Josh Williamson, our very first TKFLASTANI, makes a return visit on the show. He’s no longer an Olympic hopeful; he’s now an actual Olympian, and we couldn’t be more proud of him. Josh tells us about his experiences at Beijing 2022, which involve COVID positives, an unusual competition, lots of issues with security during the Closing Ceremonies, and a robot who said he was beautiful.
In our look back at Albertville 1992, Jill has one of the many amazing stories from the speed skating oval. This one features German Jacqueline Börner, gold medalist in the 1500m, and her amazing journey to qualify for these Games.
Plus, an Olympic appearance by someone we came to know in a different capacity over the last year!
In Team Keep the Flame Alive news, our TKFLASTANIs have been quiet, but beach volleyball player Kelly Cheng is competing, and sports agent Jesse Lichtenberg appeared on MarketPryce’s YouTube show during their Women’s History Month Series.
We also have news from Paris 2024. Who’s still close to getting KO’d? Yep, boxing is still a concern for the IOC.
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Josh Williamson.
Note: While we make efforts to ensure the accuracy of this transcript, it is machine-generated and contains errors. Please use the audio file as the record of note.
Jill: [00:00:00] This episode is sponsored by Winter\Victor Studio.. 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?
Alison: Hello? I am realizing how much I miss all the winter sports.
Jill: It got hot, didn’t it?
Alison: It got hot. All of a sudden and sticky, at least around me, the bugs are starting to come back. The phlegm is starting to increase, but I really can’t complain because when we were in China, neither one of us could breathe because it was so dry. Ethel and her menthols that I mentioned last week was in full force.
So I, I would like to go to visit some curling ice.
Jill: I, I would, I would have to agree with you on that. Before we get started with today’s show, we have a correction from last week from listener Don, who noted that we, we talked about the Boston bid. Oh, we were talking about bids and who drives them. And he reminded us that the Boston bid was actually conceived by two guys in their twenties, unrelated to construction.
And that’s w like that light bulb went back on in my head. Two guys said, Hey, it would be cool if Boston was in the Olympics. And then the bid ended up being led by a commercial real estate and developer.
Alison: Do you think those two guys were at Dunkin Donuts or at the bar?
Jill: Oh, they were probably at Dunkie’s.
Alison: I get one of those kruellers and none of that iced coffee, only the girls get the ice coffee.
Jill: Oh, speaking of listener, Don, we’d like to thank him and a Winter\Victor Studio for their support of our show. Winter\Victor Studio believes sport and beautiful design go hand in hand. And that a designer’s versatility is just as important as an athlete’s dexterity. Winter\Victor provides distinctive graphic design to clients in sport from logos to digital communications.
Winter\Victor brings the same passion to design that our clients bring to the field of play. Add a responsive and versatile designer to your firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, we are delighted to have bobsledder Josh Williamson back on the show. Josh was a winner on the first season of the USOPC’s, The Next Olympic Hopeful, and was our very first interview.
We followed Josh along in his journey from Olympic hopeful to official Olympian. And he made the U S bobsled team for Beijing 2022, but barely made it to Beijing because of a positive COVID test. He did get there in time to compete in the 4-man competition and he pushed for driver Hunter Church.
The team placed at 10th overall in the final standings. We talked with Josh last week about his experiences in Beijing. Take a listen.
. Josh, welcome back to the states. Welcome back to the show.
Josh Williamson: It’s good to be back.
Jill: Exciting to have you on again.
I don’t even know where to start with Beijing.
Alison: Well, I want to start with the Team USA trip to the White House. And that, since that just happened, it was just this week. Tell us a little bit about that and what that was like.
Josh Williamson: Yeah, of course it was really cool. I mean, again, it was obviously, I think, I think it was one of the best parts about it was, it was the first time from my understanding that the Summer and Winter Olympians all at once and Olympians and Paralympians, it was really cool.
It was like the coolest experience ever. We got to meet everybody. I got to meet so many different athletes from so many different sports. It was like on top of all the fun events we did, they had a summit the first day, mostly focused on like a job fair, cause a lot of athletes, if they are transitioning, it’s important for them to have those resources, which I guess is a newer thing this past decade, I would say that they’ve started implementing, which is really fun because they had a lot of businesses there.
They just want to you know meet you. And if you were interested in the opportunities, even if you were continuing sport, which is where I’m at, I’m going to do another definitely at least another four years. So for me, that was more what I was looking at. And those that was just cool options. The next day we did an impact day in the morning, we were packing some bags for, I can’t remember the name of the charity off the top of my head.
I wish I could, but they were packing bags and sending them out to kids and writing notes, encouraging notes, mostly to do a sport, [00:05:00] packing sports equipment and stuff that they would be kind of have free access to, which was really cool. That was a fun kind of part of the day. And then that night we had a gala, which was really fun, but you had to get up pretty early the next morning for the White House.
So you had to make sure you weren’t having too much fun because we had like a 7:00 AM bus ride to the White House. So we did that and got over there. And that was obviously an amazing experience and went to the airport. Flew home. So it went by pretty fast, but it was fun because a lot of my teammates I hadn’t seen since the Olympics and some guys were retiring.
So, a few times a summer, we get to see each other. It might be the last time for awhile. So it was nice to catch up again and kind of just get to see everyone now.
Alison: I wasn’t sure ’cause you mentioned you were at a wedding. I did see a picture of you and a foreign national all dressed up. And I was wondering, are we now smuggling Canadians into these events?
Josh Williamson: Well, I, I would’ve, if I could’ve, I really would’ve, she would’ve loved it, but get to bring her to the white house. But she, we were at my friend’s wedding in Dallas, Kristen and I, it was a lot of fun. We love going to weddings. My last wedding we got to go to was my cousin’s back two years ago.
And that was a great time, so we, I was fun to get out there and it was her first time in Texas. I hadn’t been in years. I have some family in Texas. My mom’s from Texas. So I have a lot of family out there and it was just really nice. My grandfather went to seminary in Fort Worth, so we got to see that a little bit.
And it was just, my grandmother was born in Fort worth. So it’s always fun, kind of going back there, but I hadn’t been since high school, maybe, you know so it was fun to show her around a little.
Alison: Now we’re good. We’re going to talk about her a little bit more and I promise I will give you an out of any question you want.
You don’t want to answer about Kristen. I promise, but
Josh Williamson: I’m pretty open about all that.
Alison: I mean, I figured it was okay since it was posted on Instagram. Yeah. Okay. So let’s go back in time to probably the best moment was when you got named to the team. Cause last time we talked to you, you had not gotten named to the Olympic team yet.
So how did you find out what was that like?
Josh Williamson: Kris and I actually talked about this and some of my teammates too, it’s a really interesting experience because I think from my understanding from guys, who’ve been in the sport before me and athletes, who’ve just done the sport. When that team is named, that’s a huge weight lifted off their shoulders, right?
It’s like this big moment where they just have so many things to look forward to, and it’s just really cool moment. But for us, we were in St. Moritz, we were in Switzerland. We just finished the world cup race, the, I want to say it was the last race of the year. So generally, sometimes the team gets named and there’s a race after that.
So it’s like the season’s not even over yet for some people, but for us the season was over. So that was nice. And at first it definitely got me excited, but it was very weird feeling because it was almost, it almost didn’t, you didn’t feel secure because I think it mostly doing COVID was kind of what we all agreed upon when we all talked about how that felt.
Because at the end of the day, there still were no guarantees. And at that point we’re two and a half weeks out and we’re going to fly back to California. We’re going to be in California for a bit stage in LA. And then we fly over to China. If at any point throughout that process, you test positive and your chances of going start getting really slim, the closer you get to that date that we fly out.
So that was for a lot of us. It was weird. I think Tokyo, the Paralympians and Olympians could probably relate to that as well. The idea that normally you get named a team and it’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulder. And now this time around, it was like, it almost made it more stressful because now you’re thinking, but if I get named to an Olympic team, but don’t get to go to an Olympics because I’d guess positive, you know and I guess that’s always the thing with injuries do it’s no different than injuries, but COVID just made it seem different, I guess.
And I think we all couldn’t relate to that. There was, it was definitely a unique experience for these last two groups of athletes who competed at the games, I think, but no surprise there, I guess.
Alison: So you get to LA you’re being processed, you test positive.
Josh Williamson: I was actually staying in Chula Vista at the time. So I guess I will explain our, our travel. We drove from Switzerland to, I want to say it was Munich, I think, Munich. And then we fly from Munich to Los Angeles. That was a long day. We off the plane in Los Angeles or San Diego, sorry, San Diego. And then we drive to Chula Vista, which I mean, Chula Vista, if you don’t know.
20 minutes from the border of Mexico, beautiful area. It was my first time at that training center. And that was it. It was a beautiful spot, but I’d love to go back there if I had more time, more reason to be over in that part of the country, but it was great. And I mean, the day before we head to LA is what we have to start taking COVID tests.
