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Book Club Claire on “The Hard Parts” by Oksana Masters

Release Date: June 8, 2023

Category: Book Club | Podcast

Book Club Claire is back to discuss a memoir we’ve been excited to read: The Hard Parts: A Memoir of Courage and Triumph (affiliate link) by Oksana Masters, a 6x Paralympian who is one of the major faces of Team USA. This book lives up to its title, as Masters bravely delves into the extremely tough early years of her life. She was born in Ukraine with several birth defects that were caused by the massive nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. Brought up in an orphanage, Masters was on the receiving end of many types of abuse, yet she managed to survive.

Meanwhile, in the US, a woman named Gay Masters decided to adopt an orphan. Seeing a picture of Oksana, she fell in love with the girl and after a lengthy process, finalized the adoption and brought Oksana to America. In the book, we learn about Oksana’s many medical procedures and her introduction to para sport, which brings her to the world stage and the Paralympics.

We’ve got thoughts on her memoir–how does it stack up to some of the other athlete memoirs we’ve read? And Alison does a little investigative work to figure out one of the athletes who’s name’s been changed.

Don’t forget to follow Claire on Twitter! She’s a great follow!

In our Seoul 1988 History Moment, Jill has part 2 of her sailing stories. This time we’re looking at the Finn class, and the sportsmanship of Canadian Lawrence Lemieux. Here’s a little bit of footage from Race 5 of his regatta:

In our TKFLASTAN Update, we have news and results from:

In Paris 2024 news, Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is rapidly becoming our favorite politician, announced efforts to reduce plastic waste during the Games. We have more details on the torch relay–including how some departments of France have said non to hosting the event due to the costs involved. Plus, we are learning more about fan zones and the Cultural Olympiad.

In LA 2028 news, there’s speculation on the potential for moving the canoe slalom events to a different state.

And in International Olympic Committee News, could this finally be it for boxing in the Games?

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



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 Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note.

Book Club Claire on The Hard Parts (Episode 290)

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’m your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown.

Alison, hello, how are you? . Bonger, you got to use some French.

Alison: I did. I was traveling in Morocco. I got to use some French that we have been practicing and trying to learn for Paris, and I discovered I have a very long way to go.

I could ask a question, but I could not understand the answer.

And I was told by people who do speak French that the French and Morocco is very pure. It’s not like French Canadian French. Where even French people don’t understand what the Canadians are saying, that the Moroccan French is very good and I couldn’t figure out what they were saying to me. So I have a lot more work to

Jill: do.

All right. We’ll get on our li listening comprehension then.

Alison: I could ask and then she answered me and I’m like, I still don’t know where to find a pen.

Jill: Aw, yeah. [00:02:00] Well you part way there though.

Alison: That’s good. I know. But I did, I did impress my daughter with being able to ask for things, so I’m gonna count that as a win.

Jill: Definitely. What’s also a win is that Book Club Claire is back to today.

Today with a selection that you might wanna pick up for some summer reading listeners or winter reading if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. It is called The Hard Parts, A Memoir of Courage and Triumph by Sana Masters. Take a listen to our conversation.

Book Club Conversation: The Hard Parts by Oksana Masters

Jill: Book club.

Claire, welcome back. We are talking Oksana Masters’ memoir, the Hard Parts. It’s a memoir of courage and triumph. What do you got for us?

Book Club Claire: I have a very good book. I don’t wanna spoil it. I, I guess I did spoil it, but the book was very engaging. If you are somebody that picks up on ghost writers like I have over the past, what, four or five years of us doing book club she got a very good ghost writer to really make the words pop.

So you really feel her story the story itself and how she tells it. Is a little more interesting. But first, before we get to that, I wanted to get your thoughts on the book.

Yeah, I

Jill: totally agree about the ghost writer. Oksana wrote this with Cassidy Randall and big prompts to her.

This was so engaging and I’d be curious to know the process that they went through and. how much did Cassidy have to draw out of Oksana in terms of trying to get the story they wanted to get? What did Oksana come to the table with? Okay. I’m laying it all on the line because she is very frank in a lot of this book.

She, She does dive into the hard parts of her life and it’s just really well told. Overall, like really well written, really engaging. The subject matter can be difficult, but it’s [00:04:00] also inspiring and it’s also a fairly quick read. You get, I got really engaged with the book and found myself flying through it.

Book Club Claire: I agree the engagement was definitely there. You didn’t feel like it was a slog whenever it got to. Almost that point. It was immediately transitioning to a new section of the book. I believe there were three parts total, so it was her time in Ukraine when she was an orphan in the orphanage, and then her youth when she moved to the United States with her mother, her adopted mother.

And then her time training for Paralympic sport, and then eventually going to the Paralympics. I will say I was kind of frustrated because this book just came out, what, February of this year, so 2023. But it doesn’t talk about, Beijing 2022 at all, and that was her dominant Paralympics.

And there’s nothing mentioned about that. And I thought that with the book coming out in 2023, there might be an addendum or that might be the final chapter, kind of showing that she’s made it. But no, they end with pyeongchang when she wins the gold medal there and. I think that was a little frustrating for me cuz I did wanna hear more about what I saw of her in China and it stops before that point.

Jill: Right.

And they postponed the publication of this book by a year. So I thought, okay. We postponed it because she did so well at Tokyo 2020, and then we had this dominance at Beijing, and then you get the book and it does end in pyeongchang and you’re like, wow. But maybe that’s what they ultimately decided the arc should be like.

That’s the games where she really kind of came into her own as a winter Paralympian and, she had to give up on rowing and so she found cross-country and biathlon, [00:06:00] but maybe they figured that was a better arc to tell and not get into the last two games which I was really surprised and I kind of wondered how.

They could have made that work cuz it would’ve been more fun as Oksana got bigger and bigger on the global stage really. And more and more people know the story. You do find that you want to connect with this. The bit, like I remember Cher Noble, so that. The connection of her birth defects that she suffered, that resonates with me because I do remember all of that.

