3x Paralympian Chuck Aoki, Wheelchair Rugby player. Photo courtesy of Chuck Aoki.

3x Paralympic Medalist Chuck Aoki on Wheelchair Rugby

Release Date: May 11, 2023

It’s always great when we can take someone off our never-ending list of people we’d love to talk to. It’s even better when we manage to do the interview without completely fangirling.

This week we talk with wheelchair rugby legend Chuck Aoki. Chuck has been to three Paralympics–London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020. He’s racked up hardware at all three, with a bronze and two silvers respectively. Chuck is currently on the Team USA 2023 training squad in preparation for international competition later this year. We talked with Chuck about the finer points of the sport, its specialized wheelchairs, and his Paralympic experiences.

Be sure to follow Chuck on social: @chuckaoki on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. On Twitter, he’s @aoki5chuck.

In our Seoul 1988 history moment, Alison reminds us that the Games aren’t always amazing and inspirational. She’s got the story of how organizers leveraged the government’s plan to keep “undesireables” off the streets of Seoul. Sadly, this was done with horrifying effects. To learn more, check out this article from The Nation and this one from Associated Press.

In our visit to TKFLASTAN, we have news from:

In Paris 2024 news, the single ticket lottery has started, so we’re hopeful that everyone gets tickets they want! Also, the Paris 2024 organizers release details about the food that will be served in the Athletes Village.

Don’t forget our book club and movie club are coming up soon. We’re reading The Hard Parts: A Memoir of Courage and Triumph by Oksana Masters. Get your copy and support the show through our Bookshop.org affiliate store. We’ll get a commission from purchases made through that link, which will support our coverage of Paris 2024. Our next movie is Zero to Hero. Check out the trailer here:


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

Photo courtesy of Chuck Aoki.


TRANSCRIPT

Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript. It contains errors. Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note.

Chuck Aoki on Wheelchair Rugby (Episode 286)

Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown.

Alison, hello, how are you?

Alison: I think Ethel’s making a return. No. Well, you know, People know we pre-record the interviews and the interview we did today was in the worst of my recent bout of laryngitis, which was, which broke my heart cuz this is an interview I was really excited about, but now I’m just making you feel like we just did this yesterday so that I still sound like I’ve been smoking a pack of menthols and yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.

Jill: Maybe it’s just

Alison: the way it’s gonna be. I know, I’m working on it. I’m he. If you have any ideas, listeners for what I can do, cuz I ask, whenever we talk to other broadcasters and announcers, I’m always like, what’s your secret to not sounding like you’re a three pack a day smoker? So if people have thoughts for me, I would love to hear them.

Jill: Well, let’s jump into today’s interview because it is, Excellent, and it was so exciting.

Alison: I’m just proud of myself and I hope the listeners agree. I did not embarrass myself with my fair girling.

Jill: I am proud of you. We are talking with Chuck Aoki, wheelchair rugby player [00:02:00] extraordinaire.

He is a three time paralympic medalist at his first games in London, 2012. The team. Earned bronze, then they earned silver at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Chuck is currently on the team U S A 2023 training squad in preparation for international competition. Later this year, we talked with Chuck about the finer points of the sport.

It’s specialized wheelchairs and his Paralympic experiences. Take a listen.

Chuck Aoki Interview

Alison: Chuck Aoki, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re very excited to talk wheelchair rugby, so we watched a lot of wheelchair rugby in Tokyo. First time people, a lot of people got to see it. Yeah. If no, if someone hasn’t seen it before, how do you describe it and explain it?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, Alison, thanks for having me. Excited to be here. So when it comes to describing wheelchair rugby to people, I, I kind of describe it two ways. The first way is the very, brunt way, which is, it’s basically, full contact bumper cars, kill the man with the ball. Uh, paralympic sport, you know, it’s the only full contact Paralympic sport.

We use chairs that are built like little battering rams. We smashed into each other. We knock each other, we send each other flying. It’s a lot of fun. And then beyond that though, I explained there’s a lot of strategy that goes into it. It’s really a hybrid mix of, little bit of wheelchair basketball, a little bit of hockey, a little bit of soccer.

It kind of has a lot, a little bit of rugby as well. It’s really a hybrid of a lot of sports that equals something, something really, really special and really, really great that I certainly love to enjoy. And I’m glad you all were able to watch it. And again, I’m glad so many people were exposed to it during Joe Kill, and hopefully there will be only more and more fans as time goes on.

Jill: I am curious.

I did not realize before we started researching that there are different chairs depending on the position you play. So talk to us a little bit about the two kinds of

chairs.

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, absolutely. So wheelchair rugby is super interesting. It’s like most Paralympic sports in that there’s a classification system that’s involved.

And so there’s a lot of nuance that goes into that that I can certainly get into. But the real, for wheelchair rugby, the difference is worth noting are we have what we call high pointers and what we [00:04:00] call low pointers. A high point player has more function, they’re gonna have more ability in their hands, less paralysis, maybe they’re an amputee, something like that.

And they use what we call an offensive wheelchair. And so the offensive chairs are. There’s very little on them. They’re built to be as, as sleek and as smooth as possible. Of course, still intended to smash and knock people around, but they’re basically built to burst through any gaps or holes and there’s meant to be as little on there to stop you as possible as opposed to what?

For our low point players in wheelchair rugby who are. Both with more impairments. These are typically higher spinal cord injuries, more paralysis in their body. They may not have any use of any of their hands and are only able to move their biceps, things like that, to move their arms. They use what we call defensive chairs, and the defensive chairs are intended to essentially, do exactly what they say, which is defensive, to stop other players.

So they’ve got what we call a picker On the front, it looks like a big cage, and that’s actually built and designed to lock into an offensive chair’s wing setup so that it hooks them, it holds ’em for a second cuz the people who use these chairs are typically not quite as fast, maybe not as agile.

And so we, they essentially use these iterate. Chair components to help them lock people down or try to not type, tie people up. And it’s a really fun kind of chess match in terms of coaching to determine what mix of high point players and local players you want to have on the court to be most effective.

Alison: So are you allowed to hold people for a certain time or do you have to let them go? Or is it up to the offensive player to get out of that?

Chuck Aoki: If a defensive player lock somebody up with their picker and hold them, they can hold ’em till the game ends as far as they want.

Um, with, if, when things like timeouts and quarter breaks happen, you have to let them go. Of course. But other than that, yeah, it’s totally between any chair contact that needs to be Adjudicated will say is between the players on the court. Uh, you’re not allowed to physically contact people.