Because at that point, if you’re three days out from the Olympics, they requiring the 72 hour negative 48 hour negative 24 hour negative to get on a flight to China, then you test on the ground. And obviously from there as you guys, you know you test every day after that. So we’re kind of getting in that process.
And first test, I get a call that night from one of the Team USA staff that’s already in China, because they’re the ones who get the results from the hospital, just informing me that I had tested positive, and for me that was really sucks because I [00:10:00] think in the next day and a half, it was when my team was leaving to LA.
So obviously I wasn’t going to be on that bus and a. It was just tough. You know at the end of the day I was staying, my first worry was I get the call while I’m in the dorms and Chula Vista, we’re staying four to a room. So I’m like, I just get out. As soon as I hear that on my phone without saying anything to the guys, I just leave the room because I’m like one I need to get as far away from that as possible.
They didn’t test positive. It’s a little cold that nights that really suck because obviously nobody was anticipating this. And I just sat outside for like three hours just waiting. Cause I, they eventually, I texted them. I said, Hey guys, after I kind of got my thoughts together, I’m like, Hey, I tested positive. I don’t know what that means next for you guys and for me, but I know for me, I’m probably going to be staying in Chula Vista.
So I stayed outside. I guess the USOC got in touch with them. They all had to move out, but nobody really knew. I didn’t know that. So I sat outside for like three hours until I finally got to go back in the room. But the room was obviously. It was very eerie because I was sleeping. Chris Horn, my teammate, we were in a room and I bet I could, I could touch his bed from my bed.
So I was dumbfounded that eventually nobody else positive, which I mean, thank, thank God nobody did, but it was really confusing. We were in a, in a bubble in Chula Vista. We really weren’t leaving the training center for anything. The only people who test positive there were myself, our high-performance director, and one of our sports med staff that was with us, that was the, I was the only athlete in that bubble to test positive. That was, so it was just confusing more than anything. And that was the hardest thing to grapple with, I think is I felt fine. I had tested positive. I really didn’t feel too bad. And I just, I was told I was sick, so I wasn’t gonna be able to compete.
And that was tough, so that’s kinda, I guess, how that process started. It was just a long few weeks of me hanging out in California, everybody else over the China, just watching them.
Alison: Did you ever feel sick? I mean, truly. Did you ever get COVID?
Josh Williamson: I didn’t. I could tell. So I, I have allergies and I know a lot of people do.
I have seasonal allergies. So I was very confused because for example, one morning I woke up and I had like a scratchy throat and I’m like, oh, again, everybody is on 10 here, about if you feel anything. So I was worried, I talked to some staff, I just drank some water and it actually went away. I’m like, okay, I guess I was, I just had a dry throat in the morning.
I need to stop being so paranoid. So did that. And after I tested positive, so often I’d have maybe like a sinus headache or, but really nothing bad. I, it was better than any cold I’ve ever had. What was interesting was after probably five, six days when I’m technically supposed to be kind of like, I shouldn’t be feeling anything, even though I would be testing positive on the test, especially at that higher threshold, China had us testing it.
I was still hitting positive, but I wasn’t feeling obviously anything at that point. They had me take Paxlovid bit, which is the new antiviral from Pfizer. I want to say. Just the idea was anything we can throw at it to get your CT value as high as possible is what we’re going to do. Because at this point, there’s flights leaving every two, three days, but after another week or two, there, there’s no more flights.
And if once the last flight goes, that’s the last ticket to China, so for us it was like, what can we throw at it? We did that. And that made me feel horrible. I was so –it was crazy because for me, I felt fine when I had COVID. I took that Paxlovid morning and night. It was like three pills in the morning, three at night for five days.
It’s like, I it left this like metal taste in your mouth for like four hours. I couldn’t stand up without getting like carsick nauseous. I like, I just felt horrible. It was. And it was, it was really, I guess the hardest part about that. I wasn’t supposed to train when I had COVID because they wanted, you know my immune system to just worry about fighting it. Don’t stress the body outside of resting up.
Then when I started taking Paxlovid, they’re saying, okay, you can start training now if you want, but I can’t, I can’t even, you know, I can really stand up without getting nauseous at that point. So I ended up probably having like almost a week and a half of no training going into the Olympics, which for me was probably the worst part.
Cause you’re watching everybody at the Olympic venue, training, hard lifting the heaviest weight that ever lifted and sprinting. And everything’s kind of coming together at this peak for them. And for me, I’m taking a week and a half where I’m not allowed to even go run outside. So it’s just a mental thing.
Josh Williamson: the way you want to taper.,
Right. Exactly. It was just not ideal for that. And I tried to keep it in my head, you know I’m getting rested. I should feel better. They’re out of my control at that point. But it was just, that was the hardest part to grapple with. And obviously watching opening ceremonies, wasn’t easy, cause that was when everybody talks about, when you’re going to the Olympics, that’s, that’s when it hits you, that’s every teammate I’ve ever had told me.
And now it’s like, well, I’m going to watch it at home. I would like to go to another Olympics. So I still a goal of mine is to experience opening ceremonies, but that was just the card I was dealt, and at the end of the day I still got to compete, which is the most important part I got over there.
And it was I think it was as good of an experience as it could have been given the circumstances. And it was definitely a unique one. So I guess there’s a blessing in that. [00:15:00]
Alison: So I know when I read the Instagram post saying you had tested positive, I started crying because I took this so personally, and then we started posting within our Facebook group and everybody was so devastated and then it became okay, can we do anything to get Josh better?
And I’m like, well, I guess we’ll all start cheering for his white blood cells. I don’t know. So I hope at least you felt all the support because I know your family was, everybody was pulling for you, but what was USA Bobsled, communicating and your teammates and how was all that interaction? When you’re into Chula Vista, they’re going to LA they’re heading over to Beijing and you still got a shot because you’re at the end of the games, but you don’t know.
Josh Williamson: Right. And that was exactly, it just, I, it was hard because for me, obviously, it’s, it was just a roller coaster because some days it was, I woke up and I was like, I’m going to be all right, resting up, let me enjoy this. I’m able to rest for a long time. I’m just going to like, watch some Netflix and that it’s going to be good.
I’m having a good breakfast. You know I woke up and I was ready to do something. And then later that day I’m in tears because it’s like, I’ve not gone to the games. It’s just, it was just this draining. I think that the variation on that spectrum was more draining than it is. Because it’s just hard some days, that’s just a little bit of it.
And I did feel that and support. It was really, that was something that meant a lot to me was it was hard sometimes. Cause sometimes it’s like, you don’t want to hear it. And other times it’s like, I want to hear everybody tell me that I’m going to be okay. And other times you’re just in this shell, I guess for lack of a better word, but it was, it was like, I constantly had people reaching out to me and it was so nice cause it just though I was feeling very alone, like physically, cause I was in quarantine that made it a lot better. Cause it was constant. I got to talk to somebody on the phone or I got to message somebody and I just felt like people and it was even really interesting. Like the news traction I got, I, I, it was so strange to me cause my friend of my dad like reached out to him and he’s like, Hey, I just saw your son like on the nightly news or something.
And he’s like, what? And he asked me about it. I’m like, Hey, he probably means like local news. And it was like, it was like CBS Nightly News or something. I was like, not really the reason I want to be on the news, but I guess it’s something, you know what I mean? So that was to me, like little things like that. And then I’d look at some of the comments and people were very supportive and it was just something that, that those kinds of stuff didn’t mean a lot, even though it was a little bit of a constellation prize.
In some ways, it just made me feel less alone, I guess, is the best way to put it. And it kept my spirits up at the time when it was really easy for them to get down, I guess. And I think that’s probably why he’ll help me get better, faster, frankly, at the end of the day I cleared when I was supposed to, but there’s no guarantees with that.
But I think people keeping me in a positive attitude helps cause everybody knows, if you’re stressing out putting stress on the body, the immune system’s gonna drop. So it’s really hard to think about the fact that, Hey, the more negative you are, you might not get better, faster, but how do you not be negative in that situation?
So I think a lot of people banding around me and helping honestly probably helped me get better, frankly. It just to be as frank as I can, I think it really helped in a lot of ways.
Jill: How long did it take for you to start testing negative or get your CT levels to a point where they’d let you on a plane?
Josh Williamson: So it was really interesting. It was fun. It wasn’t funny in the moment, I guess, but a funny process, but I look back at it is like we, so we were testing at the time at the University of San Diego Medical Network. Cause that was, I was, I guess, nearest to the training center and that was like the, you know that was the most official.
They are, they were partnered with them somehow for like, we know,
Alison: We know all about that.
Josh Williamson: So we got, so we did that. Right. And then we were there for, but it was the hard part was they’d only those tests would get back out. Like I take them first thing in the morning because it needed to be at a certain time.
