Para taekwondo was first on the Paralympic program at Tokyo 2020, and it’s looking to make a big statement at Paris 2024 when athletes can compete in front of fans. On this episode of the podcast, we talk with American para taekwondo fighter Evan Medell, who competes in the K44 class of the men’s 75+ kg weight class. At Tokyo, Evan broke his foot during his semifinal match against Asghar Aziziaghdam and lost that bout. However, he came back that same day and defeated Francisco Alejandro Pedroza Luna for the bronze medal (on a broken foot!). We talked with Evan about the sport, those fights at the 2020 Paralympics, and what he’s looking forward to at Paris 2024.

Follow Evan on Instagram!

In Paris 2024 news, we learn that there’s actually a plan B for marathon swimming, should the Seine be too polluted. Triathlon may follow the same plan–or become a duathlon (neither of which is an optimal choice).

In news from TKFLASTAN, we hear from:

Don’t forget to enter our giveaway–sign up for our newsletter and share for entries to win a sweet swag pack!

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

 


TRANSCRIPT

Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

353-Paralympic Medalist Evan Medell on Para Taekwondo

Theme music

Jill: Hello and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for 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?

Alison: So I can’t remember who was last week or the previous week. I said, I went to a test event and I learned, you A lot of things. Mm hmm. I apparently went to another somewhat test event and learned that I can get sunburned. Oh! I have not gotten a sunburn probably in like 25 years because I am so careful, but not careful enough.

So I have learned that 60 is not enough for me anymore.

Jill: Wow. I have some sunscreen ready to go.

Alison: So, and I found a great floppy hat that you’re going to love. And if you’re in Paris, you will so be able to see me. And if you’re not in Paris and I am on the TV, you will see me. So I will post a picture of me in my floppy hat.

So you know what to look for.

Jill: I have remembered that I have an assortment of cooling towels and buffs that will be packed as well. So if you see me with a towel over my head, that that’s me.

Alison: But it’s not as good as my floral floppy hat.

Jill: no, not when there’s flowers on it for sure.

Evan Medell Interview

Jill: Today we are talking para TaeKwonDo with Evan Medell. Evan is the reigning world champion in the K 44 class of the men’s 75 and up kilo of the men’s 75 plus kilogram. Division of para TaeKwonDo. K 44 is for TaeKwonDo fighters with coordination affected to a low degree on one side, a high degree in one arm or one foot and ankle, or the absence of part of the arms.

Para TaeKwonDo made its Paralympics debut in Tokyo. Where Evan competed and in his semi final fight against Ashgar Azizegadam, Evan broke his foot, losing the bout. But later that same day, same day, Evan defeated Francisco Alejandro Pedroza Luna for the bronze medal, which he won with a broken foot. We talked with Evan about that fight and what he expects in Paris.

Take a listen.

Alison: Evan Medell. Thank you so much for joining us. Nice to see you again. Yeah. Good to see you guys again. Thanks for having me. So, Paratyquando is divided two ways. You’ve got weight classes and disability classes.

Evan Medell: Yeah. so yeah, you have, K 44 classes, which is like your level of handicap or disability. I’m in the highest category, which is 44. So it’s like limited mobility in one arm or partial, uh, missing below the elbow on one arm.

Alison: I really want to talk about the weight classes because in doing the research, I found out you just changed weight classes because they reshuffled them.

Evan Medell: Yeah. Well, actually I was in the heavyweight division before. But they moved the heavyweight limit up because it was 75 kilos, just like 160 or 171 pounds, I think, and they moved it up to 80 kilos, which is like 176 pounds. But either way, I was already like 190, so it didn’t really affect me too much.

Alison: did you have to change your weight? weight at all.

Evan Medell: No, no, I didn’t. Um, I did. Well, I fought. So I fought able body until I was 18. I just fought nationally and a couple international events. Um, and then my weight class then was, welterweight, which is minus 80. So it’s what the new heavyweight limit is now for us.

But I ended up putting on weight because I couldn’t make 75 cause I was already cutting to get to 80. So I was like, I’ll just go to the weight room. So I put on about 15 pounds of muscle and then they changed the weight class. I was like, I’m not doing that. So I just stuck to heavyweight.