I say that knowing that there’s a lot of physical contact that goes on that is not called but you’re, you’re not allowed to physically grab. So I can’t grab onto a player and hold onto their arm or something. That would be a foul. But if my chair is able to stop them and I can use my chair position or the hook or whatever on it, total in place, it’s fair game.

You’re allowed to lock your opponent down for as [00:06:00] long as you want. It

Alison: seems sometimes that nothing is illegal, but what fouls happen,

Chuck Aoki: it feels like nothing is illegal sometimes as well. So, the primary fouls we have are, are twofold. The one is that, like I said, you’re not allowed to have physical contact between players, which is several reasons.

Safety being of course, a primary one, but also just. Given that we have a range of classification function, it’d be really unfair if a high point player was, essentially could shove a, a much lower function player outta the way or something like that. That would be not super cool. So physical contact is not allowed.

Incidental contact is let go often, and especially if the play kind of results with nothing really happening and it was just kind of a little bump of a hand or something like that. Is usually let go. So physical contact body to body is typically not allowed. And the other thing that’s not allowed is most people, again, as you said, they see wheelchair rugby, they see chairs smashed and they’re like, oh my gosh, you can do anything you want.

And that’s true to a degree. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is what we call a spinning foul. And so the way I describe a spinning foul is if a player is pushing a chair down the court and someone comes and hits them. Behind the ax, actual their wheel. So on the backside of the wheel, it can kind of send them into a tailspin, right?

It can send them into long spinning over and fall over. And that is pretty dangerous because at that speed you’re not usually able to catch yourself and you could fall over and, hit your head pretty hard or your elbow or shoulder or something like that. And so those fouls, again, aren’t sometimes called.

They’re not always called, but that’s the other sort of main thing that’s illegal in the sport in terms of physical to physical. Contact. Other than that, you can smash into people as much as you want, knock ’em over. You can try to steal the ball off someone’s lap, knock them over whatever you want.

All that’s fair game. But there’s a couple rules in there designed to keep people safe.

Alison: Are you strapped in to the

Chuck Aoki: wheelchair? Yeah, it’s a good question. People ask a lot if, if we’re strapped in or not, so we are strapped into the chairs. And so the amount of strapping depends on the level of function you have.

So myself, who’s on the higher end of function, I only have a waist belt essentially that holds me in place because you’re not allowed. To [00:08:00] physically sort of lift up off the chair, if that makes sense, to like stand up or gain a little height, which some players, you know, could stand at their nubs or their legs, something like that.

You’re not allowed to do that. And so I only have them that belt. But then lower function pl, the lower down function you go, you’ll typically see more and more belts. Things are holding people in place because a lot of players don’t have. Core or Trump function. And so if they get hit and they didn’t have a waste belt holding them upright, they would fall over in their laps, which is not the worst thing in the world, but it would, it would take them time to sit up, readjust and be getting pushing in.

So they have belts that really hold them in place. And so, yeah, there’s a lot of traffic as folks often ask when they hear it’s full contact, say, oh my gosh, don’t you go flying. It’s like, well, no, me, we and the share fall. And they’re like, oh, I guess that’s better. But yeah.

Jill: There’s a lot, well, I don’t wanna say a lot, but we saw a fair amount of. wheel replacements mm-hmm. And things like that during mid-game. Yeah. What happens to your chair as you, as it gets pounded through the game?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, it’s a good question. There’s, there’s quite a bit of equipment timeouts as we call ’em.

So several things can happen. The, by far, most common thing that we have happen is we get flat tires. And the flat tires are caused because there’s so much physical contact. And on the low point chairs, as I. Mentioned those pick bars they have, they’re not allowed to be sharp or anything like that, don’t get me wrong.

So it’s not like I’m out there battling against knives or something. But the design of them are such that they can smash if they can’t hit the tire just right, they’ll pop the tube that’s actually inside of the tire. And then the tire itself can also be damaged as well in. So that’s our most common change is we need to fix a flat tire to ta the tube or the.

Or the tire itself. And those, we, those we typically, we can have none in the game. We can have as many as 7, 8, 9, 10 in the game. It just sort of depends on the match and how things are going. And so we always travel with lots of spare wheels. We’ve got several equipment, people on standby ready to get to work in the midst of the game.

Those are the main issues we have. It’s really with the tubes and tires, there’s lots of other things that can break. As you can imagine, a FullContact sport, like our axles sometimes can get bent. Our casters, which are the little small wheels, can [00:10:00] get damaged and have to be replaced, and there’s everything.

All sorts of upkeep that needs to be done on the chairs. But during the game, overwhelmingly the most common issue is that our, tubes can, like I said, get flattened and, and pop and explode and they, it’s quite loud when it happens. It can be a bit shocking if it’s quiet in the arena.

Jill: are you allowed to make much modifications to your chair? Cuz all of a sudden I am picturing all of the wheelchair rugby players. Being glued to robot competitions. Yeah. And, and trying to figure out ways to trick their chairs out

Chuck Aoki: similarly. Yeah, it’s a great question. So we like to say back in K back in the day when the sport was first coming into being in the sort of late eighties, early nineties, it was the Wild West.

People were showing up in all kinds of designs, all kinds of things guys were using. Guys would have their feet with giant cowboy boots on that they could stick into people’s wheels to hold them. It was, it was crazy. It was, a bit ludicrous at times. But that has, that has since changed.

There actually are quite a few rules now. designed to mandate the way in which chairs can be. Now, within those rules, of course, there’s always room for interpretation, and manufacturers are always trying to figure out, okay, what can we do with this? What can we do with that? But now there are actually are quite a few rules about the height of the chair, the point of contact, the wing size, the picker size, the we, there’s all kinds of rules now that dictate the way in which the chairs.

Can be built and designed, but for a while, yeah, as you said, there was people who were saying, well, let’s try this. Well, let’s try that. And it was, kind of wild to see what they used to look like back in the day because they used to play in it what effectively we call everyday wheelchairs, which are the kind I would use to get around.

And in those chairs there was a lot more fundamental braking and damaging and tipping and falling over and falling out than we have today now where we’ve got our little, tanks that are ready to, do battle.

Alison: So how long does a chair last? And how much does it cost?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, it’s a good question.

So chairs last when you’re playing at the international level, when you’re playing at, at the level I play at the chairs last anywhere from two to three years at most. Really, they go through quite a bit of damage and the chairs are really high quality. They’re made phenomenally. I [00:12:00] have a company I work with called Melrose, uh, wheelchairs that are outta New Zealand that do a phenomenal job.

But they, they take a beating, you know, and they, once you get one crack, you can fix it, but one crack will inevitably lead to another crack, which will lead to another crack, which will lead to another crack. And so you have to kind of, you have to think about replacing it.