And so, London 20 12, the Paralympics, I don’t really remember too much of. And then Rio I would dip in and out of the Paralympics, but there wasn’t a ton more coverage. And I do remember the bionic elbow and the amazing taping jobs during j Chang for Oksana. But then this the last two gains are really where she just, her status as a superstar just catapulted.

And you

Book Club Claire: mentioned the arc of her story, and I think that’s where I had the biggest problem. I get that, she starts in the very dark place and then this kind of shows her coming out of it. But she had such. Trauma as a child with physical abuse, sexual abuse, a myriad of things, watching her best friend get murdered in front of her and not being able to do anything about it.

And she’s mentioning this in the book and you’re kind of, I was kind of just waiting for that resolution of her sitting down with somebody and talking it out. And that never happens. It doesn’t happen until the epilogue when she’s like, and then I started to tell her and I’m just like, okay, where is the mention of the importance of therapy or counseling something that if other people are reading this book and maybe they’ve also gone through a similar [00:08:00] kind of trauma, heaven forbid, That they can see, okay, this is what Oksana did in order to overcome it.

And with stopping in Pyeongchang, we never see her working through it so that she emerges. I mean, it kind of says, I won the gold medal and everything was okay, and then I started to talk about it. He’s like, okay, I wanna hear you. Processing this cuz I’ve gone through similar anx anxiety issues myself and I know how important it is to talk about it.

And it’s not just over when you finish the first counseling session, it’s gonna take a long time or maybe it will take the rest of your life to get through it. And we never heard that from her and that was a little frustrating for me, especially. We’re recording this in May which is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to not have that be featured in this book when she’s talking about these struggles that she had.

That was frustrating. So yes, it was a good book, a good read, but it did not

Alison: resolve in the

Book Club Claire: way that it really needed to. In my eyes.

Jill: I would agree with you because there are so many issues. That she goes through and especially as she becomes an adult, she gets into an abusive relationship and she gets out of that. But it and it’s not magical because you do see her struggling with the tendency to fall back into that trap or fall back into feeling worthless.

But we don’t see the work she’s doing to get out of it. And maybe somebody thought that somebody. In the making of this book, thought that would not be as powerful a message or would take too much time, but I, and I wanna talk to that person. I agree with you, because it’s very important to say it. It’s not just magic and it’s not just time.

These things, you get out of them a lot of times with the help of a professional, and we didn’t see that. We also didn’t, I mean, One of the interesting things I thought [00:10:00] was in the beginning of the book, we get her mother’s story first it’s AANAs story, it’s a memoir, it’s Khanna’s memoir, but all of a sudden we get to all of the work her mother did to get Sana all of the preparation.

And it’s one of those, that little bit, which I was. I thought was very engaging. I loved reading about it, but I also thought, that’s not Khanna’s story. Oksana doesn’t, shouldn’t be able to tell that story. That’s her mother’s story. And if we were going to have that, I would’ve been interested in more mother’s story throughout in how she fell in love with Oksana immediately upon seeing that picture.

But then the struggles you have along the way of. Bringing up a child who you can’t speak to each other initially, bar barely speak to each other, and then your child has all these physical and mental issues at you. How do you, how are you dealing with them?

Book Club Claire: I was curious. It, it never mentions her talking about her struggles to her boyfriend Aaron Pike or to her mother, or to anybody really.

So how did, I mean, the book is not the first time that they’re reading about these issues. So when did that dam burst? And, she’s finally able to talk about it. Those are the things that I wanna hear. I wanna, you know, you built up these relationships with Gay Masters and with Aaron Pike and with other friends that she trains with, but you don’t talk about how she opens up to them.

Finally, you keep it closed in. I don’t like that. And it, Doesn’t serve the ending of the story as well as the beginning. When you hearing about all this, these traumas that she’s dealing with, I want some resolution. I want, her, boyfriend to be incredibly supportive, which undoubtedly he was, but we just never read about it.

I don’t know if that was a personal thing, but she got very intimate with many things and to not include that. Just, I had an issue with it. I’m sorry.

Jill: No, you don’t have [00:12:00] to. That’s, that’s not something to apologize for. Alison,

Book Club Claire: what are your thoughts?

Alison: I was surprised as well in kind of opening up and not opening up, there was so much personal detail.

There was so much really horrific. Stories to be told, and yet I have to agree. There was still a wall, and I don’t know if that was her wall, the ghost writer’s wall, the publisher’s wall, where was the disconnect And when you were talking about we started to get her mother’s story, it reminded me when we were talking about Mike Schultz’s book, how we wished it was a joint book between Mike and his wife.

Because we really wanted to hear what he thought. And this is almost the same thing, like I wish she and her mother had written some of it together up to a point, because her mother is part of the story throughout. And what was that really like? Because obviously it was hard. It was difficult.

She portrays her mother in a particular way, as most daughters would. She’s very protective of her mother. She really doesn’t ever say anything bad about her mother, but there’s no way that that mother wasn’t struggling. In managing all of these things. There was financial difficulties, there was difficulties in just getting through the day and all those pieces.

And I would’ve liked to see a little more, honesty is not the right word, cuz she was very honest, but a little less gloss. and there was a one scene with Aaron Pike where she talks about him touching her scars. And that was the place where that conversation that you’re thinking of, Claire would have fit so nicely to say, what did he say to you other than he held you when you cried?

And maybe that’s all it was. Maybe they really didn’t get into too much of the detail and his attitude was, I don’t care. I love you. Whatever that happened before I met you. And maybe that’s what he said, and I wish we had heard what he had said as well.[00:14:00] Because he’s adorable and I want him to be even more adorable the more I know about him.

Cuz he does seem like he’s an amazing athlete on his own. He, they’re great together. It was fun. I just saw them at the Kentucky Derby and that was fantastic. I’m like, I’m reading about you when you met. So, yeah I would’ve liked a little bit more van, but maybe she felt like that was his story to tell, not hers.

Book Club Claire: I did enjoy also seeing them at the Kentucky Derby, and I knew that Oksana Masters in Aaron Pike were a couple before I started reading this book. So as I’m going through the book and reading and I hear about, her other boyfriends, I’m just like, oh, when’s Aaron coming into this story? And finally she mentions him and I’m just like, yes, he’s here.