Alison: Okay. So in comparison to some of the other heavyweights, I was watching some of the video and holy cow, some of these guys are enormous and you are not a small guy. You’re very tall. You are, you’re very strong, but some of the, men you are competing against are 50 pounds heavier. Am I right in that much weight?

Evan Medell: Oh yeah. At least 50 pounds. I mean, there’s a guy from great Britain. He’s probably like 66270, I want to say, and I’m like, 205 on a good day. So yeah, it’s, it’s a struggle.

Alison: Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about fighting against somebody who is so much bigger than you. how does that work? I mean, just for a very basic start.

Evan Medell: Yeah. I mean, it’s a tough, it’s a tough riddle because he’s longer than I am. So staying on the outside and trying to keep moving, it doesn’t work. But also when I get inside, he’s so much bigger and stronger that that’s also a tough go. So I’ve been kind of trying to find with him because he’s a world champion.

I lost to him in Mexico, so I actually fought him two weeks ago. I had a tournament in, uh, Serbia. I went to Serbia and I beat him there. And so like what I found, what I do is like, try to keep like that middle zone where it’s, I’m not like clinched up with them. So I’m not feeling his weight, but I also have like a little advantage in like the volume and speed that I can throw my kick.

So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing.

Alison: This is my very tiny person looking at fighting. Is there ever a moment, especially earlier in your career, where you just looked at these guys and thought to yourself, what am I doing on this mat?

Evan Medell: Oh yeah, like every time before I fight, I’m like, why, why do we do this?

I’ve been like, Oh, what do we hate ourself? Like, why, why, why did we choose to do this? But I mean, once you get out there, you’re like, okay, I understand why I enjoy it now. You know? Cause it’s like, that’s part of like the attraction of fighting is like, it scares you so much that it makes you want to train hard.

It makes you want to like. I want to feel the opposite of how I’m feeling right now. So you want to be really capable and like kind of overcome things. But yeah, a hundred percent. I’m always like, why do I do this? Like, I don’t understand at all.

Alison: Okay. Then I don’t feel so pathetic because I was terrified watching for it.

Just and you’re, like I said, when we met you, you’re not a short man, you are very strong. And yet. These guys are very big.

Evan Medell: Yeah, they’re huge. It’s like so bad. I’m not even gonna lie. I got hit. I couldn’t, uh, when I fought, Bush in, uh, Serbia, he, he hit me with a round kick and I couldn’t close my hand afterwards because my forearm was so swollen up.

Like I just, I couldn’t close my hand for a couple of days, but yeah, it’s just like something you deal with, you know?

Jill: So do those guys then kind of look at their competition, if they’re way bigger, I don’t want to say, do they toy with you, but do they toy with you?

Evan Medell: No, no. Honestly, I, I feel like the pressure’s on them because no one wants to get beat by a smaller guy, you know what I mean?

So and like, they know that I’m going to wear them out. And like, mentally being tired is like the worst thing in a fight. Like, it’s like the thing you’re most afraid of is to be tired, be so tired and not be able to move and like defend yourself really. So. I mean, that’s kind of what they’re worried about for me is just being tired.

Jill: what do you do to build up that mental endurance and try to keep that tiredness at bay?

Evan Medell: I mean, honestly, just in training, just like you push yourself to, you know, we’re doing drills, kicking, whatever for like an hour and then we spar, so you’re already super tired. And then you go into sparring. So like when you go to a tournament and you get super tired or whatever, you’re like, this is a feeling I’m used to of like, I’m super tired, but I know I’m able to like, think and keep them away and like, do what I need to do to win.

Alison: Okay. So since we’re talking about weight. I want to talk a little bit about the difference of weight between both sides of your body. You mentioned when we spoke before that it’s a 35 pound weight difference between your left side and your right side.

How do you train to balance that out in terms of, is that all on your upper body?

Evan Medell: Yeah, it’s all, uh, I mean, partially on my lower body because my lower body has to support my upper body, if that makes sense. So, like, my left calf is slightly bigger than my right because my effective size, my right side. But yeah, because, like, my, handicap is my, um.