And at the highest level, You know, when performance is at the utmost of mind, you really have to constantly be thinking, okay, is this chair a the best shape it can be in? Or should I get a new one, get going for the next games? So they’re replaced pretty frequently at, at the domestic level.

People who are playing more for fun or recreationally, they can last for a good 6, 7, 8 years. They don’t, they don’t, not quite the same amount of turnover, and you certainly can make one that is cracked. It lasts a long time. You’re just in danger of. One day you’re playing a game and all of a sudden your entire frame just collapses on you.

And then there is no equipment time out in the world that would be enough to fix it. And so the cost, they’re not cheap, you know, the chairs are, are heavy duty. There’s only a few manufacturers in the world that make them, and so they start, when you include the wheels, uh, around eight or $9,000 they’re quite expensive.

So the frame itself is only six or seven, but then the wheels on top of that is another a thousand dollars. And so they’re, they’re quite expensive. They’re not a cheap thing to buy you. There are some cheaper brands out there, but it becomes a case of quality versus. Cheapness, you know, and you know, if you get one of the higher end brands, you know that, and especially if you’re not playing at the international level, those will last for a long time.

It will be something you’re investing in over a course of time. You’re not gonna have to get a new one next year or something. but yeah, they’re quite expensive luck with, there are a decent amount of grant programs in the United States that help offset those costs, but it certainly is something that can be challenging.

Alison: Do you then have to have a supply of wheels or like a supply of

Chuck Aoki: tubes? Yeah. Yeah. We buy, we, we, I like to say we sometimes keep Kenda and companies like that in the black, I think with the amount of tubes and tires we buy. Yeah. So we all have, yeah, we have a big, big supplies. I buy my tubes by the box.

I buy my tires by the dozen. We have several, always have several spare wheels, which just like the same thing. We’re refreshing every now and then, but I usually travel to a competition with at least three [00:14:00] spare wheels on, in addition to the two I have. And then the tubes, you know, when we go to a tournament as a team, I don’t even know how many they take.

I don’t even know. We know how many we take. it’s dozens if not close to a hundred when we go to something like the Paralympics, just to have extra because, you know, are we gonna blow a hundred tires in a tube tournament? Probably not. But you’d rather have the a hundred there. And if we go through a hundred tubes, well, we’ll say, okay, we went through a hundred.

We didn’t expect that. So yeah, the amount of spare equipment we have is, is staggering, but it’s um, it’s what makes the chair run. So we’re not, we can’t do it without the equipment.

Jill: What is travel like for you? Like how is packing an extra chair?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, it’s a good question. People are often interested this so.

What’s interesting about traveling with the extra chair is in some ways it’s nice because it gives me a place to carry all my other things, and so I stack my bags on top of it. I can push the chair around and the chair moves pretty easily, and so I’m just kind of always have my big towers. I go through the gate trying to get, or I try to get to the check counter.

People are kind of like, Diving out of the way and such. I haven’t hit any, I’ve only hit a couple people, so it’s not too bad. But, uh, and it was in accident of course, but I, it actually works pretty well. I usually check, I check my wheelchair and then when we check in, they typically go through a long checklist of, okay, is there anything wrong with it?

And you kind of list what is currently wrong with it. And if any damage does happen, which you know, unfortunately just happened, you report it and they kind of take care of it takes a. It can take a while. But we check it in and it’s not too bad. It’s, it’s a little more challenging when you travel with the entire team.

When it’s just myself, you know, it’s kinda like having an extra big bag, but it’s not too big a deal. But when we show up to check in for a flight, you know, across the world and there’s 12 of us with each, an extra chair, and they kind of, the eyes get kind of widen. They say, oh, okay, I guess we’ll figure this out.

And we, to date, they always have, they’ve always managed to get them on there. But it’s, uh, it certainly is a bit of an adventure. I like to say there’s a lot of us and we take up a lot more space than people are used to, but it’s also usually a lot of fun. It gives us a chance, cuz you can tell we’re we’re there for something, right?

We’re a part of something. And so they usually are, oh, what are you guys here for? And we get to teach ’em about rugby and talk about it and they’re like, oh, that’s so cool and stuff. So it’s, it definitely can be, it is challenging to travel, but the good news [00:16:00] is we’ve gotten it down to a science pretty well now, and I’ve been doing it for, you know, almost 15 years now.

So it’s, I kind of have my routine, which is unfortunate when I travel with people who I don’t know, I’m like, okay, are you gonna. Are you gonna do what I wanna do or do we have to kind of do, I have to like navigate the Sutter system. So anyway, but no, it, it all works out at the end of the day usually.

Alison: Okay. So strategy back to the game itself. Mm-hmm. It again looks like just chaos, but what is the stra, what’s the strategy and how do you work that out? Yeah.

Chuck Aoki: Strategy is, there is no strategy. No, I’m just kidding. There is strategy. so strategy really falls into two candidates. It’s both lineup, construction and team construction, and then also sort of encour tactics.

And so the first hand of that, as I said, is the, A strategy around team construction. And so as, as I mentioned before, there’s a range of classifications of every player who plays Adaptives, who plays wheelchair rugby. And so that ranges all the way from 0.5 players, which are lowest function players all the way up to 3.5 players.

There’s half point increments along the way, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, et cetera, et cetera. And so we play the game four on four, and you’re only allowed to have up to eight total points on the court across your four players. So for example, I’m a 3.0 player. I can’t play with him more than one other 3.0 player, cuz you guys, you need to do your math.

3.0 plus 3.0 plus 3.0 would be nine. You’re already over and there’s not sort of like a thing you’d say, well, we’d rather play with three people and nine doesn’t work that way. You get eight points. That’s it. Some modifications. If you have a female player, you’re allowed to have an extra half point anyway so that, so I guess the first side of strategies I was saying starts with that.

Then it starts with this conversation about where do you go? Where do you go with the team dynamic? Do you wanna have a lot of high pointers and low pointers? Do you wanna have a balance in the middle? Kind of where do you want to set up your team dynamic?

And then from that it has to do with the lamps put on the court. So just for a quick example, We traditionally in the United States run what we call a balanced lineup, and to run myself a 3.0 player with a 2.5 player with a 2.0 player balanced out by a 0.5 player. So we would say [00:18:00] we have free ball handlers with one low point player who would typically not handle the ball as much, versus a team like Australia, for example, the current world champions, they would run a 3.5 player with another 3.5 player.

So they’ve got. The highest end with their two players right there who take up seven of the eight points and they then balance it out by having to run two 0.5 players with them. And so that’s sort of the strategy from just before you even take the court, which is quite, and it can be quite confusing for some folks or it is confusing, confuses me sometimes.