So it really early and we we’d send them out and then they wouldn’t get back some days till like 4:00 AM. The next day is when I would get the results. So it was hard to whole day. I wasn’t really sure, like, am I even making progress? And, and would, that was really interesting to me was in the U S. I guess it’s not very common for them to give you a CT threshold numbers, like the cycle threshold, that, that number doesn’t really get, it doesn’t really exist I guess.
Or they just don’t have access to it. We’re in Europe, they immediately get it to you. That’s just like with the test. And I guess I was actually the funniest part of all this, I guess, is my teammate, Kyle Wilcox, at the time he was in Chula Vista with me and he cause he was flown in late cause we had Nick Taylor, our alternate athlete had tested positive as well.
So in the event he would not be able to get out, they needed to bring Kyle over. So Kyle was also actually came in late to do this process with me towards the end of it right before we left. And he actually used to work on, I think it’s what do they call the PCR testing? Because they also use that for other things.
He uses it where he built these devices, that people, the military use that field test for like anthrax and like, those are like the same devices that we use to test [00:20:00] COVID at the high level PCR. And I guess all it is. Rapid heating and cooling. And every time they do that, I guess that looks for something.
And if it shows up after every cycle, that’s when you test positive. If nothing shows up after 40 cycles, you’re just negative. Maybe it would have tested positive at 50, but the machine cuts off at 40 and that’s what China was asking to get it at 40. So it turned into a bit of a game of, can we find testing centers that only test a 35 cycled threshold?
Because though it’s not going to keep me negative in China. I can at least start accumulating negative tests because they’re testing at a lower threshold. Like if I can get by 35 passes, then I get a negative, so it just, it just accumulating negative tests is going to be good for me. So we ended up driving like an hour and a half around trying to figure this stuff out and trying to get the different testing sites.
Because at this point, do you want to be committed? He’s like, whatever we can do to get you over there, we’re going to attempt at least. And uh it was just hard though. Cause most places didn’t know what that was. We bring up cycle threshold, and they’re like what do you mean? Like the test just says you’re negative or you’re positive, but I was like explaining to them how their machine works. Trying to explain, okay. On this cycle I will test positive. And can you tell me what that number is or does he receive and do that? And it was like pulling teeth sometimes they just didn’t know. It’s not like, it’s not like they needed that information, but that was something that we really had to dig into.
And I, I learned more about COVID tests in that like two and a half week period than I ever want to know in my entire life. Like I just, I don’t care anymore. I don’t want to think, I don’t want to think about it. Like I know too much. It’s not my field. I don’t even want to look at it anymore. You know So it was a, that was an interesting process for sure, but I, that was just as juggling act and trying to get negative tests.
But knowing that, Hey, that negative test doesn’t guarantee me entry into China because even if I test negative here at 35, I get to China and I test positive under 40, who cares? I go into quarantine there, so I still need to get over. But like trying to navigate that, how that system is in the U S of some places do this.
And like some places that’s based out of an old gas station and other places it’s like the hospital. So it’s kind of like trying to find which one does what, and it’s just a crazy process, but we ended up figuring it all out and it ended up working out. But it was just, that was the juggling act. I think towards the end of it was, how can we get a negative as soon as possible just to start accumulating them, just to have a body of work of, Hey, he’s been negative for a week and a half.
Alison: Right. Yeah. To have, you had to have the 96 hour test, the 72 hour. So you finally get all your tests. At what point did you fly out?
Josh Williamson: I want to say I flew out. So I got in, I don’t know the exact dates, but I got in day before or the first day of official training for two men, which is hard because initially my goal was, if I can get there earlier, I was in contention for a two man spot and eventually I just, the coach had to set me down and say, Hey, it’s not, we’re sorry, and this isn’t performance-based, but you’re just, obviously it’s no, it’s you at risk for you.
If you get there two days before the race, and we ask you to race, you can hurt yourself. You may not perform as well. Then you can’t do four-man. Like, and I understood that the closest, so that was hard. That was one of the many hard things of that process was I had to kind of step away from the two men running, but that I got there, I think the day before, or the first day of official training was the first day I was on the ground in China. So that’s three days before the race. So I want to say that’s puts me like they’re probably a week and a half or a week already into the games. I want to say I got in like the end of the. First or second week of the Olympics?
I think. I can’t remember exactly, but the funny part, again, I don’t, I didn’t really post this part. Cause at this point I was so just like I got on the ground in China and the airport test was, I I’m sure. It was brutal. It was, that was the worst. They put it in your nose and they just leave it for like 30 seconds.
And you’re just sitting there with this like thing sticking out of your nose, like, whoa, are you going to take it? Like, what am I doing here? They finally come back and they get it out. And that one, I tested positive on the first one on the ground. So I was, I was in the hotel there in China. I got a call saying you did test positive, but it didn’t have my value for me, but I didn’t– again.
Okay. And then I’m just crushed again. I’m in shambles. I’m like, okay, I’m going to be stuck quarantining here. Everyone’s going to leave now. And I’m going to be stuck in China on top of not being able to compete. I’m going to now quarantine again in a hotel in China. So I, that was sucked. And then they came to do a confirmatory test and they came like 10 minutes after they told me I had tested positive. So not only it was like five in the morning and knock on my door and it’s like two people in hazmat suits and I’m like, okay, they’re going to take me to real quarantine now. Like they just kind of walked in, took my test and he said, okay, thank you.
And left. I walked out. I’m like, is that it? Like, if I need anything else and they said, no, you’re good, but they did this all like 5:00 AM. So for me, I’m like, at this point I’m like eating and sleeping at weird hours. I can’t sleep. I’m so worried. And [00:25:00] that one ends up being negative and they’re supposed to, in that case, do another confirmatory test.
But for some reason, Beijing, I think the Olympic Committee pushed hard enough. Like, Hey, this guy’s been through enough. And they actually waited that test and said, you’re just good to go. Like, you can now reenter the, the village. Like, you’re just, you can go ahead. Like, they finally threw me a bone there after the last three weeks of, jumping through hoops for all that.
But that was, kind of the last hurdle there. And I didn’t post anything about that. Cause at that point I was. I was just so like devastated, and then it ended up working out luckily and cause what happened was that test. I was like a 39 and I needed to be over 40, but I didn’t know that.
So as far as I knew, I wasn’t even close, so thank God it was higher than that. The next test passed and they let me out and then everything went, but I was just so drained going into the Olympics after that, you know it was just really hard to, I was just excited to be there, but I was also, I just felt like a zombie.
I was like walking around. I just felt like, like it was just like, it’s like, I was just there. I’d just been so drained.
Alison: So you, you finally test on negative. You get to the Yanqing athlete’s village. You’re there. You don’t know what day it is. You don’t know what time it is. And you’ve had so many tests.
You probably can’t even feel the inside of your nose and throat anymore.
Josh Williamson: Right.
Alison: And now you gotta get in your head to do the most important race of your life.
Josh Williamson: Yes. And that was exactly, yeah. That’s the hardest part probably.
Alison: So where, where was your head going and what was happening around you and how was that experience?
Josh Williamson: Honestly, it’s hard because I don’t know if it’s always what I had to kind of grapple with this the last like couple months, right after the Olympics, because it’s not something that you want to admit to yourself. It’s not something I like saying because I don’t, I feel like it’s not what people want to hear, but I was, I was just like, I don’t know.
I was, I almost, the excitement was just gone. It was really sad because I worked for so long, so hard to want to perform at that race. And then I get there. I was like in the, I don’t know, for lack of a better word, I want it to be over. I felt like I’d missed it. I got on the line and I push and I was, and I was really actually pretty proud of myself cause I’m like, oh wow.
I wasn’t nervous at all. Like, I didn’t feel any butterflies. I wasn’t anxious. That was the best I’ve handled that. Then later that day I realized like, and I actually not be a good thing. I didn’t feel any like, I wasn’t excited. It was just like, you just drained. And again, I can only attribute it to two or three weeks of highest highs and lows, lows hours apart sometimes. It just was taxing, I think is the only way to put it. I trained well when I got there, I had some great weeks. I was pushing as low as I ever have. I don’t think it really affected my performance. I just, I think it’s really hard, I guess, to accept that I feel like I have accepted now.
It’s like, I feel like a lot of it just kind of was taken away, and that’s sad, but at the same time I want to continue and I, there’s a lot more that I want to do. And I’m really grateful for the experience because I think there’s a lot of positives that came from it. I think there’s a lot of things that I learned about myself and ways that I learned that I can, if I can handle that, I feel like I can handle anything, and that’s, again, just, I feel like it took at first me accepting that it’s okay for me to say that I was doing. I was just sad. I was numb to it at the point of the race. It was like the race, most important race in my life. Up until that point, I didn’t even feel anything, and I, and I wish I did, but at the end of the day, I still want that feeling. I still feel like I can get that feeling moving forward, kind of looking towards the next Olympics.