Arm and shoulder mostly, but if you can’t move your arm and shoulder, like your chest muscle and your back muscle, they all suffer from like atrophy. So I don’t have all the muscle mass on like pretty much my whole right side of my body, other than like my abs and my obliques and stuff like that. So, yeah.

And then obviously I’m a heavyweight, so I lift weights. So I’m really in the gym, you know, probably 10 hours a week or whatever, just lifting weights. So I’m pretty built up on my left side, so it causes like an imbalance, but, yeah, I mean, we do, we do like stability work, just like holding things and just making my, really make my obliques, my core and my like lower back work at stabilizing my, upper body and just things like that.

And just training, just the, you know, martial arts training, always stopping, going rebalancing. So it your body kind of learns how to balance itself.

Jill: Do your opponents then try to get you, I mean, are they focused on getting you off balance more on your weaker side then?

Evan Medell: Yeah. I mean, that’s part of the game of paratech and though, cause we’re all, we all have similar, handicaps or disabilities. So I know that. If he kicks with his affected side, his left side, if he kicks with his left side, he’ll probably over rotate because he has no counterbalance of an arm.

Like typically when you kick, you counterbalance yourself. So with your, with your arm. So I know if he kicks that side, I’m going to try to slide out of the way because he’ll over rotate and then I’ll get a easier shot that way.

Alison: What are the advantages of disadvantages of a right side disability versus a left side disability?

Okay. It,

Evan Medell: it depends if you’re right or left footed. So I think if you have, if you’re like, say you’re right footed and your affected arm is your right side, I think that’s more of a disadvantage than if your affected side was left side because you want to use your dominant leg more. So if your affected side is your dominant leg, then, maybe you’re not as effective as you could be.

Alison: Okay. And that is you.

Evan Medell: Yeah,

Alison: so how does that actually translate into because you were saying the over rotation what else are you fighting against? With that dominant leg versus affected side

Evan Medell: yes, like over like over rotation and then so part of taekwondo is like you can kick retract and you can kind of keep your leg up and Usually a straight shot or whatever keep them away. So it’s harder for me with my right side To do that. that’s like something that’s affected then and also blocking.

So because I have, I have like no lateral movement in my arm, so I can’t guard my, my backside on my right side. So I know if I have my right side forward. They’re going to target my back. So I have to keep my left side forward, most of the time, unless I’m doing something specific. So that’s like little, like little things, little strategies that you kind of have to be aware of and like kind of build up, uh, as you go through your career,

Jill: do you and your coaches think about, okay, you could be facing somebody with a disability on the right side that affects this parts of their muscles or this parts of their legs, and then like, Develop techniques to combat them so that like, it sounds like a very complicated puzzle to fight somebody in para taekwondo versus. able bodied because there’s so much more, so many more variables, I would think.

Evan Medell: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Like, that’s like one of the first things I look as, when I look at new fighters, I’m like, okay, what’s their affected side and then what is their handicap? Cause there’s, there is a difference between someone who has like limited mobility, which is why, what I have, because I have, you know, all my arm, but I, I don’t really have any control over it.

Like I don’t have any like nervous connection to it. So I have less of a stabilizer. But there’s a guy in my division, he’s, he’s only missing his hand. So he has like kind of full range counterbalance. So I know his affected side, is not as, not as bad. So it’s maybe not something I keep, you know, I’m not, I’m not targeting his side as hard as I would as someone who’s missing, like right below the elbow or someone who’s affected like me.

Alison: How much, when you’re going into a bout, is it strategy against the opponent versus Fighting your own bow.

Evan Medell: Yeah. I mean, I, there’s kind of like a saying, it’s like, you know, it’s most sports, it’s you versus you, but in fighting it’s you versus everybody. So I think when you’re, when you’re in training, you have to be, okay, this is what I’m good at.

And then when you fight somebody, you go, okay, this is what they’re good at. So how do I use what I’m good at to negate what they’re good at? So like for me personally, right, I’m usually faster and I’m more mobile. So if I fight someone who’s, who has a really good clinch game, okay, I’m going to use my speed and mobility to stay out of that clinch, if that makes sense.