Um, so that’s the strategy before you even take the court. It’s like, okay, this country is gonna run this lineup. What do we want to try to run to counteract that based on the talent we have available to us? And so that’s the first strategy, is what is our lineups? What do we wanna do?

And within those lineups, there’s different strategies based on, as I said, if you have a balanced lineup, you know that three people can touch the ball successfully and be able to score. Whereas in the 3.5, 3.5 lineup, they’re gonna say, okay, our two main guys are gonna have the ball and the other guys aren’t ever gonna have the balls.

Do we have to kind of strategize based on that? And so that’s the first half of strategy. Happy to elaborate more on it. And then the second half of strategy, as I mentioned, is just the encour tactics. You know, it’s like, what do we wanna do offensively, defensively? And in a lot of ways that is dictated by what the other team runs.

For example, when a team has two, 3.5 players, we know that we need to stop those two players. And if we leave the other two alone, We’re, we’re comfortable with that. We’re okay with that. Those guys beat us. Ah, good job to them. And they probably won’t, or at least we hope they won’t. But the 3.5 players are so good.

It can, it’s easier said than done. Right. Versus a team that runs more of a, you know, as they set a balance lineup across the board, our strategy are different. It’s like, okay, do we want to force the ball into the lowest. Of their free hand, of their three ball hand orders, or do we want to try running something different?

Do we want to try to press into this sky? And within that there’s also, you know, they talk about man defense and zone defense. We play a mix of both. We also have something called the key, which I don’t know if how well is discussed on the broadcast, but on each goal line, there’s a little box essentially that is, is set up between ahead of the goal.[00:20:00]

Where three defensive players can be in at a time. You can’t have all four players in it. And it’s sort of like a zone. It’s like a second zone defense you set up. A lot of times that requires the game to slow down quite a bit because there’s just less space, and just because you’re fast doesn’t mean you can score.

You have to be a bit more tactical about it. So there’s quite a bit of strategy that goes into it. As I said, it starts really when the team is selected all the way to, you know, when you’re actually going on on the court for a match.

Jill: So do you. Play, every line is always gonna be the same makeup of points, or does the team change that up depending on who’s healthy that day, who’s playing better?

how does that work? I mean, because then Yeah, like if you suddenly change your point strategy with different lines, like the other teams have to adjust their game as

Chuck Aoki: well. Correct? Correct. Yeah. And so that’s one of the benefits of having. A lot of players at a lot of different classifications is, I guess the best way to put it.

So if you took, let’s just say in hypothetically, you took only 3.5 players and only 0.5 players teams would know there is one lineup you can run. You can run a 3.5, 3.5 0.505. That’s all you’re gonna run, you would strategize against it. For example, our team, we have, like this team we just selected, we have a 3.5 players, we have 3.0 players, we have 2.5 players, we have two point, we have every single classification.

And so within that we have, we absolutely have different lineups that we wanna run. So just, off the top of my head, seven lineups, as I mentioned, 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, 0.5. We also have 3.0 with two 2.0 with a 1.0. We have two, three point players with two one point players. And so to your point, there’s lots of strategies and it, It can be day to day and it can also be matchup dependent. You know, we might say, okay, we like really like these three lineups to go against this country. We’re gonna run those today. Or, you know what? This tournament is kind of a developing tournament. Let’s try these guys and let’s see how they can do the 3.3.

Thirty three eleven, we would call it against it and see how it works. You know, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t work so well. [00:22:00] But we find out. And then as you said, it depends on, on how someone’s feeling that day, how someone’s been performing, and do we want to try different people in it? Do we want to give people a shot?

There’s a lot of dynamics that go into sort of deciding. What they’re, but you’re absolutely right, is that part of the job of the coaching staff and us as players also is to sort of anticipate what the other team might do and have plans ready to go when they come out with it. Because you also just, you never know until they get out there what exactly they’re gonna do.

Jill: How much of it is like, Play your game versus trying to combat the other team’s game.

Chuck Aoki: Yeah. The play your game versus fight respond to the other team is, is sort of a constant battle. I think in most team sports honestly is always, you know, it’s not like, track where it’s like, I know that if I run faster than a hundred meter.

Doesn’t matter what they do, I know that I’m just the fastest, whereas you’re correct, we always have to respond to what the other team’s doing in some way, even if we don’t necessarily even if we don’t want to necessarily to a certain degree. So I would say our approach has always been to try to be more on the proactive rather than a reactive side.

That is to say, We have strategies, particularly on offense that we want to do, and we believe it can be successful no matter what the other team does defensively. And so we’re gonna really drill hard at being good at this and so that we can be successful at it. And if we need to adjust, we certainly can always adjust.

But the idea that we’re gonna, we’re gonna be that. And the same thing with defense is that we want to be proactive and say we believe strongly in our talent and our players and our systems that can work, and we’re gonna really do our best to be successful. And that gets to this question, sort of also what I mentioned before about playing zone defense versus man-to-man defense.

Play man-to-man defense. Your players are matching up on a specific player and if they totally trains their strategy and that person is not on the court or inbounding, you say, oh shoot. What do we do now versus if you play more of a zone defense, as I mentioned, your players are just where they are on the court matters less the rest of it.

Right. And so I think that’s one of these strategies. It’s a great question Jill, as sort of what is the balance that we try to [00:24:00] strike between, as you said, Dictating the course, doing what we want to do versus responding to what we have to do. And the reality is that sometimes teams play really well and you have no choice but to react to what they’re doing.

But I think at its core, the goal is to always be the, like I said, the proactive team, the one really going after the other opponent and setting the tone yourself rather than always sort of being on the defensive and having to sort of just fight back about what they’re doing. Okay.

Alison: We’ve got Team u s A, we have Australia.

Yeah. Let’s talk about some of the other big guns. Mm-hmm. On the, in the field, great Britain, Canada. Who else?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah. Great Britain, Canada. Our phenomenal, you know, great Britain is the defending Paralympic champion from Tokyo. Of course. Uh, Canada is just a perennial. Team to be on the podium.

They haven’t been in a little while, but they’re a team that it would never surprise me if they ended up on the podium. Japan is also extremely talented. They’re a very, very solid team. Denmark has actually come on lately to be really, really quality. They’ve posted quite a few pair events and I believe they were actually fourth the world championships, which was their high highest finish of all time.

So they’re a very strong team. And then France as well coming into the games next year in Paris. They’re also extremely talented, very, very good. They’ve got some really dynamic players that are, are very good. So all in all there’s six or seven teams in the world that I think legitimately have a chance to go for a medal.