Jill: What was the village like? Cause you were there, wait, were you there? Maybe all of five or six days?
Josh Williamson: Yeah, I would say that I think it was six or seven days. Okay. So I got, I got a good amount and my girlfriend’s there. So again, it was on top of all of this, not to mention poor Kris. And it was so hard on her because again, not only is she pushing, I was there, had been a long year and we got really stressed towards the end of the year with COVID.
So we tried to stop see each other as much. Cause we didn’t want to get it to each other or anything. And. That was something that was even harder then, because we had, she gets the Olympics and on top of me not being able to be there for her in a stressful time, she also has the survivor’s guilt where she obviously, like, I’m not upset with her, but it’s hard to see somebody who I care about enjoy something that I want as well.
Like the Olympics, like the opening ceremonies, that’s what my teammates do. But with her, especially like she’s in this weird spot where she doesn’t want to make me feel bad, but I want her to enjoy herself, but I, but it’s just so I don’t want to drain downer her, but I’m also going through one of the hardest times in my life.
It was a hard thing for her too, but that was a big thing. Was the village I got to explore with her. One of the nice, she, she waited to see everything until I got there because I was telling her how much it worried me that one of my biggest things was that even though everything was going to be there for me, I was like, Experience it all secondhand, I guess, you know what I mean?
And she waited to not do anything until I got there, which was [00:30:00] really sweet of her. So we went around my whole first day in the village. We just walked around the village and saw everything and got to do everything and try all the little virtual reality games and do all this stuff that it was, that made my day, and it definitely made, it was one of those bright spots in an otherwise pretty tough couple of weeks, so that was good. Then we all just beautiful. I mean, the facilities were immaculate training facilities. Like the track was the nicest track I’ve ever been to. The indoor track is there’s an indoor warm-up area, the floors heated, there’s food court downstairs. Like it was, there’s a walkway over the top of the track. Track looks like a dragon.
It was unbelievable. Every other track we warm up in a parking lot, it’s snowing in east Germany. And here we’re in like an indoor sprint hall with the, with like heated floors It was unbelievable It was beautiful in the villages as well. The rooms are a little small because we have four bobsledders in them, but I don’t think that was, I think it was just our village, I think other villages had different rooms and stuff, and, but at the end of the day it was the facilities were incredible, but I guess what else do you expect?
You know China,
Jill: What kind of fun stuff did they have in the village for you to do?
Josh Williamson: There was a cool little game area. It was like they had some like virtual reality stuff where you can, you know think of like, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on of, or the roller coaster simulators where you get in it and it moves around there’s stuff like that.
There’s this laser tag where you put this headset on and there’s nothing in front of you guys. You’re almost like fenced in, but there’s nothing there, but you see barricades when you put it on and you can play with like one other person and run around and play laser tag. That was cool. A lot of just, cool artwork, cool statues, they had a couple.
Trying to think what else there was, obviously, cafeteria was good. They had a Pizza Hut and a KFC there, which was fun. That was a familiar taste when you didn’t feel like eating in the cafeteria sometimes. And other than that, just the, just walking around the facilities were really beautiful. The volunteers are wonderful.
I mean, the Chinese people were some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, it was, it was pretty incredible to, to be over there and they just put on such a, you know they were wonderful. There’s people waving at you everywhere you go. I was telling Hunter that we were on the bus to the closing ceremonies and I started seeing my teammates.
And we’re all like, it’s gonna be really weird going back to the States and not like walking off the plane and doing like one of these to somebody, because you’re going to get like punched in the face in Newark or something. If you like wave to some random stranger, they’re like, what’s your problem.
But in China, everybody’s waving to you and everybody you walk by is waving to you. So it was, it was kinda cool just because they made it, they were very sweet people, and it was all the penetrating and stuff. So, I mean, yeah, the village itself was beautiful and the facilities, I don’t know how you beat that.
Jill: Okay. So in your cafeteria, did you have robot food preparation as well? Cause we had that in our cafeteria. We had a whole bunch of like a whole wall of robot cooking and things like that.
Josh Williamson: No,, I did. While I was in a hotel I got in, I wasn’t in a quarantine hotel luckily. I was in like I think I was in like the Marriott or something, which was beautiful hotel.
I mean, it was like so nice. It was nicest Marriott I’ve ever stayed in. And there was, the shower from like the rain top shower and like big, huge beds, like ended up for a while. I was technically supposed to be quarantining. They wouldn’t let me go to the bobsled track and back. I just was not allowed to stay in the village for a few days until I cleared some tests, but they, the food would come to me with a robot and that was cool.
The robot would like show up to the door. And it’s funny because we stand in front of it. I can’t remember what it said, but it was like something around as along the lines of like, I am working. You are a beautiful move, please. Like, it was like something like weird. And that’s what it would say to you, it’s like, I’m working, move please. Thank you, beautiful. Like. But it was cool. I get that delivered to domain. So I got a kick out of that every time it came to the door, but uh that was really it. The hotel was beautiful. That was, that was pretty cool. Once I got to go down for breakfast a few times at the hotel, it was like, wow, they, they blew the doors off on the, the food there.
Alison: Little ego stroking with every meal.
Josh Williamson: Yes, exactly. Yeah. It is pretty funny. I’d like to stand in front of it on purpose and like take a video of it to send a, like my girlfriend or something. I just told her that the robot was hitting me.
Alison: So you had a much better experience. I had a robot at the Main Media Center who had beef with me.
Yeah. Cause every time I would pay, it was one of the cleaning robots. And every time I would pass by, it would turn and look at me and yeah, I think it was cause I walked on the escalators.
Josh Williamson: and the cleaning was out of control. It was crazy out. I mean, obviously they were very thorough, but it was like, wow, it was, they were outside at one point I saw somebody hosing down a tire of a car with like bleach.
I’m like, wow, what is going on here? But I mean, I guess I get, they were very thorough. When I had to go from the hotel to the track those days, I wasn’t allowed to use public transportation because again, I hadn’t really cleared. And when I was [00:35:00] at the track, every athlete who was around me, like my teammates would have to sign like something saying like they are understanding of a risk of being around me kind of thing.
Like it was, it was a process. But when we did all that, there’s a guy, or it’s almost similar to like an Uber, I guess, like a taxi who took me to and from, but I didn’t realize until the second day that he was only for me, like it was, I realized that because he was dropping me off at like 10 and he’s like, I’ll be back at five to pick you up.
And it’s like, okay, perfect. And then I realized when I come back down, but he’s in the same spot I left him because he’s not allowed to go mingle that car with other groups since I was in it. And I was considered a high risk, case, so when he would get back. Obviously they just hose the car down.
I’m sure he would test a couple of times, but he was only assigned to me though we had like plastic screen, mask mask, like no access at all. It was like the thoroughness was incredible. Stuff I would have never thought of that. Maybe it matters. I don’t know, but it was, it was great. It was pretty thorough. I saw a lot of that.
Jill: One of my burning questions: How did you get from the athlete’s village to the bobsled track? Because they weren’t that physically far away from each other, but, but, but we have had, we had horrible. The reason I could not go in to see you was just getting to Yanqing was horrible. And I, I’m very curious as, because the one time I did go getting back was, was also a massive process, but it involved going from the ski side to the bobsled side. And how did you get there?
Josh Williamson: I don’t remember the name I’ve taught of my head. I should, because I took the bus so many times it was like the T Y or something like that had all those things get labeled as like T this or that.
And that was, it was, it was the same one every day. And that you knew the exact spot you got on and off. And that was the only way you knew was like, somebody told you. And that was, that was the only thing we used every time. There was one shuttle that was. Straight to the crates, which is where we store our sleds.
And from that area, there’s a shuttle that goes straight to the top and back. And those are the only two that we used. So you kind of just like got used to using the same one, because it was the same little shuttle, but operating from what I heard, I didn’t attempt to even leave the village.
Cause at that point I was too close to competition, but from what I heard going anywhere outside of the village was a nightmare and going to like any other sporting venue was just brutal from what I heard was like we had, we had other friends like, oh, let’s go see the women’s hockey final. Or like, let’s go see this or that. It was not even an option.
And if they did, my girlfriend mentioned, I kind of thought about it and it made sense. They made it really tough to do it. Cause they put everything on certain times, like the buses run X amount of time. And if the last bus is at midnight and the game lead ends at 11:50, how can you go watch the game?
You know and so it almost like in a weird way. I understand what she’s saying. Maybe they were dissuading people from moving around because one, everything was so separated. Every village was couple hours apart. And to the buses were at such tough times, starting competition to go. Then you’d have venue that like, maybe that was part of dissuading people from moving around a lot for athletes, at least, from moving around.