Go would be awesome together. Exactly.

Alison: But we don’t want him coming in like a white knight cuz we want her succeeding on her own. Right. And I think that came across that he wasn’t a white knight. That he wa that they very much are partners and they help each other and make each other better athletes and make each other better people, which makes me love them even more.

one thing that really bothered me when she talks about. Jane, her training partner and fellow skier. Did you go investigate who this could be?

Jill: I did not. I thought

Book Club Claire: about it, but I didn’t

Alison: because I did,

and I don’t wanna name names because I could not come up. I think I know who it is. But

Jill: Well, who? You have to tell us. Tatiana Mc. Tatiana McFadden. Yeah. Okay. Oh, did Tatiana do skiing too? Yes.

Book Club Claire: And at She did. She hasn’t done a lot in a while.

Alison: And at Sochi, she met her birth mother, as was explained in the book, as Exxon describes it, and I almost wanted to say, that detail bothered me a lot because she had a lot of not nice things to say about quote unquote Jane, [00:16:00] and especially Jane’s mother.

She was very hard on her, and I kind of wanna say that bothered me because there aren’t that many people it can be. How many other women were on that team that are from that area of the world who were adopted by Americans? Either name, names, or don’t tell the story. Either own up to it, use the person’s real name or leave it out.

Cuz this sort of pseudonym thing felt like, oh, I’m not really telling on them and really talking badly about them, but I am cuz you can go figure out who it is.

Jill: Well, the names of certain persons have been changed.

Book Club Claire: I was gonna ask if there was a something somewhere in the book that would’ve said that I didn’t read that when I initially went through it,


Alison: I, there you go.

I mean, that made a lot of sense when it came to the abusive boyfriend because he’s not famous, he’s not well known. If she calls him out as an abuser, that’s problematic. But in this situation, it’s You’ve got two or three choices and it’s becomes very quickly obvious who it could be.

And I felt that was a, that was kind of a cop out on her part. Or maybe it was the publisher who said, we can’t use the real name, but could be. But it feels, it. It feels like you copied off of somebody else’s paper and just changed a couple adjectives.

Jill: You know, and, And that whole section didn’t really bother me all that much.

So it’s interesting how, how it reads to different people.

Book Club Claire: This is not the first autobiography that we’ve read where the. Author has been pointedly against certain people and kind of skewers them in the, in their own book. So it, I guess since it was not done as pointedly as certain other books that we’ve read, I guess it kind of gets more of a pass.

But yeah, I did kind of feel. Like I didn’t, because I didn’t know that names were changed. I’m kinda like, well, I don’t remember [00:18:00] Jane at these Paralympics. So yeah. Now it, it makes more sense. What did you think about her talking about her Paralympic experience? I already mentioned and we’ll kind of ignore the fab right now, that it doesn’t cover Tokyo and Beijing, which is irritating to me cuz that’s when I saw her.

Compete. But talking about London and Sochi and Rio and Ang how’d you think she, did she cover the Paralympics like you thought they would be covered or did she kind of gloss over them a little bit?

Alison: I thought London was a little glossed because we, or it was simply interesting to read because we’ve heard how life-changing those Paralympics were.

And how it was so different than everything else that any of those athletes had experienced. And obviously that was her first experience. She didn’t have anything to compare it to, but just that atmosphere that we keep hearing about over and over again did not come through,

Jill: although it came through.

To me when they were done with competition and got to go to the Village since they were in a remote area, in a remote village, then she saw how it was different. So, so that kind of helped. But I kind of felt like both Paralympics, maybe not so much London, but Rio, I felt was really downplayed compared to the Winter Paralympics.

And I don’t know if that’s just, the last games we had was a winter one, so that’s where my last memories of her competing are, or if I don’t know, because she was so successful in Tokyo and Claire, to get back to your point, why we didn’t have Tokyo, that would’ve continued that arc from Rio because, she switched from rowing to cycling, did not have success that she wanted in cycling in Rio, but she got it in Tokyo.

So we didn’t get the, really, the ending of that

Alison: arc. [00:20:00] And Pyeongchang was interesting to read about because we did cover pyeongchang, and I remember Jill and I having a conversation about watching Oksana and that injury that she had. And I remember saying on the show, how can she compete with this arm, held together with tape and not have her natural reflexes just refuse to move her arm?

And this whole book answered the question because she talked about the pain cave she talked about. She does things that her body tells her she can’t do. So those natural reflexes that I was talking about, like when you touch a hot oven, you pull back. She does not have those in the same way because of these things that have happened to her.

And so it was interesting to get basically the answer to my question from 2018 saying, how does she do this? How do you not open your hand when it hurts? She just doesn’t because that’s, and something that the kids always say, that’s not how I was raised. That’s not how she hurt. The early part of her life was everything was about your instincts do not force behavior.

And that’s what kept her alive all those years in the orphanage.

Book Club Claire: Let’s go to the orphanage I mean, let’s not go to the orphanage, but that was. Quite the way to kind of start the book. You just hear about this dismal place. You don’t get the whole story right away. A lot of it, probably the most traumatic parts are hidden even though you, even though she talks about how her friend was killed when they tried to sneak down for some food late at night.

And you think that’s the worst of it. No, it’s not. But even then, just. Hearing the trauma that she dealt with in the early part of the book. Just being in a place where she’s, she has two legs, but they are not functioning the way she wants, and she’s trying to get around in a place that is definitely not ADA [00:22:00] compliant.

She doesn’t have a wheelchair or anything to get around. And she’s also treated horribly by her caretakers. Dressed up for people to, shop the orphans around to see who they can pick as their person. And miraculously gay masters comes upon her picture somewhere. if there was ever a place that I was gonna stop reading, it was be there just because it, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of hope in it, but I knew there was good stuff coming, so I kept going.

Maybe talking to Alison in particular, some, somebody who is a mother what did you take from that first part of the book when you’re seeing a young child dealing with something like that?

Alison: It’s funny you say that because often I react with that mother brain, but I didn’t, and I reacted with the mother brain.