Jill: It does make sense. I’ve seen you do some ladder drills that I want to steal. I’m like, oh, that’s cool for agility.

Alison: I do not.

When you’re on the mat and you’re fighting, And say somebody that you have fought before is doing something completely different. How hard is it to change up that plan on the fly?

Evan Medell: I mean, early on in my career, it was pretty difficult.

But now, I think I’m pretty good at adjusting. I mean, most of my matches, honestly, it’s not, great. But most of my matches, I kind of build as I go. And I kind of come from behind. So I’m like, Piecing together like what they’re doing and I usually catch on to, because typically what happens when you go into a match, like your coach will give you three or four different things.

So by like minute, minute and a half in, I’m, I kind of know what their coach wants. So I kind of know, what I need to do to, to, to kind of negate that.

Alison: How much coaching are you getting during a match?

Evan Medell: it depends on your coach and depends who you’re fighting. Typically because of who I am of in the world of para Taekwondo in the U S like I’ve, no one in the U S has competed more, has seen more matches, has really like developed or thought about para Taekwondo as a sub subset of Taekwondo.

So when someone sits in my chair, they just like, give me one or two things like, Hey, I think I see this, like, tell me what you think kind of thing. So. Not, not too much coaching. I mean, you don’t want to be overstimulated before you go into a match or be thinking about something else, you know? So I think it’s depends player to player, coach to coach, but typically not too much.

Jill: Yeah. I was going to say like, how much can you actually process while you’re in the middle of trying to compete? And of course your brain is also working, not just trying to make your body move, but trying to figure out how to fight your opponent. So how much more input can you take in?

Evan Medell: Yeah. I mean. For me, it’s three is the max.

Like I’m like, give me three things. And then that’s all, that’s all I want to hear. because yeah, I mean, when you’re fighting, you have, you’re really running two systems in your brain. You’re running like your reaction system of like, you’re just looking. And like, reacting to whatever’s going on in front of you.

And then at the same time, you’re trying to build, like traps or setups or like, more like complete game plan as you’re going through the match. So it’s always, and then you add on top of that, like someone else, like third party inputting. It can kind of overwhelm some people.

Jill: Wait, I want to know, how much fun is it to set up a trap that works?

Evan Medell: Oh, it’s the best feeling in the world. like, I love setting up a good back kick. cause, how I set it up usually is I push him back once or twice, and then I, with my front leg. Cause for whatever reason, human, or like people when I’m fighting, or humans in general, if you do something to them, they’ll do it, the same thing right back to you.

So I know if I use my front leg twice, he’s probably going to use his once or twice. So I’ll use my front leg twice, push him back, and then they want to come forward because instinctively getting pushed back, you want to come forward. So when they come forward with their right leg, I’ll close out and I’ll throw a back kick.

And that, that works sometimes. People are kind of like, as you get older, you fight more experienced people. Like people kind of recognize that pattern of like, okay, he’s trying to get me to do something. So they’re not going to do it. But. I mean, when that works, it adds like the best feeling ever

Alison: mentioned kicking. There’s no kicking to the head in para, correct? What other differences between able bodied and para?

Evan Medell: Okay. So in able body, they have the best of two out of three rounds. So it’s three, two minute rounds. So if you win round one, and then you’re in one win round two, like they’re independent of each other.

So like the score around one doesn’t matter to score around two. So if you’re in win round one and then you lose round two, there’ll be a third round, but if you win both one and two, there’s no third round in paratech. We know it’s one five minute round and then you get a 45 second break, a time out so you can call it, you know, you can call it a minute in, you can call it with a minute to go, you can call it exactly a halfway, whatever, but each coach gets a 45 second timeout.

That’s probably like the biggest other than the head kicks by like the biggest. And then you can’t, you can throw punches, but you can’t score with punches. So that’s a bit of a difference from able body. Yeah, that’s pretty much it to be honest. Pretty much the only difference.

Jill: Is the no scoring with punches just because lack of limb?

Evan Medell: Yeah, pretty much. Cause they, they needed like a, rule set that worked for all categories. So you have some categories that they don’t have arms at all. So you needed a rule set that would work for them too. So that’s why you can throw them like they’re not going to penalize you for throwing them, but you can’t score with them.

