, which were featured in the opening. ceremony.

[01:05:25] Jill: Which I do vaguely remember?

[01:05:26] Alison: Yeah, there were these giant white tubes and they had arms and legs too. So it’s more complicated than what you see now outside your car dealership, but the idea was it danced like the puppets. Oh, that was Minshall’s inspiration. So cut to 20 01. Gazit files a patent for these things without telling Minshall and start selling them through his company, Air Dimensional Designs. Minshall is not happy about this and has spoken out repeatedly against the patent that was issued on these things.

[01:06:03] Jill: Wow.

[01:06:06] Alison: And all, because he wanted the fluid dancing with a face

[01:06:10] Jill: The collaborator got the patent and the artist does not.

[01:06:14] Alison: Correct, but that’s okay. It’s I, I think the patents expired at this point because so many people have copied it and it was, and it’s one of those things where it’s how much copying, then it becomes something else. So you don’t have to feel bad about enjoying the flyboys around

[01:06:33] Jill: Nor do I have to boycott the car dealerships.

[01:06:36] Alison: We do not.

Welcome to TKFLASTAN.

[01:06:48] Jill: Yes, that’s time for our Team Keep the Flame Alive Update, our citizens of our country TKFLASTAN. You’ve got all the news this week. Let me know what’s going on.

[01:06:59] Alison: I’ve got lots of things. So Jacqueline Simoneau has been elected to the Canadian Olympic Committee athletes Commission

[01:07:04] Jill: Good for her!

[01:07:06] Alison: Connor Fields is still recovering from his crash in Tokyo. He had surgery this week to repair torn ligaments in his shoulder and damaged his bicep. The good news is that the only reason he noticed his shoulder injury was because his head injury is improving so much.

[01:07:23] Jill: Wow. So the brain said I got to heal first, and then I’ll tell you about this nagging problem you’re going to have.

[01:07:31] Alison: Yes. So now he’s in a sling and doing PT, but he’s recovering well from that.

[01:07:35] Jill: Good.

[01:07:36] Alison: Ness Murphy has been named to Athletics Canada’s national high-performance program. The first openly transgender athlete to receive the support.

[01:07:45] Jill: Congratulations. That’s exciting.

[01:07:48] Alison: And now we have a meeting of TKFLASTANIS, which I love. Shooters Ginny Thrasher and McKenna Geer will discuss perseverance and the Paralympics in an Instagram live on Thursday, November 9th at noon Eastern time. And that will be on Ginny’s Instagram account, which is @GinnyThrasher.

And the best. CEO of USA Weightlifting. Phil Andrews got married at Disneyland last week.

[01:08:12] Jill: Congratulations, Phil.

[01:08:15] Alison: He was dressed up as Prince Charming. , It was beautiful. So congratulations to him and his new wife.

[01:08:20] Jill: We do have a little bit of updates from Tokyo 2020.

Remember Raven Saunders?

[01:08:30] Alison: Pretty much one of the only podium protests we ended up seeing in Tokyo

[01:08:35] Jill: Shot putter, Raven Saunders will not be sanctioned at all for the protests that she made.

The IOC has decided. They had an inquiry. The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee cleared her stating that her gesture was quote a peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that was respectful of her competitors.

And it was. It was after the metals were awarded, the anthems were all over and they had to stand there for the photographers. And that is when she gestured an X with her arms. And she said, that is the intersection of where all oppressed people meet. So, it’s nice to know that this has concluded relatively quickly and that there’s an avenue for expressing your opinions now,

[01:09:20] Alison: Right. I mean, Raven Saunders has shown you can be respectful, but you don’t have to be silent.

[01:09:26] Jill: And that is courtesy of The Sports Examiner.

[01:09:28] Alison: Oh yeah, we have a Winter Olympics coming in three months.

[01:09:42] Jill: Yeah, who knew? We have more kit. That is the exciting thing. So the US released its closing ceremonies kit, courtesy of Ralph Lauren. What do you think?

[01:09:51] Alison: I think it looks like every other Ralph Lauren kit that we’ve seen for the past 15 years.

[01:09:58] Jill: There’s a Buffalo plaid on it.

[01:10:00] Alison: Get a new designer, Team USA, please. Please.

[01:10:04] Jill: So, yes, it’s heavy on the navy. The coat is got a Buffalo plaid pattern, which is basically blue and red checkered front to it.

It looks cool in a way that when you have Team USA gear, it’s going to be cool and you feel official, but it’s not very different from anything else that we’ve seen. I think it’s getting to be very hard to produce traditional American fashion and also make it hip.

[01:10:28] Alison: They need a new designer. They are playing to the crowd and what can we sell the most of? And it’s come out very watered down and very bland. They’re not even using different shades of blue. It’s very boring ordinary navy blue. I mean, there are so many shades of blue, so many shades of red, a little, a little hip would be nice.