And, only three of us can win the medal. it’s tight. it’s great for spectators. It’s difficult for us as athletes to have to do this, but it, it does certainly motivate us to continue to work hard and, and train our best. But yeah, it’s a very deep team.

It’s a very deep world, I should say. With a lot of really great teams out there and, and you know, there’s developing teams as well. The quality of play really has risen across the board. Brazil and Columbia are now very strong teams. They’re not quite to the level of these next teams, I would say, although they could always surprise us.

Certainly. But they’ve really raised their floor of play to no longer be. There was a time when you looked at those teams and said, okay, this will be a good game to get our young players experience. We won’t have to worry about it too much. And now we really have to [00:26:00] show up and play a strong game against them to make sure that we, we come away with a victory.

And so the sport is really growing and it won’t surprise me when in, in five years there’s even more talented teams developing all across the world. Because teams really invest in this in countries you’ve seen this an exciting sport. It’s really great. But it’s, um, it certainly is a, a great thing to see the sport growing internationally.

It just makes my job more difficult. But that’s okay.

Alison: You have been a big supporter of women in wheelchair rugby, and it is a mixed sport. So let’s talk a little bit about getting more women on

Chuck Aoki: the court. Yeah, absolutely. I’m a huge proponent of, wheelchair rugby should be for anyone who’s eligible for the sport period, is my opinion.

You know, and obviously we have a slightly more restrictive criteria in that you have to be impaired in at least three limbs, typically four, which I think is fine. I think it’s good to have a sport that allows that, you know, wheelchair basketball is, is much more open, but the reality is that it’s very hard if you have, especially a high spinal cord injury, to even be able to get the bottle of the hoop.

So it’s again, fundamentally which rugby should be for anyone. Who is eligible and that means women, you know? And I think when you look at the sport as a whole, it’s certainly in the US the amount of women playing is not comme to the amount of. Women who are eligible for the sport, if that makes sense.

And I think it has long been a very male dominated sport. I think more men are perhaps more drawn to it or inclined to it. I’m not entirely sure why. I think it’s also possible that in rehab, that men are being said, oh, you should go play this sport. Whereas women are maybe not getting that same sort of like, Hey, you can go play this sport like.

This would be a great sport for you, and so I think there’s some, there’s something going on there as well. But yeah, to your point, yeah, it’s something that I, I would, I really wanna see more women play. I, I really do. I think it’s important. That they know that this is an environment that you can come and thrive in.

You could be a part of it. You know, we have a woman on the NE national team this year, Sarah Adam, who’s phenomenal. We had two last year. hopefully there’ll be one we take to the Paralympics next year. It’ll be our first ever. It would be really, really cool. We had our first two ever last year at World Championship, which is great.

And you know, it’s something that, as I said, I feel really strongly that. [00:28:00] we as, as male athletes, should do our best to make it a welcoming environment because again, it’s challenging entering into a space that is, you’re the only one who looks like you. I get that, you know, and I think the, what really drove that home for me was I went into an event, in 2022 at a school, and I found out on the way to the event that it was an all girls school, which is, I went in my head, I’m like, oh, that’s fine.

No problem. Shouldn’t be an issue. My fellow athlete with me was a woman, and all the staff who came with us were women. And so I went into this, I went into this gym with them and I looked around and I was literally the only man in this entire room of, I think like at that point probably, 20 middle school students and probably another 10 or 15 staffers.

And it was fine. It wasn’t like I was like nervous or anything, but I was like, oh, this is really interesting. This is what it’s like to be the only person of your gender in a room. Which honestly, quite frankly was just an experience I’d never felt before. I’d felt the experience of being the only disabled person in a room before that had happened, but I’d never experienced it to gender.

And so I think that for me, not that I was. Not trying, certainly to have women be more involved prior to that, but that to me really drove home, oh, this is something that, this is an interesting feeling and I need to know that a woman coming into wheelchair rugby is probably gonna have a similar feeling to this.

And perhaps more, not intimidated, but you know, sort of more apprehension potentially because of, guys can be very good old boys, guys club, things like that. And so I think it’s something that, I’m very cognizant of again, trying to be more welcoming. I was actually just an event this past weekend where I met a female wheelchair rugby player from South Carolina, which was super exciting and she’s very interested and she loves the sport.

And I see how happy the sport has made so many people, and I see how excited people get with it and how much they love it, and I will. The first one to say wheelchair rugby is not for everyone cuz of this full contact you have be prepared to get hit and knocked around. And men and women both don’t like that, which I totally respect, but I, I’ve seen it bring so much happiness and so much joy to so many people that it hurts me to think that there’s anyone out there who thinks like, oh, I, I can’t do that.

Like, that’s not for me Because of my gender. And so, you know, I haven’t hit, I will admit I haven’t hit upon the perfect way to get more women involved. I have some ideas, certainly, and I would love [00:30:00] to hear from other folks about how I can do so, but I think it’s something that if nothing else, really talking about it posting, I think is the first step in really having a conversation and then the rest sort of, sort of builds from there, hopefully.

Alison: Okay. Let’s get to the Paralympics. You’ve been to three. And you were very young when you first showed up in London. So let’s start with your experience in London.

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, London is, um, it both feels like it was yesterday and a lifetime ago, which is kind of a weird thing, but it really does, you know, there’s some memories that are so fresh.

I’m like, oh my gosh, I could have just come back from it. And there’s other things that people remind me of and I go, oh really? That was then, I mean, remember that. So London was incredible, you know, for that to be my first Paralympics, I’m, I kind of got spoiled, to be perfectly honest with you because it’s not that the other Paralympics were that weren’t special and weren’t great for people there, I’m, I’m sure they were wonderful.

But you know, London has pretty much universally been said as this is the greatest Paralympics of all time in terms of the spectators, the crowd, the promotion, the legacy it has left behind a paralympic sport in the country. Is really kind of unmatched so far. Although Japan and Brazil have done a nice job as well.

And so London, you know, it’s just amazing all you know. There’s some things that I said that I’ll never forget, like sitting, before every match they sit you in a hallway next to the team you’re going out with, which I always think is so interesting. So you’re literally no more than three feet away from them.

And when it’s little hallway. And all these venues are constructed to be temporary, and so nothing is particularly thick or soundproof. And so the crowd, we were playing Great Britain in our first match against Great Britain. The crowd was so loud out there that the walls were literally shaking and vibrating.

And it was like, you could tell it was gonna be really loud, and it was like, this is both intimidating but also very cool experience. And then when we got out there and were actually on the court, it was something I’d never experienced before. It was truly so loud. I couldn’t hear myself think I had never experienced that before and I didn’t.