Alison: So when you switched from competing in able body to, competing a para and you had to go from those shorter rounds to that one longer round, how, how does that affect stamina? How does that affect strategy? Because that sounds very, very different.

Evan Medell: Yeah, I mean, it’s like it’s like going from like a 200 meter to like running a 4×4, you know, so Yeah, I think just energy wise you’re more conservative towards the beginning of the fight and then letting things play out a little more because you feel like even though you Technically fight for a minute less because they have six minutes total if it goes to full three They have a minute break.

So they have a 50 percent rest in between Their fights, but we have we don’t know because it’s time out. So you could have only. You know, a 20 percent rest, or you could have, up to, probably up to like a 40 percent rest. So you’re not getting as much like rest percentage wise as they are.

So you’re conserving your tank a little more.

Jill: Is then also using, choosing to use or to not use the timeout part of the strategy?

Evan Medell: Yeah, like when I fought Bush in Serbia, we didn’t use our time out because we knew he was tired, more tired than I was. So we just kind of let, let things play out a little more, um, rather than giving a chance for him to get his win back.

Alison: And as you’ve gotten more experienced and done this more, is it just you’re so much more familiar with your opponents now?

Evan Medell: Yeah, for sure. Like us in the top four, I mean, I fought the number one guy, uh, Ivan, I fought him 12 times now, that’s a lot. And then I fought Bush who is the world champion, fought him in Serbia.

He’s, I probably fought him eight or nine times now.

Alison: But he’s also fought you eight or nine times. So how are you doing things differently, particularly this season, to keep that, oh, surprise, you didn’t know I could do this?

Evan Medell: Yeah, I think that just goes back to training. currently I’m, I’m like working on certain things of adding to my game, because at this point I have my core, like I’m not going to change who I am, what I do.

So I have like my core skill set and now I’m just like adding different pieces and like little wrinkles to maybe, you know, get steel one or more two points, you know, so that’s kind of what we’re working on. And we’re not being different. We’re just getting better.

Alison: We won’t ask for any specifics because we want you to win.

Now, I want to talk about Tokyo. So my first question is Tokyo. It was the first time that. Para Taekwondo was in the Paralympics. What was that run up from it’s going to be in the Paralympics to you’re there in terms of the sport as a whole?

Evan Medell: Yeah, completely different landscape from when I first came in.

so I started Para Taekwondo in April of 2015. That was my first match. I graduated high school early and then I flew to Taiwan to fight in this, this Asian open challenge or whatever. and then There’s probably like eight guys in that division. Like it was a pretty small division when I went there.

And then now I went to my last, like at worlds, there was probably like 30 something people in that division. So it’s, it’s changed a lot. And like, I think the coaching has gotten better too, because now, national teams are putting more effort into, coaching and, developing players.

And just as a whole, the sport has grown. I mean, at least doubled, at least. I would say, because obviously there’s money in it now, because when it’s in the, when it’s in the games, like, Olympic committees are going to, going to put money in it, but when it’s not in the games, they’re not. So people are traveling more, people are getting better training.

So it’s definitely developed a lot.

Alison: Have you seen, I mean, it’s continuing to grow, but have you seen a real shift in terms of like the quality of the fights between You know, before Tokyo, then Tokyo to Paris.

Evan Medell: Tokyo to Paris is probably going to be one of the biggest jumps. I have like qualities gone up majorly.

Yeah, like I said, people are developing and now, now for the second one is here to stay and it got confirmed for 28 and, uh, for 32. So now people are like, okay, three or four cycles from now, it’s still going to be here. So they’re putting more, more effort into it. And it’s, it’s one of the few, as far as para goes, it’s one of the few, uh, full contact sports.

So it has, it has like a different, I guess like flavor than most other pair of sports where most pair of sports is like track and field or basketball, you know, like skill, either skill sports or, uh, like athletic sports where it’s like, non contact and all that. So I think for us, it’s, uh, it’s gotten a lot, a more popular and it’s been a bigger jump.