I mean, I would even go back to the ugly sweaters from Sochi better than this. Just something

Well, and Canada has shown us that, there’s different shades of red.

True. Honestly. I would be happier with the Canada blood red, then this milk toast navy blue.

[01:11:15] Jill: Interesting. Germany’s kit is a little bolder.

They unveiled their kit, which is going to be representing “rebellious optimism.”

[01:11:25] Alison: Speaking of color, they did an excellent job of using the German colors, but making them interesting. Like using different tones of the yellow and black and red.

[01:11:39] Jill: Yeah. So they have a bright kind of neon yellow representing the yellow portion.

They do have this mustard yellow color in some of their clothes and a red as well. The coats are kind of color blocked with, they’re mostly black with a yellow color blocking on the left side and also the same color blocking on the pants that they have. And then there’s a really funky Stripe along the back or, or the sleeves that is I don’t want to say an ombre, the colors, but it does show the colors of the flag kind of along a Stripe,

[01:12:13] Alison: like a chromo scope where it transitions from each color into the next.

[01:12:18] Jill: Exactly.

[01:12:19] Alison: And it’s got funky quilting on it too. It’s not like an ordinary Stripe quilting. It has designs within the quilts.

[01:12:26] Jill: Yeah. So it is interesting. It will be different and something, honestly, it will be eye catching as it comes into the stadium.

[01:12:34] Alison: A lot better than that navy blue boring thing. That we’ve seen 12 times before

[01:12:42] Jill: We talked about the fact that the men’s hockey team from China might not be allowed into the tournament, even though the host country also always gets the bye, but Hey, guess what?

The International Hockey Federation and the Chinese Ice Hockey Association are going to work together to make sure that China is in this tournament, even though they will probably get blown out of the water in every game they play. And that was something that the ice hockey federation president said. Yeah, we don’t really want that, but I’m guessing some conversations happened behind closed doors because now they’re working together.

The two organizations are working together to schedule a couple of games with the Chinese national team to work with a another hockey team perhaps in, in Russia to get a couple of games in this month and be like an intensive development camp, to which I say, you knew this was going to be a problem.

[01:13:39] Alison: Why was this not happening three years ago? Why aren’t you doing this every year during the hockey season where the Chinese national team could do a tour of Russia,

[01:13:48] Jill: Right? Or something to develop.

[01:13:50] Alison: Or a couple of teams from Russia come into China. I mean, this is the equivalent of like brushing your teeth really hard, right before you go to the dentist.

It’s not going to make that much of a difference, but somehow everyone feels better that they do.

[01:14:04] Jill: Yeah. Or I wonder if China said, cause we don’t really know the whole behind the scenes. I wonder if they said, yeah, we’ve got a covered. We have some people and we got some coaches we’ll be fine. We’ll bring the level up.

And then this year the, the hockey Federation went. Yeah, you’re really not that good. We’re going to have a problem here. And they said, no, there will be no problem here. Then they made something happen. So it will be interesting to see.

If you remember, they had a projection mapping in Tokyo during the a hundred meters race in the national stadium for athletics. There’s going to be more of that at Beijing per Panasonic, who developed the technology for Tokyo. Apparently at every ice venue, they’re going to do projection onto the field of play, according to an article from Inside the Games.

So that could be interesting to see what happens. I mean, hockey introductions could be cool.

[01:14:56] Alison: I’m wondering how that’s going to work on a short track. There’s not a lot of ice to project onto,

[01:15:00] Jill: But it could be very exciting for the viewers. So that’s very cool.

Volunteer recruitment is almost done. They got about a million applicants and are taking about 20,000 volunteers. It looks like most of them are coming from inside China . And they apparently deployed volunteer robots at well, the volunteers, the robots didn’t volunteer themselves, but they use robots at an ice hockey game and plan to use them at Beijing 2022, claiming that one robot can perform the work of three to four volunteers.

I wonder if it will be Mike on the robot.

[01:15:39] Alison: I was more thinking what volunteer jobs will we not have anymore? Will we have to download our consciousness into a robot to be able to do the volunteer jobs that we’ve always wanted to do.

[01:15:52] Jill: I don’t know. It’s very curious. It’ll be interesting to see how that works.

There is a new promotional film, short film, about five minutes long called The Date With Snow and Ice made by director Ding Sheng and actor Yi Yangqianxi, also known as Jackson Yee and it’s, we’ll have a link to that in the show notes. It’s on YouTube and it’s, the flame fire. There’s a lot of snow. There’s some ice. It’s supposed to be moving.

[01:16:20] Alison: The Date with Snow and Ice sounds like the worst double date. Who would you pick? Would you pick snow or ice?

[01:16:32] Jill: And if you were Team Sweden, could you swap at some point?