When she was with gay, and I think it was because that orphan part of the story I could separate from, because if I took any of it in, I couldn’t, I could have gotten, stopped at page eight. I could not have gotten through that. And I think I definitely, what’s so horrific about that? It is so horrific, you can’t even put it into words.

And yet she did. And that was a really, I think successful part of the book and I use successful in terms of its ability to convey the horror. It was rough and it didn’t get, not rough. Ever really, because anytime those stories came up or she’s remembAarong something or she drops a little bit more information, and once you got to about the middle of the book, you knew what that other piece of information was, even though she didn’t quite say it yet, you knew what was coming, which I thought was very skillfully done so that it was shocking, but not.

Or I should say it was disturbing but not shocking when she finally does reveal the extent of the [00:24:00] abuse at the orphanage. But it’s rough. I mean, we should not sugarcoat what you’re gonna get for the, certainly the first third of

Book Club Claire: the book. Yeah. If you haven’t read this yet just be warned, trigger warnings for those that might not handle that kind of traumatic Issues very well.

That’s what’s going to be there and it kind of does stay through the whole book. We’re all women and we kind of understand how that kind of issue, at the sexual abuse at such a young age and trying to get through it. I guess. It does swing back around to me being frustrated that it wasn’t fully finished in how she was gonna cope with it.

But how do you think, let’s just take it from the context of the book. Did the ending work for you, considAarong the beginning of the book? Do you get what I mean? Does it have an arc that seems satisfying?

Alison: That’s actually hard for me to answer because I feel like knowing the end part of her story as we already do, it’s hard for me to separate in my head what was in the book and what was in my prior knowledge. We know what happens in Tokyo. We know what happens in Beijing. We know what happens in her private life.

She and Aaron Pike have gotten engaged and we see her so. Did I close the book and then finish it in my head? That’s very hard for me to separate, but I think by answAarong that way, tells me that the book did not feel complete.

Jill: Yeah. And we talked about how the last two games are missing, and we were shocked that they were, but do think in one way this was.

A close enough of this chapter of her life and that story arc worked for this chapter. Did I want more? Yeah, but her life’s gotta keep advancing anyway. And they gotta make a call at some point. We gotta get the book out, but maybe

Alison: there

Jill: will be another book down the road about the next [00:26:00] section of her life, the

Alison: next phase, the not so hard parts.

Jill: I don’t know. It probably still is hard. I, you know, talking here, it makes me think about all of those stories, particularly in Sochi, where you have the, let’s go back to the orphanage. Let’s meet your birth mother. And knowing now is just the horrors she went through. I felt so bad for her on that trip back where she obviously didn’t want to go.

And what do you say to these people where you’re faced with this trauma that you hopefully are getting better from, or, you’re learning how to survive, but like having it in your face and then having this seeing a supposed birth mother. And what do you say to that? Why did you leave me?

I, I I realized my body wasn’t what you hoped it would be but you totally dumped me off and really inflicted a lot of trauma on me from that action. So, Like, how do you get through that? Nobody, I’m sure the cameras I’ll want like this happy ending, or Oh, it’s birth mother reconciliation or whatever.

It’s just like, I don’t know what I just want to know your medical information and then just go away. That’s what would be for me. I think

Alison: I do wanna jump in with, Because I feel like I’ve been very critical of this book and this book as an athlete’s biography or autobiography is far superior to several that we have read.

she was very open with so much and that Ukrainian visit and what she’s experienced, and I agree the way that the handler in Ukraine who is trying to push this surprise birth family visit. Was just so cruel and she really talked it through. She did not pull punches on herself. She’s told a lot of bad things about how she reacted and [00:28:00] behaved and treated and it’s quite well written, so I don’t wanna be overly critical of, of the arcs and things because we’ve read some bad.

Autography is not just in book club, but just as Olympic and Paralympic fans. We’ve read some bad ones. And this is not at all one of the bad ones.

Jill: No. This is right up there with Ben Ryan’s book and with Abinov B’s book. They just write up there.

This is a really interesting read and well written read, but you know. We have, we have thoughts

Alison: and the exact opposite of kind of how N B C portrays these athletes. She used the phrase inspiration porn when she talks about those package pieces. uh, aena messages was not referring to n B NBC in particular, but we’ve talked about that, that they put together these packages that’s all about triumph over, over struggle, and I’ve achieved this greatness.

How about we show the gray? How about we show these people not. Acting so great and the difficult sides of their personalities and not in a way that’s, oh, they’re so determined and fierce. Like, yeah, sometimes they’re just not nice to each, to their family or not nice to people they’re training with, and that’s okay.

That’s allowed for athletes,

Jill: especially a lot for Paralympians and para-athletes in general. I mean, because that inspiration porn always includes the. How did they become disabled? So we are like, I feel like able-bodied people say, I am entitled to know what’s wrong with you. And that’s not necessary. I think if somebody says they’re a para athlete, they’re supposed to be a para athlete, and if they’re trying to gauge the system, they’ll get found out in classification hopefully.

Alison: I almost, I’m waiting for that first Paralympian to just look at the reporter and yell hipaa. At them and just not answer the question as to how they were injured or what [00:30:00] their medical status is. And like that basketball player just recently on the press conference talking about how the season is not a failure and he really took that reporter at a task.

So, Paralympians, if you’re a listening, please yell HIPAA at the reporter when they ask you too many

Book Club Claire: questions about your medical status. I will mention that in the past two podcasts that you’ve had, We’re recording this on, what’s the 17th? Laura Webster and Chuck Aoki. You never mentioned How are you in, why are you in a wheelchair or why are your legs amputated?

That was never mentioned. You stuck with sport and things around the sport, and I had just admit that was kind of refreshing. And if anybody needs to know, It’s somewhere you can find it. Yeah, we

Alison: don’t care. Yeah. I mean, the bottom line is we really don’t care. We wanna know about their sport.

I mean, we all know how obsessed I got with wheelchair rugby and sitting volleyball. Mm-hmm. All three of us got. Really into it, despite the Imagine Dragon song that they kept playing. I’d like

Jill: Imagine Dragon Song. Be nice.