I, you know, people have said that. I was like, oh, that’s not a real thing. I can tell you now, it is a real thing. It can be so loud you can’t hear yourself. Think, [00:32:00] and you know me to my teammate. Two feet away saying something to me, couldn’t hear a word he had to say. Very, very cool experience. Uh, the games itself, as I said, were tremendous.

Our result. There was a bit of a letdown. You know, we certainly wanted to do better than a bronze medal. We certainly expected to make the final. we intended to win a gold medal. Time heals these things and makes ’em a little bit better. It certainly is always a little disappointing knowing that we could have been better than that.

But it overall, as an experience London was a plus. Plus plus really, really special, really spectacular. As I said, to start my career off with an event like that is, it’s, it’s hard to top certainly. And then we

Alison: go to Rio.

Chuck Aoki: Yes. So Rio was a, um, Rio, Brazil, I know when they awarded the games were in a much different place than when they were, when they ended up host them, which is not their, no one’s fault certainly.

But, so the people were wonderful. The people were so welcoming, so friendly, and it was a sort of thing where it. First, our first games, there was hardly anyone there, which was kind of disappointing. I was like, oh, this is kind of a bummer. And I think at some point the call came out or people said, Hey, we need to go out and support the Paralympics, because after that we had massive crowds for every single game.

People were there, they were loving it, they were engaged. They had the ULAs. It was really a dynamic experience. After that and really an incredible, incredible thing to be a part of. Once again, you know, the culture was so exciting. People were so engaged. we made, I say mistake.

It wasn’t a mistake, but we one time rather than kind of going out the sort of, Private player entrance. There’s sort of a back way you can come in. We went out the main gate, I, I, I actually don’t remember why, but we were just deluged with people who were so excited to meet us. Like, oh my gosh, take pictures, sign these things, sign autographs.

And we were out there for like 45 minutes before our assigned state department person said, okay, we need to leave. They always, at every game, there’s a State Department person who comes and tags along. Nothing’s ever happened, but they’re just kind of there to help move you around. And he said, all right, we’ve been here.

We, we need to keep going. Okay. Sounds good. And so, Rio was amazing. It was a little hot for my taste, I think a couple days. It was 95 plus, and I was very thankful I play indoors. And [00:34:00] then of course the final match was, one of the most epic games I ever played in my entire career, double overtime to Australia that we own.

As I said, unfortunately came up a little bit short at the end on, but you know, I say anytime you lose a game in double overtime, it very easily could have gone the other direction. One bounce, one play could have made all the difference in the world. And again, it, it sucks to not come home with the gold medal we thought we, we would come home with.

But it certainly was again, an incredible experience. Being in that game was amazing. And it was, yeah just a little bit short, but it still was it still, again, incredible experience to be there with team u s a, be part of something so much bigger than yourself, seeing all these wonderful countries and nations.

It was really special.

Alison: And then Tokyo was very different. Were you aware of the increased television coverage while you were there?

Chuck Aoki: So we had been told, you know, ahead of time that there would be increased coverage and certainly we, we knew it would exist. We didn’t know to what degree it would look like since, you know, in Florida, no, unfortunately we don’t have time to sit and look up our schedule, try to figure things out.

We knew what time we’d play and we could kind of put that out. We knew there’d be some more. And we knew that that was gonna be really critical for a lot of fans back home as well, just because, you know, no one could be there. You know, there were no spectators allowed, unfortunately. And so that made Tokyo kind of a strange experience.

Um On the ground, I say that the Paralympics are always a little bit weird because you’re living in this bubble, this village that’s kind of isolated anyway, so it’s not like you’re normally just in the city seeing people every day. It’s like, no, you’re in this little self-contained city within a city.

but no, we we had a sense that it would be more coverage, and I think a lot of the. The social media engagement, for lack of a better way to put it, showed that, Hey, people are watching this. People are checking us out. People are enjoying this. And I know that the time difference can sometimes be challenging.

Certainly with Tokyo was not ideal timing. But again, based on the, the feedback we got and the amount of social media attention we had, I, I think it was clear that people were watching, people were engaged, people were in tuned in. And you know, like I said, I had lots of people after the fact say, oh, we watched you.

Oh, we got to [00:36:00] watch you. Oh, it’s cool. I was able to watch you this time because, There had been coverage in Rio. There really wasn’t much TV coverage in London, but I know that the coverage for Tokyo really was a step up. Now, some people said, oh, I had to click through a few things to find it, but they all, most people found it.

And I thought that was really, really cool. And then you know what also told me that this again is much later on, that it had really broken through is I’ve had. Multiple different people and just complete strangers walk up to me and go, are you Chuck Aoki? And I go, well, yeah, I am. Which is very cool. I watched you on tv, I saw you play, which is just a super cool feeling.

You know, it’s something that I’ll, I’ll never get sick of, certainly cuz it’s very, very special. it certainly was a big step forward in coverage and we’re hopeful that Paris and LA are only gonna be more and more.

Alison: Did it still feel like the Paralympics even without the crowds?

Chuck Aoki: It did, and it didn’t, if I’m being perfectly honest. The village still felt very similar, you know, that’s, like I said, kind of an unusual circumstance. We had to wear masks everywhere, which was fine. But, you know, other than that it was still the village. The food was amazing. We got to eat. I ate rice for like 27 meals straight.

It was incredible. It was my favorite thing of all time. It was really still a great experience in that regard. but the crowds itself, I’ll admit the first game we came out for was a little weird cuz there was pretty much nobody there. And the opening ceremony was also kind of weird because we went into a giant stadium that seats 75,000 people and there was.

No one there. That was a bit odd certainly, but it was it still was special. It still was playing wh rugby at the highest level. The competition was great. And the other thing I tell folks is, you know, we made the gold medal final in that game as well against Great Britain. And by the end of the game, by towards the middle of the game, they had relaxed things a little in that you could, that.

Athletes couldn’t so much, but personnel, if that makes sense with delegations, could get into games. They could go see some events if they wanted to. And so at our final, our gold medal final. we came in and we looked around and it was sort of like, there are quite a few people here for a no spectators event, which again, we didn’t mind to create a great atmosphere.

But so it, that made it a little bit special. And it was nice. It was a [00:38:00] decent little crowd there, but still not quite the same. But you know, as I said, anytime you’re wearing the US jersey, you know, you’re in the Paralympics. And the media coverage also, I think gonna help drive home, oh, this is not just some random term.

This is the Paralympics. We’re still. Being back home, talking to N B C, doing all that kind of stuff. It was still super, super special. just not quite the same, but they’re always a little bit strange. And again, it was still a privilege to be there.