So other last big thing about China is that, and we’ve said a little bit about this, about how hard it is to find information about what’s going on at the games, but the Foreign Correspondants’ Club of China has made a big statement and this is posted on Twitter, that they are concerned about the lack of transparency and clarity from the organizing committee of Beijing, as well as the IOC with regards to Olympic related reporting in China and the long tweet string talks about how

they were supposed to be allowed to get into see preparations. They’re denied attendance at events they’re prevented from visiting sports venues. They get told, oh, you can come to this event. And then at the last minute, say, oh no, this person cannot come and cover it. And there’s not enough time to get somebody there.

And it’s really showing how much China wants to control the communication. And. I get that sense as well, because we have had so much difficulty finding out basic information. I am on our media extranet almost every day, and there’s almost no new news telling us what is happening, It’s frustrating. And part of me thinks the IOC kind of doesn’t care because it gets well. If China is controlling the image, they are so concerned about controlling their brand as well.

[01:18:03] Alison: Do you think the IOC doesn’t care? I think the IOC is, I mean, I hate to say this, but I think the IOC is afraid of rocking China’s boat.

[01:18:13] Jill: Oh, that could be, but you know how much they like to control their image as well and their brand. So I wonder if there’s an element of, well, we’re just keeping a tight thing tighter. And of course, I bet everybody is worried about the only element of reporting that will come from foreign press is the talk of the Uighurs and what’s happening, which is not true.

People want to report on other elements of the games. What bothers me about this is that the unintended consequence means that I am less excited about these games every day that goes on.

[01:18:53] Alison: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because it feels like not only are they going to keep such tight control over the press and the image, but does that mean that access to everything in general is going to be so restricted? That it’s not even going to feel like the Olympics.

[01:19:10] Jill: Yeah. Good question. I don’t, I don’t know. It’s it’s disappointing. And that is something the IOC cannot afford to have is lack of interest in their games, because who’s going to report, is it just going to be Chinese government controlled media and then other outside bloggers who just pick up those stories and run with them?

Or are you going to get good coverage by well-respected outlets? And continue that interest. Otherwise, if you lose, you already have a problem with a younger generation that does not tune into as much of the games as you would like. If you lose them on one of your games that costs a fortune to put on what is it?

[01:19:50] Alison: This goes back to what we were talking earlier about LA releasing its program seven years in advance. And I think the problem once again, that the IOC has run into is in 2 you would never award the games to China. Maybe would if you just want to have an endless piggybank, but in general, if you’re trying to go for good press China ain’t it on so many levels and yet, because they awarded them so long ago and honestly they shouldn’t have awarded them to China, even when they did. That was just so problematic.

But you’ve got half of the IOC’s mind going with, let’s award them so far in advance so that we can build excitement and get everything set up. But by the time you get there, it’s old news and doesn’t matter. And you’ve got all these other issues coming on. So you really are setting yourself up for, 10 years of bad press.

[01:20:47] Jill: Yeah, because I mean, any major problem that comes up for LA seems to get tied to the Olympics somehow.

[01:20:54] Alison: Right. Like even things they were talking about that the airport has to get expanded and somehow that’s all related to the Olympics, which yes, the airport does need to be upgraded and updated, but LA is a major city.

It probably needs an airport upgrade anyway. And that it’s affecting neighborhoods and effecting budgets and all of those things would be true, but somehow we’re all blaming the Olympics for everything, which isn’t fair either. So the IOC absolutely needs a new perspective and I’m hoping, given we’ve got John Coates, Dick Pound, that whole generation is retiring right about in the next year or so, and are you going to see a significant change? Or is it we’re so inbred that it can’t change?

[01:21:37] Jill: Good question. Sure. So the IOC has said that they will address these concerns.

[01:21:40] Alison: And hey, they did have an acknowledgement of the 1972 Munich massacre at this opening ceremonies past in Tokyo, and we have been waiting for that since 1976, so maybe there is hope.

[01:21:54] Jill: Maybe

Speaking of the IOC, one quick note from them with a thousand days to go until Paris 2024. They have opened up an Olympic shop online. So you can shop for Olympic merch. We will have a link to that in the show notes.

[01:22:14] Alison: Take all my money, right. And they will take all my money

[01:22:18] Jill: They are selling old mascots. So you could get a Waldi, you could get a Misha.

[01:22:22] Alison: Soohorang,

[01:22:24] Jill: maybe.

[01:22:25] Alison: I may have to add that to my Christmas list because somehow I never ended up with a Soohorang.

[01:22:32] Jill: Well, I’ll have to work on that. All right. And on that note, we will wrap it up for this week. Let us know what you think about the changes that could be coming to modern pentathlon.

[01:22:42] Alison: We love hearing from you. Email us@flamealivepodatgmail.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348 that’s twos, zero eight. Flame it. Get at us on social at flame alive pod, and be sure to join. Keep the Flame Alive podcast group on Facebook.

[01:23:00] Jill: Next week, we will have more stories from the Olympics and Paralympics. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, keep the flame alive.

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