Alison: So to me, I’m kinda like when I have my 45 minutes or however long we, 60 minutes we have with the athlete, I don’t wanna waste time talking about their various operations.

I wanna know, what kind of wheelchair you have and. Can you sneak under the net and do you guys spike each other in the face? So that’s, it’s just, that’s what’s interest. Us. I think I can speak for

Jill: that. Right? Yeah. And we actually had a conversation before we had our first interview with Taylor Lipsit on how do we address this and how do we talk about para sports?

Because it was our first one, we didn’t really know much about the movement. We didn’t know what to talk about. And a lot of our exposure to it was NBC coverage, which always had it. It always in every story, and it’s in pretty much. Every Team USA story too, and in bios. And so we just don’t ask it. And that’s our policy.[00:32:00]

And if it comes up. And a lot of people will say, I think Chuck Aoki said, well, I can’t do this because of this. Okay. And I, I remember when we were talking with McKenna gear and. We were talking about use of abdominals and sitting up and her condition I don’t remember what it is, but you know, she has a hard time with abstract, and I remember distinctly when we were talking with her, she kind of paused because we didn’t ask what her condition was.

And she did say what she had, but it was almost like a little beat where she. Didn’t know what to do with the fact that we weren’t asking her about her condition. Nobody comes out really and says, oh, thank you for not asking about why I’m disabled. But I think there’s, we see it talked about a little bit.

About how para athletes wanna be talked about as being athletes first, not the parrot first. So that’s really our policy on that. I

Book Club Claire: personally enjoy that. I think that’s great. I mean, you stick with what you do for your able-bodied athletes with your ones that with your what’s the, with your Paralympic athletes as well.


Jill: I think, yeah. I mean, we didn’t ask who have we talked to lately? Who’s an Olympian. We’ve talked to, we don’t ask Katie Najat, why she’s freakishly fast. We don’t, on the runway, we don’t ask. Though, occasionally I’ll

Alison: throw in some questions like, how tall are you?

Jill: Well, I mean, yeah that’s a different but nobody’s asked Michael Phelps like, oh my gosh, what’s wrong with you? That you have such big arms, such long arms? Nobody asks Simone Biles. Oh my gosh, why are you so short?

Alison: People ask me that.

Book Club Claire: It does get asked.

Don’t say it does get asked. It gets asked by stupid people. But

Alison: yeah, we don’t ask it. We don’t ask it because we don’t, we just don’t, we don’t care. It’s not important to us. It’s not what we’re interested in. [00:34:00] We wanna know how much your prosthetics cost. Yeah. And that’s actually in this book, she talks about the expense and the complications and the issues with taking them off and putting them on So that was, that got me excited because I love getting into those pieces.

Book Club Claire: And did you notice since you were the one that saw the Kentucky Derby photos, she was wearing a dress and prosthetics were there to be seen, whereas in the book she mentions that she always wore pants. Summer, winter didn’t matter. She was gonna hide that thing as much as it, it was worth until she started to meet other athletes like her, where They didn’t care. They just showed it off And yeah, I have a amputated leg and I have a prosthetic. It’s no big deal. Wrapping it up a little bit. We do sometimes get sucked into the Instagram and Twitter posts a little bit. I know that happened with Mike Schultz and you see all the good stuff because a lot of time, almost, I would say 95, 90 9% of the time, they’re gonna be showing happy stuff where you get into the books.

That we’re reading and you’re seeing the other sides of stuff, the struggles, the mental issues that they might have. And it’s important to understand that. They are dealing with the same kinds of things that we are. It’s not all happy sunshines and rainbows no matter what their social media se, social media is showing them to be.

So just keep that in mind as you’re reading these. Don’t be like, oh, I never knew that this would’ve happened to her. Well, you gotta see the person and not see the, the tag. So, any final thoughts on the book as a whole?

Alison: I was disappointed we didn’t get to visit the German snow tunnels that she trained in for Beijing. Right. But overall, really satisfying story.

Jill: Definitely highly recommend. I know we’ve been critical over the last half an hour or so, but there’s so much of this book to really learn from and to it [00:36:00] helped me gain.

More understanding of what some para-athletes go through and just where their stories come from.

So I hope this book has done well. I really do. I hope people have been reading it. I know it’s gotten some good coverage, but I do hope people some understanding and excitement about watching Paris 2024. Builds from reading this and I, I do recommend picking it up. Yeah,

Book Club Claire: I do as well. I know that I had some issues with the ending and how things are wrapped up, but her story is incredible.

And the where she is now in life compared to where she started is it amazing and you, you can really see how, the miracles just happened to get her in the right place at the right time and things didn’t seem like, They were gonna be going well, and it ends up turning out to be a benefit in the long run for her as she is able to have hopefully a healthy relationship with her family, with her boyfriend fiance and with herself.

I think that’s the biggest one.

Jill: Excellent. Well, Claire, thank you so much. Thanks for choosing this book. This was a good one to read. What is coming up

Book Club Claire: Our next book is based on Seoul 1988. Can you tell I sing along? When it comes up,

All right. The book is called The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore, and it is about the Men’s 100 Sprint, where all of the drugs came in. So, Get excited for some doping. So then you’ve got that wa sound.

If we’re getting into the sound effects, find that. So get excited, get reading. It would be nice to get some feedback from listeners if possible. I, I love to, to see those. So if you can find the Dirtiest race in history by Richard Moore, we would love to hear from you. [00:38:00] Yes. Yes.

Jill: Love it.

Excellent, excellent. Well that will be a great book. We’ll be reading that in the fall, somewhere around the time of when Seoul took place. So it will coincide with the anniversary itself. thank you, Claire. As always, we appreciate you coming by. A good read.

Thank you so much Claire. You can follow Claire on Twitter at Cauldron Light. We will have a link to that in our show notes. As we mentioned, our next book is The Dirtiest Race in History, Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis, and the 1988 Olympic 100 Meter final by Richard Moore. We usually point you toward our website because the commission we earn from purchases made through our store link really helps us cover some of the costs involved with running this show.