Alison: So I always think this, when I watch team events.

When you’re in the final and you end up with the silver medal, are you able to enjoy that silver medal at all when you’ve just lost the game?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah, it’s a very good question. If we can enjoy the medal after the silver. I guess I think in the moment it does depend on the circumstance a little bit.

In Rio, we were just exhausted. Everyone was just tired. Obviously the Australians were very happy cause they won the gold medal. We were all just kind of wiped and so it wasn’t so much. Obviously if we’d won, we’d been super excited, but there wasn’t like a super angry, upset, cause it was like, I’m just exhausted.

I have just been through this battle. What are we even doing? I’m just so tired. Versus, Tokyo, it was frustrating. We certainly came a bit short, but I think now that I’ve, you know, unfortunately been through this a few times, I also know that at least in the moment, there’s a lot of cameras there.

There’s a lot of pictures being taken, and you have a choice in that moment to appear really angry, really upset, really frustrated, or you can put on a brave face. You can smile for the cameras, you can wave and, you know, internally, you’re, you’re always disappointed. I think any competitive athlete who, believes that they had a chance to win the gold medal is gonna be upset and frustrated.

And so we certainly sat there. There’s a certain lot of frustration, but I think especially with Tokyo given Covid, given everything that had happened, there was more appreciation for, you know, we’ve been through an incredible amount in this last year and a half. The whole world had, and the fact that we made it there, we were able to be there, we were able to compete.

The games didn’t get canceled, I think really did make it special and, and helped a lot. But it was certainly not something it always hurts. You know? I’m not, I can’t pretend and [00:40:00] say, oh, well we got silver. It’s okay. It’s like, if you believed you were a good enough team to win the gold medal, you’re always gonna be somewhat disappointed that You came up a bit short.

Alison: What is your favorite thing about playing wheelchair rugby?

Chuck Aoki: Oh my gosh. My favorite thing about playing wheelchair rugby is a very good question. My favorite thing about playing wheelchair rugby has to be my teammates. Honestly, the camaraderie, the being part of something bigger than yourself, working with other folks.

You know, I say to people, I could have done track, I could have done field, I could’ve done all kinds of sports. You know, not saying I would’ve made the Paralympics certainly, but I could’ve played others. I could’ve dedicated my time to ’em. But I never did, and I’ve always been a team sport athlete. I grew up with basketball.

I tr as I said, I actually tried track for a minute. I hated it, to be perfectly honest. It was boring. I didn’t like just pushing in circles endlessly. And then I, of course found rugby and fell in love with it. And it’s because, it’s been great to travel the world. It’s been great to win these medals.

It’s been great to compete. All these things are amazing, incredible. I wouldn’t trade in front of the world. But what has really been so special is that I’ve made some of my closest friends in the world through it. I’ve met some amazing people I’ve gotten to spend the last 15 years and hopefully a couple more hanging out training with some people that I’m closer to than any almost anybody else in the world.

And that those experiences, those memories, those are gonna last me in my lifetime. You know? And like I said, I have metals, which are great. Those are wonderful, but it’s really the people that have kept me coming back all these years. I think it’s the loyalty to them, it’s the desire to be with them, to compete with them, to wanna develop fellow athletes, to grow, to be the best athletes we can be, to push each other.

I think it’s really what makes it so special. And so, you know, it might be a bit cheesy to say, but Yeah, my favorite part about wheelchair rugby is the people, you know, the community that it’s, it’s brought me, it’s made me feel like I belonged and made me feel like I had a place in the world. And that’s something again, that.

You couldn’t trade. You can’t trade for anything in the world.

Alison: I know you’re planning to stick around for Paris. What is Team u USA doing differently this time around?

Chuck Aoki: Yeah. So for Paris, we are, we have taken a bit of a newer squad. some of our longer tenured players did not make the team for 2023, which [00:42:00] while anything can happen between now and 2024, certainly, and I think any country in the world would tell you this.

There’s a good chance that people you take the year before to Paralympic Pixar, there’s gonna be quite a few of them going the next year, whether. Who exactly it is is hard to say, but, so I think we win a bit younger. We’re trying to kind of both do two things at once. We’re trying to develop the best team we have for Paris, but also with an eye towards the future, knowing that we don’t have the funding to have a true development team.

So where can we put some of these other players? And so, we’re going a bit younger. We’re trying some new things. I think overall, tactically, we’re still doing a lot similar that we’ve begun under our new head coach, Joe Degra. I think we’re really excited about the steps he’s taken to instill kind of a new culture, a bit more accountability, things like that.

We’re really excited about those sort of things. So I think overall we haven’t changed a ton. But at its core, as I said, we’re trying to get a bit younger as a team and be a bit more aggressive perhaps across the board on, on the court and really just sort of, as I mentioned earlier, less reactive.

More proactive, more going after opponents. Really trying to take the fight two teams right away. Cuz in our Tokyo experience for example, we actually fell behind, I think in almost every game and came back in almost every single one except the final. And it’s one of these things where it’s great to come back, but.

Imagine if you could just start ahead and not have to go, ever come back, not be so much stressed and hold a lead. So I think we’re doing a lot of things the same, a few things differently overall, cuz in team construction, but mostly we know that the success will come from ourselves and from, you know, our how hard we work and how much we do at its core and how much our athletes are able to put into it.

So we’re excited.

Jill: Chuck Aoki, thank you so much.

We are thrilled to be able to talk to you and thank you so much for taking the time to do so

Chuck Aoki: Absolutely, it was my pleasure. thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Jill: Thank you so much, Chuck. You can follow Chuck on Social. He is at Chuck Aoki on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook and Aoki five Chuck on Twitter. We will have links to those in the show notes and the team will be having training camps throughout the summer in preparation for the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup in Paris in October, and the Parapa American Games [00:44:00] in Chile in November.

Seoul 1988 History Moment

Jill: That sound means it is time for our history moment all year long. We are looking at the Seoul, 1988 Olympics and Paralympics as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. Alison, it is your turn for a story. What do you got for

Alison: us? And I have a little bit of a darker story than we usually tell, but I wanted to include it because we’ve talked a little bit about.

Some of the dark side of the Olympics when it comes to a city, and I don’t wanna ignore that. we generally talk about the happy sides of the athletes and the triumphs, but you know, there are things that happen when an Olympics comes to a country. And in 1988, the South Koreans were really looking at these Olympics as a coming out party.

We’ve talked about that with other cities back onto the world stage, and the officials in South Korea took that very seriously, and that led to some serious, serious problems. So leading up to the games, Officials rounded up homeless people, orphan children, the mentally and physically handicapped, and sent them away from Seoul to basically what were prison camps.