Cause that was, I don’t know many athletes, who got to go see anything outside of their immediate village, or venue, because it was just so complicated and it was so hard to go anywhere or get approved to go do things like it was just a lot.
Jill: We’re just grateful that there were French people around because otherwise Alison would still be in Yanqing.
She almost got stuck there.
Josh Williamson: Oh no. Jeez.
Alison: It was an Odyssey.
Josh Williamson: It really is getting around there was incredible. We just went through like closing ceremonies and we’re all on the same bus. So this is simple, you get on the bus and just takes you there. You got to stop at this like little security checkpoint, where you all get off the bus and you walk through more security take all your phone out, like your TSA, you have your metal detector and you get back on that same bus and then you go the other half of the drive.
So it was like you did that before you on the bus and all the road. Then when you got to ceremonies, you did again. So it was like very thorough and a funny story, I guess, not that sidetrack too much, but my teammate, Charlie Volker, he had like a been given a , big US Olympic Committee signs. and these like stickers they’d hang on the windows in the village. Big ones. And they gave him one, they had an extra because he asked for it, so they gave him one. It was probably, this big rolled up piece of paper. It looks like a poster board and he couldn’t fit it in his luggage. And we’re going straight from closing to the airport.
They said, you gotta have your bags packed before you leave for closing. They go to a certain place, you’ll see them again at the airport. So he couldn’t fit it in. And he’s like, I’m just going to carry it through closing ceremony. And I’m like, Y, I, I argued with him like fine do it. Like he was being stubborn about it.
I’m like, you’re not gonna to carry that for the next four hours, but he did anyway. So we take it on the bus. And funniest part is I think between the time we get on the bus, or I guess to that middle checkpoint till we actually walk and closing ceremonies, [00:40:00] I think he had to open that thing like 15 times, because anytime any security worker saw him, you know they’re very nice to the athletes there.
But then they, as soon as I saw that, it was like, our bus had to stop. Five guys came on, the bus, looked around, saw him like pointed them out and said, show us what that is right now. Cause I think it’s gonna be like a political statement. You think he has a poster board for closing ceremonies and he’s gonna like open up.
So he shows it to them and then they’re like, oh, thank you. Like have a great day. But when they first got on the bus, they’re like, show me that like, they were no nonsense, like pissed off. Like you got to show me what that says. And then he shows them and they’re like, oh, thanks. Like have a great time at closing.
They’re all nice. But that happened like 15 times maybe. We got to the holding area for the athletes for closing. Every time a security guard walked by him, they’d see that thing and walk right over and say, show me it. So at one point he left it with me cause he had to go get food. And then I had to show it to like four people because I happened to be the guy sitting right next to it.
I’m like, it’s not even mine, but they make you show it. Cause he left it with me. But it was just funny because I’m like that like every single security guard that walked by Charlie checked his poster board just to make sure it didn’t say something that was not supposed to be said that, closing ceremonies.
Alison: So along that vein, there was no podium protests. I mean the only thing that we saw was the one Ukrainian slider held up the no a war in Ukraine. What did the U S OPC tell you before you left? What were you instructed?
Josh Williamson: I’ve been thinking, I think honestly, I don’t know if I had to, they had to say much because it really, what happened was we had a couple of times before going to China.
I don’t know if every country did this, but we did. And we had a couple of briefings with the State Department with like potential athletes who going, and then as you get closer, like athletes who are definitely going, and it was just, you could ask questions. And then we had somebody from, from the Chinese embassy, like the US embassy in China.
We had somebody from the State Department who focuses most of their work on China. We had people from human rights groups that have worked closely about stuff in China. It’s like they had a lot of experts, like just briefing us on there, what to expect. And it was like, for lack of a better word, it was terrifying.
Like what they explained. And this is the first meeting we had was a year out. And at that point I was telling my parents like, Hey, even if you can go, I don’t think you should. I don’t feel comfortable. It would stress me out a lot to know you guys are over there on your own. Just kind of with, no, you have no media, you have no athlete credential. You’re just there. Like, I don’t want to worry about that. We’re luckily going to be shuttled to place to place. But if you guys have to figure that out on your own, and if you do go, I want you to have like, a group you’re with, or like security, like something that’s too expensive, but I’m just like, it’s going to be just the stuff they went over was tough, and it was stuff that I didn’t want scared me, let alone scared me having my parents there with them having no protection from the Olympic Committee, and that was something that they just mentioned that really basic, I guess, at the premise of what it all came down to from the U S government, their stance was if you get in trouble, there’s very little, we can do.
Uh one of the things they talk about is like, if you are detained, we push to be able to see you, but we cannot be your legal counsel. And there was like a 95% conviction rate in the Chinese court or something. So they’re like, whatever you’re accused of usually sticks. So it’s kind of like, it was just…
I think most people were just realistic enough to think if there are, if I have problems with things, if you were, they made it very clear that as soon as you step in that nation, you have to abide by that nation’s laws. Just like if they came to the U S they have to abide by the U S laws, even if they’re not the same laws.
And that was what they tried to stress was, Hey, things that you lean on and saying things that you feel are your unalienable right in the U S is not the case in China. No matter if you are a US citizen or any other citizen, and that’s what they just stressed, they’d said, Hey, we’re not going to say, we’re going to advise you not to say anything, but if you do, we’re just trying to explain to you the gravity of the situation, and I think they did a good enough job at that, that people realize like there’s plenty of times in places to make, your stance known, but when you’re on the ground in China, that might not be a great time to do that for yourself.
Perse, just for. Well-being or safety, I guess, for lack of a better word, and I think that might’ve been why it went off so smoothly, frankly, because it was, if you have something to say you plenty of time to say it, but you’re in China that it feels a little different when you’re there with no other people other than staff and media, it’s like they’re citizens of the U S there, you’re just there kind of on your own, almost in a bubble.
And you feel very controlled by what they’re telling you. You can’t go here. You can’t go here. We’ll take you here. You cannot go anywhere past this point. So you already feel very controlled. And then you’re like, if I speak out for lack of better words, they, they did a good job of explaining the gravity of being over there as an athlete, that rights that we have in the U S are not the same everywhere else.
And you have to know that when you’re going to other nations.
Alison: You mentioned mom and dad, how were they through this whole process? [00:45:00] This it’s most have been more, almost more upsetting and scary for them because they just had to sit there and exciting and disappoint, a million different feelings probably.
Josh Williamson: Yeah. I mean, it broke my heart. When I texted, I had to text him and say, I tested positive, but that was the night it happened.
I was like 11:00 PM my time. So they were well asleep cause they were in the east coast. And when they woke up the next morning, obviously I woke up to 20 calls, and it was, I felt horrible telling him, but w what ended up happening was my dad ended up when I got to LA finally. So initially I went to Chula Vista.
I was, I couldn’t really go to Los Angeles. I was still testing positive. Eventually when I started testing negative, they wanted me to go to LA because that’s where we actually stage team processing. That’s where the US Olympic committee staffs there. And that’s where we can actually. They have more control over the testing.
They have a better relationship with the hospital there, so they can do everything themselves. It’s all in house done by the USB-C. So when we got there, he actually met me there. We double-check the Olympic Paralympic committee staff that he’d be able to come. They let him, and they let him stay at the hotel, not in my room, but with me and be there for me.
Cause he just, again, in the event that I don’t get to go, he didn’t want me to be alone and already had been such a tough time. And they were so sweet to him that I wanted. I went down there asking to buy a shirt for him. Cause we had all the team processing gear there and I’m like, Hey, can I just buy a shirt for him?
Like he’s all the way out here. And I’d love to get him something. And they’re like, absolutely not. They gave him like $500 in like jackets and shirts and so sweet of them, just one, they took care of me, incredible amount. But at the top of that, like taking care of my family, like it just, it made a really the staff, their Team USA staff in LA was like, they made a really bad process just as good as it possibly could have been. They were so unbelievable, and this so understanding and so helpful. And so when they, when I went over there, he got to come out, which was really nice. My mom wanted to come out, but she, she works at the school. So she has a lot harder time getting off because she works at a high school here locally.
So he came out for a few days and once things are going better for me, he went back cause obviously he has work as well, but he was going to come out really, as long as he had to, to just kind of be there just in case. And that obviously meant the world to me. I have my staff there. And at that point I had Kyle, my teammate and I had, our high-performance director and some coaches who had tested positive flying from other parts of the nation.
So I wasn’t the only one by any means who tested positive, but I’d been pretty alone in Chula Vista. So it was nice to just start being around people. And once you saw that, Other people there, he felt more comfortable letting you be there. Not just thinking I was alone at some hotel in LA, all my whole team was in China.
There were people there as well. So, unfortunately, unfortunately there were other athletes and staff who were on the same boat. I was so I wasn’t totally alone. Once I got to the official team USA hotel, I guess, for staging.