But, This title’s been a back order for a long time. because it was published in 2013, so not necessarily a title that a lot of indie booksellers will have in stock. check your local library, check another website to get this one, but we always do appreciate it when you buy any books through alive pod because that really does help us out.

And we’ll be discussing this book in September during the 35th anniversary of the Soul Olympics.

Seoul 1988 History Moment

Jill: It is the time of the show where we talk about our history moment all year long. We are looking at the soul. 1988 games, as it is mentioned, it is the 35th anniversary of those this year. I’ve given you a little extra vacation. I’m going to go with a sailing story again,

Alison: and I have been waiting for part two.

For weeks. because you promised me sailing part two and sailing part one was very good. So let’s have it.

Jill: Well, okay. We are going to look at the Finn race, which is the one person dinghy. This was an open race, but the field was made up entirely of men Competition, like many of these sailing [00:40:00] regattas seven races over eight days.

Points awarded for placement in each race with the sailor’s. Six best scores counting towards the final placement. So if you have a bad day, it’s not gonna really tank you in the rankings if you have two bad days while we have an issue. like we talked about in the last Soul Story, Sailing was pretty wild competition.

the fin class was actually a very exciting race. There were controversies over disqualifications, didn’t know who was going to win the entire event until the final race sometimes, which is unusual

Alison: for a lot of these Yes. Multiple day races.

Jill: Yes. And the US Virgin Islands won their first Olympic medal when Peter Holberg won the silver.

Alison: Nice. You would think Virgin Islands would’ve had a sailing tradition.

Jill: Yeah, you would think. But maybe it’s just getting somebody to competition level or actually having the funding to go. today we’re gonna focus on just race five of this competition. And as we talked about in episode 2 87, which was sailing part one, the sailing competition was not what anyone expected.

Korea. Doesn’t have much of a sailing history at this point in time. Test events in the site, which was posan, they had light winds when it came time for the actual games. Series of low pressure systems came blowing through the area, made it very windy, very rough seas. This surprised everyone throughout the entire competition.

And by surprise, I mean, when I was doing research for this story was finding information where sailors were just like, we gotta put on weight because you needed the extra weight to keep more stable and go a little faster. And they were like eating all these desserts for breakfast, but you had to put on weight and maintain your fitness.

So it was really, it was an interesting kind of struggle when you looked at this whole competition. So Well, the food

Alison: at the Olympics would help that. [00:42:00] Yes. You know, free cafeteria of all kinds of things. And we’ve talked about the cafeteria in other stories.

Jill: Yes. So, race five of the fin class they’re running, but also concurrently.

Are the men’s and the women’s four 70 races. So we have, in this port and bay, we have three sailing races going on, and the four 70 we have talked about before. that’s where the women raced for the first time. So the fin is a boat that is designed to handle. Harsh conditions. So, when you have conditions where the waves are so high that you cannot see the race buoy that you need to go around a good sailor on a fin can manage it.

Okay? And in this race that good sailor was Canadian. Larry Lemu, Lemu was doing okay in the overall thir competition. He was in 13th place after race four, but in race number five, he was in the elite. And in metal contention, and he lost sight of one of the race markers that was bobbing up and down and getting lost in these big waves.

So another sailor gets in front of him and he’s working to catch back up. And then disaster strikes on the next course over, which is about a hundred yards south of him in a good 32 kilometers offshore. Le sees that there is a Capsized four 70 boat that is holding the Men’s Singaporean team crew, Joe Chan and Skipper Shusha her, which, and these two are Singapore’s first Olympic sailors, so their boat is Leia.

Sees that one of the men who turned out to be Sue has a bloody hand and is hanging onto the boat, the other’s not there. Doesn’t know where the other one is and Lamia is racing, but, and he’s like wonders, where is the other member of that crew? And he sees outta the corner of his eye that Chan is bobbing up and down in the water.

And [00:44:00] Lemu realizes that even though Chan is wearing a life jacket, he could be lost at sea because the ocean was so rough that nobody’s gonna see him. And the first rule of sailing is if you see somebody in Turbo help him, and though, usually Capsizing doesn’t require help, and he thinks this incident might be an exception.

And boy was he right? Because as the crew, only Chan’s butt had been in contact with the boat. So when they capsized, he kind of got thrown off and got hurt. His back got hurt, and even in pain he tried to swim back to this boat. He’s trying to do this in his life jacket, which is filled with water that he was using as ballast against the strong winds.

And he’s also got on a wetsuit and boots and a trapeze harness. So you can swim just a little ways in this get up, but not for very long.

Chan’s bombing in the water. He’s a good 25 yards away from his boat, and there’s no way he’s gonna make the swim and those waters. So Lemu leaves his course to go get Chan. He is sailing in four meter waves. Downwind through a current that is going against the wind.

His boat’s taken on water, but Lemu manages to keep it upright. And as he sails by Chan, he grabs him by the back of his life jacket and swings him onto his boat, which is only made for one person. So in these conditions, two people in a one person boat, pretty dangerous. And she’s outta the race obviously.

Not yet. Oh, okay. So Lemu takes Chan back to his boat because even though the boat’s capsized, it’s not gonna sink and they, he thinks they can probably get it right upright again and get back to sailing. What he didn’t realize was that they had lost their rudder, which had made that plan impossible. So he goes out and looks for the rudder in these rough seas.

And he finds it.

This is just incredible.

Alison: So clearly this story is focused on Muse’s vision cuz first he sees [00:46:00] Chan and now he sees the rudder. I mean, what is his x-ray vision happening?

Jill: Right? Whoa. So meanwhile, Le Muse coach Pat Healy knows that Lemu was in the lead in his race and then he can’t find him. And he’s like, where is my sailor?

And even though the rules at the time stated that support staff and coaches weren’t permitted in the race circle, remember as we talked about this last time, by this point in the competition, the race committee had given permissions for coaches to be out there because they just could not handle all of the boats capsizing.

And they needed more people to go do rescues. So Healy goes onto the course looking for Le Mu. He finds him giving the Singaporean the rudder from their boat, and LaMi is like, oh, good, you’re here. You take over, and Healy takes over the rescue. Lemu goes back to his race as

Alison: the casual Canadian

Jill: that he is right by now.