A lot of them were called brothers facilities. And the people in these camps were abused in ways that we can’t even imagine. physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse the whole gamut. And used as slave labor to enrich some of these officials who were sending people to the camps. Holy cow.

They wanted soul to look clean and perfect, and thus anyone who was seen as undesirable was eliminated from the city. And there’s been a lot of talk. By, especially by activists, that this needs to be redressed. The government needs to accept what happened, needs to pay money and reparations to the people who have suffered, who are mostly still alive.

Cuz [00:46:00] many of these people were children. Oh, you know, runaways and abandon children and, and that category. So especially leading up to Pyeongchang where the Olympics was going back to South Korea, there was a lot of talk that we need to take care of these people who are still alive. But so far, not much has been done and many of the officials have not had to give up.

Their ill-gotten gains from the slave labor, have not faced any. Legal ramifications from what happened. So there’s been a lot of talk regarding San Saint in Paris and also in LA and how are we dealing with the homeless problem. So we’ll keep an eye on that and make sure to be reporting on that as well.

TKFLASTAN Update

Alison: Welcome to shk.

Jill: It is the time of the show where we check in with our team, keep the flame alive. These are past guests of the show and our listeners who make up our citizenship of Shk. First up, Katie Moon. Our pole vaulter won the first Diamond League event of the season in Doha and her winning vault of 4.76 meters gives her the world lead.

Alison: At the Kioti Tractor Championships Cup, team Schuster curled to a fifth place, finish in the pools and lost in the first round of the playoffs

Jill: speed skater. Erin Jackson has been named to U S A Roller Sports 2023 national team. Not surprising.

you found a reel of her speaking at the commencement ceremony. Oh my gosh. I want, I, you know, not getting misty over here. Yeah. So if you

are

Alison: in our Facebook group or on Instagram, we’ve been reposting some of the speaking that she did at the University of Florida graduation and sitting volleyball player Lora Webster is competing this weekend at the para volleyball Pan-American Zonal Championships.

C B C is streaming the action with. Rob Snoek on the call.

Jill: Oh, this is great. Oh my goodness. When

Alison: Shk Tani’s meat.

Jill: That’s [00:48:00] right. Oh, that will be fun. We’ll have a link to CBC’s streaming schedule in the show notes. A reminder that book club and movie club are coming up. Speaking of hard things, when you were talking about the homeless situation, I, I just finished the hard parts.

A Memoir of Courage and Triumph by Oksana Masters, which is our next book club selection. Whoa. Did that pack a punch? She. You know, I don’t wanna like preview the convers, don’t spoil it. I don’t, but I, I will say she, it’s a very courageous book in that she does go to some really dark places in her childhood and, it’s just very well done.

Yes. Spoiler alert, I did really enjoy the book, but we’ll be talking about that with Book Club Claire Soon. Also, a movie club is coming up with Film Buff. We are watching zero Two Hero, which is a biopic on the Chinese Pirate movie. Whoa. Biopic, sorry. I always say biopic and, you know, just messes me up.

And then movie club. With film Buff Fran will be watching zero two Hero, a biopic on the Chinese Paralympian. So Wai Wa. let us know your thoughts on either one of those. You can get at us on, uh, Facebook group, keep The Flame Alive Podcast, or you know, drop us line at flame alive pod gmail.com or give us a text.

We’ll have that text line later on in the show.

Paris 2024 News

Jill: little bit of news from Paris 2024. I think we’re just like, every week it’s gonna be one more thing, one more thing. But the single ticket lottery is on. So if you get chosen for the lottery to buy, uh, tickets in this round of sales, let us know if you got in and also let us know what your experience is like and what you’ll get to see.

Then. Paris 2024 had a little, Announcement, press conference for, food in the village. They brought out.[00:50:00]

Alison: So this is very funny to me because it was announced that Sodexo would be the f the food service provider, and there are thousands of American college students hearing Sodexo and panicking for these Olympic athletes.

Jill: Yes. But, they will be having, Regional food. It, it’s one of those, like, they have to provide so many meals a day and provide a wide variety of cuisines. Of course, there will be baguettes on hand as that is a a u Unesco, treasure, the baguette. I’ve already been researching baguettes and Where’d you try them?

Alison: So I think our Olympic tours and Paralympic tours are going to be, Jill’s experience of bread in the native land. You know, you had all your bow in China and now your baguettes in Paris. You’ll do well in Italy. Yeah,

Jill: exactly. Exactly. You’ll roll me home. They will have dishes from Michelin star chefs, which will be something to see.

I mean, that, that’s actually kind of a cool experience. What they won’t have is alcohol in the village. I did love the headline from Channel seven in Australia. Olympians robbed as popular product wiped from Paris 2024.

Alison: So, Well, you know, it’s funny that Australia is the one that’s complaining about the booze, considering how much trouble their rugby team got into on the plane with the alcohol in Tokyo.

I, I

Jill: don’t think they realize it’s,

Alison: are they missing the irony

Jill: here? But yes, there alcohol will not be served. There will be receptions where there may be wine and champagne, but. As a general rule, they’re not serving it themselves. All meat and milk products and eggs will be French produced.

And then the imported items that they’ll have to bring in like bananas and rice, just that stuff’s not grown locally. That will all be organic or have fair trade certification.[00:52:00] Dishes will be reusable. They’ll be doing a lot of composting. And then anything that does not get eaten will be given to food banks and associations.

Alison: We’ll see how the snack tables in the media center pan out.

Jill: we’d like to give a shout out to all of our patrons and supporters who keep our flame alive. We We will be taping our May bonus Patreon episode soon. So that’s looking at more of the big rule changes in the sports for Pariss 2024. But if you join now, you’ll get immediate access to other rule changes in the sports and our rule change document that will keep you on top of everything becoming a patrons, really your way of showing support and making the show possible.

The levels start at just $2 a month and the link to sign up. We’ll be in this show notes, so that is going to do it for this week. Let us know what you think of wheelchair

Alison: rugby. You can connect with us on Twitter and Instagram at Flame Alive Pod. Email us at flame alive pod gmail.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348.

That’s two zero. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive podcast group on Facebook. And don’t forget our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories from this week’s episode. You can sign up for that@flamealivepod.com.

Jill: Next week we will be talking about women’s roles in sports history with Alexandra Allred, author of When Women Stood The Untold Stories of Females Who Changed Sports in the World. So be sure to join us for that. We might get a little uterus conversation going on. You never know. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time.

Keep the flame alive.