Alison: So when you actually raced, I cried, I admit that. Have your parents admitted to tears?
Josh Williamson: My dad hasn’t, but my soul was really cool. It was the event they did for my parents out for the fan of the friends and family out in Park City. They did a really awesome, awesome job with that. I mean, my parents were so excited and they, they flew them out there to people flown out flights, covered combinations, covered open bar food, everything, and they just give them gifts and you can try this and that.
Like I, again, the Olympic protocol. I made it really tough Olympics. I think so good. I was trying to tell them that when we were at this event this weekend where they were asking they were reviewing, how did we do at the Games; here’s some sheets to fill out. I just, I didn’t know what else to say other than like, I just want somebody to understand that it was a tough Olympics due to a lot of the organizing committee, how they ran it.
So strictly, but from the U S side, like they made it credible. Like they came up with creative things. I would have never even imagined to just like my family’s day. Like let alone the athlete from China being taken care of, you they did such a good job with that. And they went out to that. And my as fun, my dad’s best friend from high school actually met them out there because they let them have buddy passes to get somebody into the event, though.
He had to fly out there on his own and stay at his own place, but they let him in everyday, so open bar food, which was definitely worth it. And he was there. He was over at our house here a couple of weeks ago and told us, told me that he had never seen that look on my dad’s face. how emotional it was when he watched me push on my first heat.
It was like, he wasn’t like shell shock. He said he couldn’t even move. It was pretty, he said it was it was pretty cool thing for him to see anyone and to communicate with that to me. Cause he knew my dad had never told me that, but you communicate that with me. And he said he had never seen that look on his face before.
And I thought that meant a lot to me. For sure. So that was a, it’s a special time, and at the end of the day though, it was a definitely a tough experience for me. It’s I think the coolest part was getting, even if it wasn’t as perfect as it could have been from me, I think it was still very perfect for a lot of people who supported me.
And that was like the best part of all the things I think was getting everybody else who had been [00:50:00] supporting me and watching the insuring for me and were still invested in me. And it spent so much put so much effort into me for them to be able to watch me to be at the Olympics, even if it wasn’t how I expected or wanted.
You gotta be happy about that. Hearing from your friends and family saying that they’re proud of you and that you made a proud is that’s all you’re trying to do. Right. Is trying to make people who mean a lot to you and your nation proud of you. I think that’s exactly.
If I didn’t do anything, at least I feel like I kinda could do that for some people, so that made it all that a lot more worth it. I think going through all that definitely was not in vain and it was not for nothing,
Alison: Well, all of TKFLASTAN was very proud. We’re
Jill: very proud.
Alison: We were, we were so excited. It was kind of embarrassing
Josh Williamson: You guys. I mean, it’s just been cool. You guys have been around literally since my first two weeks of the training center classes. Like I hadn’t, I didn’t know anybody on the team at that time, let alone. Anything about bobsled, but I got to know you guys
and then we’ll really, like that was at a point in my life where a lot of things were changing. I didn’t know anybody in Lake Placid. So I was kind of alone there cause I was getting to know the team, but like I had, they’re all trying to make an Olympic team and I’m just kind of there like training and learning, but I’m not in the running for the team or anything.
So then I got to talk to you guys and I’m like, it just, I don’t know, it was nice to sit down and have a conversation with somebody when a lot of the day was spent. Not be awkward and trying to not say awkward things to people. I looked up to, and I got to come see you guys, and actually sit down to talk.
And I had like this long conversation and I was like, wow, that felt good to have some social interaction, not feel like I’m trying to not be judged because I don’t want to like say something dumb as the young rookie in the Olympic year. That’s our whole show
Alison: time. We talked to people.
Josh Williamson: That’s a really cool having you guys got to be a part of that journey with me. It’s just like, I dunno, identify you guys as like day one first week I was in Lake Placid. I talked to you guys and now I’m not done to beating, but here we are five years later and I’m coming off my first Olympics and I don’t know. It’s just kinda, it’s kinda cool.
It’s pretty surreal. I like, I really enjoy getting, get to catch up with you guys every time, but it’s just really special to me.
Alison: Oh, these are all these big points. So Milan is on the table. Have you, you have said you’re going to stick around which I’m thrilled.
Josh Williamson: Yeah.
Alison: How you feeling going into this kind of second quad now, you know what this is going to be like, you know what you’re up against?
Josh Williamson: I think I really, something the most interesting thing I realized I’m a very obsessive person. I, I cannot put things down, especially when I really liked them. And especially with like sport, I I’ve been an athlete as long as I can remember, and that’s something that, for me, I can, it’s almost bad for me sometimes because I can, it really talks about how you gotta be so committed and so obsessed.
And that’s, I just don’t find that. I don’t know. I don’t find that to be true because I find that comes very naturally to me. But it’s the hard part is putting it down because that’s, someone’s better for you. You can’t do this one thing for so long without other things in your life, because either you’re gonna get burned out on it, which I really haven’t or you’re going to do it.
So you’re going to focus so much energy. Eventually as you get better, you see less returns, less frequently. It’s like my first year weightlifting, your max is going to go up under pounds, your eighth year weightlifting. You’re going to push a whole year of weightlifting to try to get 10 pounds. So it’s discouraging when you put so much effort into something and it’s just naturally the better you get at it, the less improvements you’re going to see.
And that’s, that’s just the name of the game, that’s part of doing sport and getting better at it. So I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed this last year, and especially now, recently is almost just this idea of having this more, trying to become this more diverse person, having interests outside of sport that you can just lean on.
Like, I really love reading. I really love not really great for sport. I’ve gotten into the craft beer a little bit. Like I have guys on my team who were into it and it’s just things where like, it’s stuff like balance with sport and that stuff that I just, I don’t drink all the time. And I especially can’t do that in a season, but it’s more just like a time like now I can go to some breweries and just pursue things that I’m passionate about. That aren’t bobsled, because I feel were up to me, all I would do is be an athlete, but I can’t do that all day and I can’t do that forever. So I think for me, it’s been really interesting is I feel almost more equipped to perform better because I feel like I’m becoming a more well-rounded man.
I guess if that makes sense. I’m not just the last thing I want to be is to myself in the mirror and say, I am an athlete. I want to be a person who does sport. I’m a person who, who, my job is an athlete, but that’s not. That’s like anybody, you don’t want to be your job. Right. And that’s something that I had to kind of grapple with this last quad.
I think that’s the biggest growing experience I’ve had was my dad. That’s the best advice he ever gave me was I had a bad performance one year at some race. I called them in shambles, so upset that I didn’t perform well. And I’ve worked so hard at [00:55:00] it. And he just told me, he said, Josh you, you gotta be, you gotta give yourself some slack kid, you gotta cut yourself some slack and you’re, you’re more than athlete.
He’s like, if you stop bobsledding tomorrow, there’s still so much more you offer to people and there’s so much more you can do. And there’s so much more out there for you that you just you’re more than this than you can’t you can’t just, can’t just say you’re just an athlete and you’re not, and you got to remember that.
And that’s something that, I mean, it’s just stuck with me. That was two years ago, probably. And that stuck with me for a long time. Then now it’s like, that’s my goal almost right now. And I’ve seen that I’ve been doing better in training. I see better performances, more well rounded. I feel, I guess, and for lack of a better word, my, one of my goals now is I have a lot of goals in sport, but one of my most important goals in life right now is to be more diverse as a, as a person, as a man, just try to be more on more interests and pursue those interests as well, because that gives me balance.
Then I show up to training even more. Instead of just thinking about training for 24 hours and getting there and doing it. I trained, I did something else for the other 18 hours of the day. And then I was, I get back training next day and I’m excited to do it because it’s fresh and I haven’t been obsessing over it for the whole day when I finished, you know it’s not my day, isn’t broken into training times.
I train in times I don’t train training is just one of the things I do on that day, and that’s kinda been a mind shift. That’s hard. It’s not very natural for me, but the more I’ve invested into trying to force myself to think that way, honestly, the better I’ve done in sport and the better I’ve felt outside of sport.
Because when you have those losses are less crushing because that’s not everything you are, it’s not like your whole identity being taken from me from a bad performance, so I think that’s been something pretty cool that I’ve been pursuing and I’m excited for this for years because of that. I think that can take a lot of what I’m doing to a new level in some way, just stepping back.
To do better than another. It’s almost counterintuitive thinking, but it’s been a hard thing to wrap my head around, but I’ve seen some pretty good results from it.
Jill: Excellent. Excellent.
Well Josh, thank you again for spending time with us. We love being able to talk with you. It’s very special. Like you said, it’s very special to us too.
Like you were our first interview. You helped us figure out what the show should be. And you’ve stuck around and talked to two weird women every once in a while.
Josh Williamson: I, I love talking to y’all and I just, I don’t know. Thank you so much for rhino keeping up with me and keeping me on.