The boats are really spread out. He’s not gonna be able to catch up, and he crosses the finish line. He wasn’t first. He was in second when he left, and now he’s in 21st place. When he finishes, the race committee decided to award him a tie for second place in that race, which was the position when he went on his rescue Mission. overall, even though he was in metal contention, he ends up finishing the entire competition in 11th place. Did not get the medal he wanted, but he was awarded the Pierre de Cooperton medal for his sportsmanship.

Alison: Wow. That’s, that is a story, man, and I vaguely remember hearing about this at the time, but obviously not knowing any of the details, but.

That’s fantastic.

Jill: What a great story. Right? be prepared. We have sailing part three. Next time it’s my turn. I’m excited. They just kept coming. They just kept coming.


Alison: Welcome to Shukla.

Jill: It is the time of the show where we check in with our [00:48:00] team, keep the flame alive. These are guests and listeners that make up our citizens of a Shukla Dan, our very own country. First off, some results. Beach volleyball player Kelly Chang and partner Sarah Hughes got fifth at a tournament in Ostrava Czech Republic.

And in terms of Olympic qualification, they’re currently ranked first.

Alison: Shooter Tim Sherry swept the three events at the 300 Meter US National Championships. Yeah.

Jill: Results from the La Grand Prix where we had several Shk Fasani competing. Deanna Price finished a third in the hammer throw with a season’s best of 75.89 meters.

So that is excellent for her. Pole vault, Katie Moon did. Not have a great meet. She failed to make her height in competition, but she did much better at the Diamond League event in Florence. Finishing first

Alison: by a mile.

Jill: Oh Some days she got band days, some days

Alison: she got great days. Author Andrew Marinis will be speaking at the Baseball Hall of Fame on August 10th at 1:00 PM about his book Singled out the true story of Glen Burke.

Jill: And I wish I could go to this Paralympian John Register will be hosting a meal and q and a with Olympian and Top Chef Runner up, Dawn Burrell at the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum on June 23rd. We will have a link to that in the show notes.

Paris 2024 Update

Alison: Now we first fell in love with Mayor on Hidalgo when she made her appearance. I guess in Tokyo when you had the transfer of the flag because she was so elegantly dressed and so flashy and she continues to just be the star of the run up to Paris 2024.

Jill: And that is referring to now that she is announced that she wants the Olympics to be the first major event without single use. Plastic and reduce the carbon footprint of the games by half. This is from inside the games how this affects fans. You will not be able to take [00:50:00] plastic bottles into competition venues and, but the story I will say was not clear if they’d allow you to have a reusable plastic bottle, but definitely not single use.

Coca-Cola will be using reusable glass bottles. Which will be interesting. The marathon will have reusable cups and food-wise, there will be twice as many vegetarian food options available and they will prioritize sourcing locally. Well,

Alison: she, so what has made this a very environmentally focused games because the first initiative was cleaning up the sand for the marathon swimming.

Yes. And that seems to be on track. So she’s really put this environmental stuff in the forefront.

Jill: We have more torch relay details. You love the torch relay so much. I do. I do love the torch relay.

I don’t know why. It’s just when we saw it for Salt Lake City, it’s,

Alison: it’s, it’s emotional. Yes. You don’t realize how emotional it is. And then you see it and you’re like, why, why am I standing here crying?

Jill: Because first it was, why are we standing out here in the cold for something? It was cold.

via the A F P and the I O C the torch relay is going to have 10,000 runners. They will have 7,000 individuals and 3000 who will be running collectively. So that will be interesting to see groups of people running with the torch. They will have gender equality for men and women. Each torch bearer is going to run the longest 200 meters ever because it’s expected that they will carry the flame for about four minutes.

As they go 200 meters,

Alison: that’s like about as fast as I run.

Jill: How do you get to be a torch bearer? So this is the AFP store we got from France 20, and somebody here was not able to do math very well because one third of the torch bearers will be selected by the organizing committee in sports bodies. One third will be selected by relay sponsors, Koch and the French bank.

P [00:52:00] b c e. One third will be selected by other Olympic partners, and then the final 10% will be selected by the regions hosting the relay. Is this like

Alison: French math? Is this something we didn’t learn in school?

Jill: Perhaps, but that’s a apparently how they are getting all of the torch bearers. A fun fact.

The International Olympic Committee forbids elected officials and religious figures from carrying the flame.

Huh? I’m, I’m guessing and this is speculation, that they don’t want it to be like a patronage thing. Like, oh, the person in power gets the flame. And really the flame is supposed to be emblematic of people and the inspiration that. Other people can do and you know, when you’re in government and in religion, sometimes you get some perks.

The selection process for Torch Bears started at the beginning of June. It runs through the end of the month. You can visit the Paris 2024 torch, really website to nominate someone. But it is likely that those chosen through this process must be. French or from living in France, so we’ll have a link to that.

In these show notes.

The relay map and route itself will be unveiled on June 23, which is Olympic Day. They are planning that the route will go through 60 out of the 96 departments in France because some refuse to take part deeming the 180,000 euro expense of hosting the torch relay. Very cost prohibitive.

Alison: We talked about that mm-hmm.

Several months ago that the Yes, they couldn’t get people to have the torch relay cuz it was too expensive.

Jill: when you think about that, it’s kind of like, well maybe we can figure out how to make it a little cheaper. Maybe not have so much fanfare, but they’re gonna have a lot of security as well, which is probably a good chunk of the cost.

There will be, quote an itinerant bubble of security run the flame. To me, that doesn’t sound like anything new cuz a flame is fairly well guarded, [00:54:00] but hopefully it Won’t be like the flame bearer just surrounded by guards and you can’t see anything. hopefully could be an

Alison: actual bubble like the Pope Mobile.

Oh, it’ll be like a giant hamster bubble. Right, right. You

Jill: put the runner inside and then they just run and then they, or like the, yeah, cuz you absorb and you have to get in through that hole. So you, you just hop in through the hole. You hold onto the flame. The torch will just be mounted in there and then you run.