Jill: Thank you so much, Josh, you can follow Josh on instant in Twitter at J Williamson USA.
Alison: Okay. Couple things we need to explain. Josh is in a lovely relationship with Kristen Bujnowski , who was a pusher for Christine DeBruin for Canada. So we, we mentioned her at various points and people are like, this is Kristen and it’s fine because they are Instagram official.
Okay. Okay. That talked about Kristen. And we also found out that Mama Kay. Listens to the show. Hi. Hi, Mrs. Williamson.
We love your son.
Jill: We do hello.
It’s so sweet. I mean, his parents seemed like such a wonderful people and such a good support system and yeah, I just, I love it when we get to talk to Josh. So I just don’t want to gush anymore. Cause that’s a lot too.
Alison: The good news is with any luck, we’ll all be together in Italy.
Jill: That would be great.
Wouldn’t that be fun too?
Well, we will, we will remember that. We would like to take a minute to thank our Patreon patrons for providing financial support that is greatly needed to keep the show going up. Our patrons get a number of Perks for support and those include special bonus episodes of the show. So if you would like to learn more and support the show and keep our flame alive, please visit Patreon.com/flamealivepod/.
Uh, That sound means it’s time for our history segment and all year long, we are focusing on the Albertville 1992. Olympics is the 30th anniversary of those games. My turn for a story. Okay. So you know how we say, every Olympian has a story that is true. Well, there are like, thousands of stories just within Speedskating.
Jill: So I’m going to touch on one of those stories today. You will probably hear many more Speedskating stories because they’re all jaw-dropping as we go. So this is the story of Jacqueline burner, who spoiler alert. She, she won the gold medal in the 1500m long track speed skating. Short track was not in the game yet at this point. So we are speed skating and we are also outside. This is the last track that is outdoors. If I, if I’m correct that you might have to fact check me on that, but I believe Alberville is the last outdoor track for speed skating.
So [01:00:00] Jacqueline was born in 1965. She did track and field until she was like 10 and then switched over to speed skating. She was born in East Germany. Which is an interesting point because we’re at 1992 and the Berlin Wall had fallen in 1989. So this is the first games of where they’re reunified as a country again.
So she was a speed skater and was pretty good and was hoping to get chosen for 1988. Calgary was not selected because she was she had gotten a bad virus. So. She’s going to keep going and try to get into 1992. Things are going well. In 1990 she is the reigning world champ. Fast forward to August 15th.
The Wall is down. Countries are still separate. She and about 10 of her teammates are out cycling in a suburb of East Berlin called the Wandlitz, which is home to many of the big wigs in the East German Communist Party. And tensions are kind of high still at this point between East and West and common people don’t really like the communist police. So they’re riding on the road, a car drives by them and grazes, two of the men she’s cycling with those people have words with the driver. Driver drives off turns around, comes back plows right in to Jacqueline. Oh,
Alison: do we know who this driver. Is that part of your story?
Jill: No, no, I don’t that in my research, so I could never find that the driver had been identified, but we’re at we’re at that point where you need special databases to go back that far. Right. So I I’m sure there are stories about it because she was a big deal in speed skating at the time. So, she woke up in the hospital.
She had sustained head injury. Got a broken foot tore, some league knee ligaments. She says thankfully the driver had been driving a Trabant, which is the East German car with not the greatest reputation for being quality,
Alison: Kind of the clown car of East Germany.
Jill: If because he was driving a Trabbi. She probably lived because if he had been driving another type of car, she probably would have died from the impact.
So she spends anywhere from three to four months in the hospital and another three to four months in a rehab center. During this time the reunification happens.
Alison: So now you have even fewer spots available.
Jill: Right. But the good thing about this is had, had there not been reunification in Germany was could compete at one. The East German team would have just dropped her because they would have been like, you’re injured. You’re done. Auf Wiedersehen.
She thought, well, she’d probably retire, but in rehab she got some sports psychology training basically. And the mental training helped her get out of the rehab center and gave her some focus to get back to skating again, which is really interesting because she had mentioned in a, in an article in one of the German press articles, I found that, yeah, that helps her get back on the ice. And she used what she learned in rehab in her future training
So, her new club that she’s in now rallies around her, helps her get back on the ice. She starts training in April, 1991, returns to competition November, 1991. And so we’re just a few months before the Olympics was not placing higher than third in this time, but not, not too bad though. She still makes the team to go to Albertville.
For the 1500 meter race, there is a one hour delay for warm weather. And even when they resumed skating, it was like 57 degrees outside.
Alison: So you’ve got some sketchy ice conditions happening
Jill: And I was watching her race and you can kind of see the water, but I couldn’t tell if it was just ice shavings, but it also looked like water to me.
When, when they pushed back,
Alison: I mean a 57 degrees, you’re going to have puddles. I mean, there’s no. And you may have ducks in those puddles. I mean, that’s springtime weather.
Jill: Right. And, we talked about the manmade snow and how brown it was in Beijing. All you can see is how green it is in Albertville in the background.
Cause not much, no. And it’s really warm, like, Ooh, wow. We complained about this, but this would be something to complain about too. She was in the first pair. Had the best performance of anybody in the second half of the race. And she got a time of 2 0 5 87 that held up to win the gold, her German teammate Gunda Niemann, who Got second by five, one hundreds, [01:05:00] Of a second. So she got to a 5 92 . The bronze medal went to a woman who was Japan’s first female, winter medalist. She was a two-time Olympic cyclists at 19 88, 19 92. And she would compete again in 1996 at cycling. None other than Seiko Hashimoto.
Alison: Yeah. Once you start it up cycling. Oh, is this going to be Seiko Hashimoto who then we got to know very well during Tokyo.
Jill: Yes. As the head of the organizing committee who you had. Yes.
Jill: Uncle Yoshi,
Alison: Yoshi, who had some wandering hands and, and rather loose lips. Oh, he say
Jill: so back to Jacqueline Börner, she also competed in the 3000. She placed eighth. The driver of that car, the Trabi got a two year sentence. The case was in litigation for years, and it was actually still being litigated when the games happened because of when the accident took place, because it was seven weeks before reunification. There were questions about what laws applied and what, which country they would be tried under, but eventually did get a sentence.
Rather light one, considering the, the accident, but some justice was served.
Alison: I was going to say he was probably the happiest man, when that wall came down, because considering your takeout, one of the East German prime athletes, he might’ve been up against that wall. If you know what I mean, I’m seriously. I love when we get cameos,
Welcome to TKFLASTAN.
Jill: . This is the time of the show. When we check in with our past guests who make up a Team Keep the Flame Alive, they are the citizens of our country TKFLASTAN.
Alison: Beach volleyball, player, Kelly, Claes Cheng, and her partner. Betsi Flint made the semifinals of the AVP Austin Open and lost two tournament, winners, Kloth and Nuss.
Jill: And sports agent. Jesse Lichtenberg was on MarketPryce’s, YouTube show during their women’s history month series, we will have a link to that in the show notes.
We’ve got some news from Paris, 2024. The International Canoe Federation has released its qualification info and has reserved quota spots for extreme kayak. So it’s a head-to-head race on the canoes slalom, of course it’s supposed to be fast paced and exciting, popular with athletes and fans. Good for TV, blah, blah, blah. They lost quota spots from Tokyo 2020. To make room for extreme. They had to get rid of some events. They. And they, they acknowledged it and they said, basically, look, we have to evolve or die.
We lost quota spots that they’re not giving us more medal sports. So we have to cut something from somewhere. So what gets cut is from canoe sprint, they lost the K one, 200 meter event for both the men and the women and the men’s C2 and K2 events went from 1000 meters down to 500 weeks.
Alison: Well, good news for Luuka Jones because she races, extreme slalom.
So she was going to focus on canoe versus kayak because she does the extreme slalom, but this may kind of change her. So she may end up back into events in Paris.
Jill: That would be very cool.
Alison: Bad news
for a triple gold medalist. Lisa Carrington, she has won the women’s 200 meter event, three times in a row, which is pretty much from what I can tell every time.
This is the 200 meters for women was raised, but the woman has a lot of medals. We are okay. The Kiwis will somehow manage here.
Jill: Inside the Games has reported that the department of Mayenne has signed up to do the torch relay. So it’s a little French geography. Cause I had to figure this out myself Francis broken up into regions and the regions are broken up into departments. And so this is the region of
Pays de la Loire in Northwestern, France, They seem to be the first department that’s signed up.
Alison: We talked about this. I, I want to say right after we got back from Beijing, that a lot of the departments and regions have been pushing back because of the cost. And who’s going to cover [01:10:00] the expense of the torch relay and they, the federal government and the organizing committee.
It should be your honor to host the torch relay.
I don’t know if the taxpayers would agree, so this could very well be the first to agree to this.
Jill: And the interesting thing is Inside the Games had reported early in March. And I think we talked about this to the departments were given until March 11th to figure out whether or not they wish to participate.
So if you have by May, one department that has signed up and you want this torch relay to go everywhere. It’s not looking good. This is a problem. And it would cost the department 150,000 euros to do this.
Alison: Right. And if you’re talking about, I mean, it doesn’t sound like a lot of money when you’re talking about government events, but if you’re talking about city budgets, town budgets, small county budgets, all of a sudden.
150,000 euros could mean that schools don’t get money or public works don’t happen. So it’s not like it’s a rounding era of a federal budget kind of numbers.
Jill: Exactly. So I’m not surprised that this is lagging. I’m very curious to know what, Paris 2024 wants to do about it.
Alison: Here’s what I want them to do.
I have an idea for their torch relay. And this would actually work better for Milan, but I’m going to put it in any way. So do you remember when Pope John Paul, the second used to travel in the Popemobile?
Jill: Exactly. I’ve seen the Pope mobile? Yes. Oh, you’ll see the
Alison: port mobile in person. Haven’t you? Yes. Okay. So I don’t think, well, certainly not this Pope, but I don’t even think Benedict used it, but it was this little.
Open backed car with a plastic cover on it. It was like popping fresh Pope. And I think you should put the torch in there and just drive it around and it can be automated as we’ve learned. There’s all these automated cars that would be so cheap.
Jill: Yeah. Self-driving car kind of thing, test that,
Alison: You know, maybe one police escort or two, one in front, one in back, and you could just drive that baby around.
Jill: It would certainly save a lot of time in getting, applicants for a torch– to participate all those extra torches you need to make, make your torch very valuable to collectors and so on.
Alison: Let’s make your torch super valuable to collectors and only have a handful of them.
Jill: We’ve got ideas, you know what else they need.
They need to make like a, a Marianne head. With the logo and like we had the snowflake in Beijing, then you had the Marianne head and like the torch could be the light in her eyes or something.
Alison: Oh no. Torches her cigarette.
Jill: So I, I saw on a reporter, Liam Morgan’s Twitter. Someone gave him a letter from the IOC to the International Boxing Association.
Alison: Oh no.
Jill: Oh boy. Oh boy.
So the IOC is still concerned. They had to reiterate that their recognition of the IBA remained suspended.
In terms of Paris, 2024 qualification, every other International Federation has determined their qualification path to Paris, 2024. You have not clearly stated this
And the letter that they had, this is a whole correspondence in going back. So, this is in response to. That the IBA sent to the IOC. Your letter creates the impression that there is significant time to take available, to take the outstanding decisions. However, at this stage, the areas of information specified in our letter of 12th of April, should already be clear and confirmed for your national federations and your boxers.
Without these details, they face challenges and finalizing their planning of finances, schedules, logistics, and most importantly training cycles.
Therefore the IOC wishes once more to raise its concerns regarding the necessary details of the Paris 2024 bucks in qualification system, they also are concerned about the possible selection of events that may not provide fair eligibility criteria, create possible discrimination. They want you to make sure that all boxers had the same level of opportunities to qualify regardless of geographical and or cost factors.
They still have concerns over the IBAs capacity to execute a complex management system of technicals officials management [01:15:00] in particular referees and judges, and the transparency involved that they should have with this whole management system.
The, or reiterating the request to receive full details of your new ranking system, including the calendar. This will be paramount for the IOC to assess the effective implementation of the boxing qualification system. And again, are of vital importance for your boxers and athletes. They noted that the IBA woman’s world champs currently underway. We’re still waiting for your updated documents on the referee and judges processes beyond the selection process for this tournament, et cetera, et cetera. We confirm again, that IOC meta-cognition of IBA remain suspended and boxing is not currently included in the program of LA 2028.
And we still have concerns sincerely. Pockets. Girard’s Zappelli, who is the IOC Chief Ethics and Compliance Office and Kit McConnell IOC Sports Director.
Alison: You’ve made my IOC boyfriend mad.
Jill: I did,
Alison: and AIBA has the president election coming up
Jill: and, and it’s, we have to get used to not saying I AIBA anymore. Cause it now IBA. Yes. And it looks like a, a Russian will be elected,
Alison: which is problematic because the Russian Boxing Federation was suspended by the IBA because of the invasion of Ukraine.
So we’ve got so many layers of mess.
Jill: Right. And I wonder if the IOC will say once again, Hey organizing committee, you had to put on the boxing tournament too. I wonder if Paris 2024 is not already siding side eyeing that going. Ah, we might have to do this. Let’s be prepared and I’m surprised that the IOC isn’t still isn’t doing.
What it is with weightlifting, which is we could still pull you at 2024.
Alison: I mean, I’ve said all along, I think they will waive that threat sooner rather than later, I thought they may have been holding off for the elections to see who was going to get elected. Maybe they didn’t want to look like they were influencing the elections. But this just gets uglier and uglier on a happier note though, we now have a concerned Thomas Bach last week, we had a delighted Thomas Bach.
Jill: Can somebody come up with some Bachmogis
hi, I love it.
Alison: Seventies, Thomas Bach the sideburns and the stash.
Him in the middle of his orchid. You know, You make flower head Thomas Bach.
There’s no end of Bach emojis. Oh, geez.
Jill: Then we have a little bit of news about the International Paralympic Committee.
Alison: Speaking of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Jill: At Beijing 2022, the IPC said it was going to call call an Extraordinary General Assembly to discuss whether or not Russia and Belarus is membership in the ice PC should be terminated.
That Extraordinary General Assembly is going to be held in November. I’ll be interested to see the outcome of that. Also. The IPC has just launched a big campaign called It Starts with Sport to build awareness, community and freedom around the [para sport program, And so it’s got a film, there’s a multi-sensory brand identity and they’ve done. Started a dedicated website called para dot sport. So hopefully this will be a nice focal point for parasport. I will say IPC, if you would like to build awareness, people can come on our show.
Alison: We will happily talk to Mr. Craig
Jill: or others, and others talked to many para pair of. Does that matter? We would like to build more awareness of pair of sports because we love them.
Alison: I want to go back to this issue just for a minute about IPC’s Extraordinary General Assembly. Yes. So what they are trying to do is to amend their charter to say that if a country blade breaks, the Olympic truce, that’s a violation of the [01:20:00] charter.
And so that would then allow them. To suspend the membership of Belarus and Russia would also make any sort of things going forward a little easier because the IPC has wanted to slap Russia for a while because of the doping issues. So this is just another thing that keeps getting layered and layered on. And we’ve talked At length at how the IOC is so afraid to slap Russia and just gives them these very gentle nudges and the IPC is done. Andrew Parsons is done with playing around. He’s saying you are not going to screw up this Paralympic movement when we’re getting this momentum. We’re building credibility.
We’re expanding the games and you are messing it up. And he’s had enough and he’s right. I wish the IOC would even consider publicly suspending the membership and they won’t and they should so yay. IPC. You are absolutely right. And even if it doesn’t pass and even if it doesn’t officially happen, the fact that they are even publicly saying, this is the direction we want to go in is huge.
Jill: Yes. I, agree with that because the IPC has been the one to say the, the organization who has said your athletes are banned from various elements with the doping. They went to much more extremes than the IOC did, and actually had sanctions. So I appreciate that from the IPC for trying to do the right thing and hopefully it will make the games more fair and also show the
desire to have peace within sport.
Alison: Right. I think the banning of Russia actually gets you closer to the idea of let’s. Politics out of sport because we have LATAM your Putin commenting on the Kamila Valieva case while it is still in litigation and investigation. Yeah. I mean, come on, you can’t have the world leader commenting on the case and then expect RUSADA. Who’s. I mean, there is nothing in Russia that is not under Vladimir Putin’s thumb. To then be expected to actually conduct an impartial investigation. You’ve just caught, cut all credibility out from underneath this organization. So who’s mixing sport and politics here. It’s not the IPC. They’re doing their best to keep it out.
So good on them. I’m am I am I was impressed when I was there with Andrew Parson and Craig Spence and all the IPC people we met. I like what they’re doing with the organization, because it really matters what I think what they’re doing the organization, but I feel like if you’re going to build this movement and they are kind of in their childhood still, I feel like we’re kind of hitting the teen years, the early teen years in terms of development, let’s, let’s put our foot down and say, this is the kind of organization we are going to be on the world stage.
Jill: Very well said. Well, that is going to do it for this week. Let us know what you think of bobsled and Josh and the fact that he’s an official Olympian. It was, I have to say it was so cool to go to Olympedia and that’s the big database of Olympic statistics and I could search for him now. That was awesome.
Alison: And you can get in touch with us by email@example.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it, our social handle is at flame alive pod, and be sure to join the, Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook.
Jill: Join us for more stories of the Olympics and Paralympics next week.
Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.