Yeah. Yes. Okay. I get it. I like, and then we would see those bubbles in the opening ceremony as well? Yes. Because then they can bubble down the sun.

Alison: Oh, we’re just designing this whole thing for them.

Oh. The bubbles could be dropped by the drone taxis. Oh yes.

Jill: It’s gonna be fabulous.

Alison: They’re gonna be so disappointed if there’s nothing dropped by these drone taxis.

Jill: Well, no. We’re gonna go, this is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go, I thought there were. Gonna be bubbles. Didn’t we hear that? There were going to be bubbles in the ceremony?

There are no like hamster bubbles. And then you’re gonna look at me and go, Hey dummy, that was you. And now who came up with that?

Alison: And clearly we can’t communicate that in French because I can say unti low, but can’t understand what they say back to me.

Jill: Oh, the Paralympic. The Paralympic torch relay will arrive in Paris because if flame gets lit in Stoke Mandeville, it arrives in Paris on August 28th. For the opening of the Paralympic games, there will be 1000 torch bears for that. It will be a shorter relay, although it will pass through some 60 French departments as well.

We have news about fan zones. this is exciting. So there are going to be fan zone set up for the Olympics and Paralympics in cities all across the country. And they are still determining how many there will be. But the organizers have received applications from 239 communities across France.

Some of them [00:56:00] are hosting competitions. Are are hosting training sites. So that makes sense that they also want to have the big fan zone site because if you couldn’t get tickets, this is a way to still experience the games. So they’re gonna do a first map of sites. Reviewing that on June 19th, there are already three large live sites confirmed for Paris at the park, del the ero, and the George Valon Park.

And lastly, the cultural Olympiad is getting underway. Inside the games has reported that a series of 14 diptic posters, so these are two posters, side by side that close like a book ones for the Olympics, ones for the Paralympics. Those are being displayed along the banks of the SE for a month. And this is all the cultural Olympia is Kind of just a, a long festival that explores the relationship between art and athletics.

There will be several events from now through the end of the Paralympics, all across France.

LA 2028 Update

Jill: We have news from LA 2028, and thank you to Shani listener Anthony, for letting us know this on our Facebook group. The news is from okc that the LA Organizing Committee is considering moving the canoe slalom events to the River Sport Rapids Whitewater Center in Oklahoma City, which is a national high performance center.

It’s an official training site for the US and There’s been a report from the International Canoe Federation, apparently that LA may move. The site. They have a temporary site in plants right now, but they might move it to Oklahoma City because it’s an existing site. They wouldn’t have to spend the money to erect and tear down a temporary site.

And you get that regional games feel like we are getting more and more of. We’ll see if that happens. [00:58:00] Rowing could also move there, which would be interesting. Some soccer

Alison: slash football could be there. We could have sort of a satellite city. Hey, one of I, I can’t remember who said it in the Facebook group, but somebody said if France can send surfing to Tahiti, We can certainly send an event to Oklahoma City.

Well, we, when we talked about Atlanta, we talked about the football games being as far north as Washington DC so this, just use the facilities you’ve got, spread the love.

Jill: right. And it, it definitely makes sense from a cost standpoint. The rowing would be interesting because it’s supposed to be at Long Beach.

Where the 1932 rowing competition was held, except for that course is shorter now. Yeah. People were

Alison: not happy with that choice in the rowing community because of the shortness of the course.

Jill: we shall see. We got options. Apparently the final decisions on the entire sports program and associated venues for the LA 2028 games will be announced by the end of the year.

And I think. A fair amount of that work will be happening at the session meeting in the fall, so we will keep an eye on that.

International Olympic Committee Update

Alison: Speaking of the sports program,

Jill: listener David tipped us to a tweet from Sky News correspondent Rob Harris, who said the International Olympic Committee is set to withdraw recognition of the International Boxing Association, although boxing is set to remain a sport at Paris 2024. this is interesting.

These talks are going on kind of right as we are taping, so we’ll have more word next week, but. The big news in Boxing world is that the I O C recognizes the International Boxing Association as the a Federation for the Sport. In recent months, there has been a schism in the. Membership where a bunch of members have left the I B A because it’s being run by a Russia named Omar Creme left.

And there’s still [01:00:00] some ickiness, I would say, associated with boxing term, I think. So I, you know, association management. The technical term for federation management. a bunch of countries have defected and started their own association called World Boxing. the I B A is still upset with the I O C in its demands and has made the I O C has pointed out a number of things that needed to change and the i b has come back with counterpoints to those.

I don’t think the I L C is very happy about this, so, we may find that boxing will not be recognized. I think plans are still too far along and they don’t wanna hurt the athletes who are prepping for Paris 2024, but I bet that this makes a big difference in LA 2028. It’s a long time coming. Very true. So we shall see, I don’t know if they’re gonna say, well, we recognize world boxing, but then world boxing also they just set up so they don’t have any history of running events. I would imagine that even though you’re dealing with hey, we’re a bunch of nations who are probably saying, Hey, we’re, we’re the clean guys.

We don’t know how they run events, so they don’t have the history and they don’t have the track record yet, so we’ll see. I don’t I’m really curious. Boxing is already not yet on the program for LA 2028. Will this be it for boxing?

Alison: I hope so. To be honest, I’ve said more than once. I think the only way boxing is truly gonna get cleaned up is if it gets kicked out.

Which I hate to say for the athletes, but it’s in their best interest ultimately, like what happened with wrestling, I mean them getting kicked out, saved the sport, and I think we need to do the same thing for boxing and possibly weightlifting.

Jill: It’ll be interesting times. So that is going to do it for this week.

Let us know what you thought of the hard parts. You can

Alison: connect with us on Twitter and Instagram at Flame Alive podd. Email us at flame live pod Call or text us at (208) [01:02:00] 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast group on Facebook and you get all those cool things that other listeners share with you.

And don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode. You can sign up for

Jill: Next week we will have part two of our conversation with Craig Spence, chief Brand and Communication Officer of the International Paralympic Committee, where we get into some of the hard parts of dealing with global issues. And if you know what I mean, and if you, Russia, Belarus looking at you. So thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.