And

Alison: was, and Jill, correct me if I’m wrong. It was Taekwondo that was in the IPC video, right? When he, when the woman gets kicked in the chest. I believe so. Yeah. So, in the, the most recent IPC video leading up to Paris, You’ve got Taekwondo front and center. I mean, that was pretty cool. Yeah.

Evan Medell: Which I mean, we weren’t, we weren’t even on TV last time.

Like I, I had, so hopefully, hopefully don’t get us

Jill: started. Don’t get us started.

Evan Medell: Well, honestly, like the only thing I wish I was like, I had cameras there. Like the video has gotta be somewhere. Like, I just want to watch my matches entirely. You know what I mean? Like, I just want to have that, have that somewhere, but we weren’t allowed to film and you didn’t put it on TV and you didn’t post it anywhere.

I just want to have that moment just to watch it with my friends and all that, you know? But, but yeah, hopefully

Alison: And nobody was there. Yeah, exactly. None of that.

Evan Medell: No one was there. So, but yeah. So now all I have of that moment is like clips that they put in the whatever. So

Alison: yeah. So you know, I, you know, I have to ask about the semifinal.

How did you break your foot?

Evan Medell: I just hit him clean, like right on his, his nub. which is, right below his elbow. So it was like hitting the middle of someone’s forearm, like, you know, like a pole, like that thick bone. I just hit that and it just like cave my foot in. Like before, before I even put it to the ground, like it was so swollen.

I couldn’t bend my ankle at all. Like it just instantly swelled up like that.

Alison: Okay. As a normal person, as opposed to an elite athlete, my immediate thought is how do you not collapse to the ground in just two seconds? A puddle. Like, what goes on in your brain when you’re looking at your foot, it is swelling up, and you’re in the middle of a match?

Evan Medell: Yeah, I think that’s just like, part of fighting.

Like, that’s just like something you accept when you go into a fight. It’s like, a finger’s gonna get broken, a hand’s gonna get broken, my foot’s gonna get broken. Like, it’s just like something you kind of accept, and it’s happened, I haven’t, that’s like the worst injury I’ve ever had during a match. But, you know, I have had broken fingers, and broken toes, and stuff like that.

Before, so I mean, just like taking that pain and just kind of putting it in like its own little like space in your mind of like, okay, this, I have to be aware of this, but I can’t let it like overtake me.

Jill: Allison, hello, Karate Kid. Come on.

Evan Medell: Yeah, yeah.

Jill: Seriously, you get to act out the Karate Kid in real life.

Evan Medell: Yeah. No, the, because that happened in, Yeah, I was a semis and then I had to fight for my bronze medal match after that and that was way worse because your adrenaline kind of keeps most of the pain like subdued, you don’t really like it hurt. Don’t get me wrong. It hurt bad during that match. But like, as soon as I walked off the mat, like everything started calming down.

I was like, it’s hurt so much worse than I did in the match. But yeah, I had, I think, two hour break. So I think during that two hours, I just kept icing on and off. And then, you know, just trying to keep the swelling down, elevating it.

Jill: Yeah, because you have to be careful about what you ingest for pain relief, because you don’t know what’s there doping wise, correct?

Evan Medell: Yeah, I mean, other than like, aspirin, like you’re not taking nothing, nothing for it, cause I think, even um, cause they used to let you do cortisone shots in between fights, to keep swelling down, but they don’t let you do that anymore.

Alison: Okay. I’m sorry. I’m reacting to that because I have had a cortisone shot in my foot, not when it was broken.

And I have to say, I’m glad you didn’t get a cortisone shot when it was broken.

Evan Medell: Yeah. Yeah. That, that, that needle is pretty big. And then that, that stairway that they use pretty thick too. So it doesn’t really kind of sits there. It doesn’t break up for a while. But yeah, I’ve never gotten one, but I’ve seen, I’ve seen people do it.

Cause I mean, before I think I can’t remember when they banned it. I want to say it was 2018. And then, so obviously, being in a combat sport, people are, especially like bracketed the way it are, the way ours is, where it’s like you fight multiple times in a day. Like that’s like part of it is you get to you win and then you get to your little corner with your doc and they try to like ice it or give you aspirin or, you know, back in the day, cortisone shots.

But yeah, I haven’t seen that done in a while. Did not look fun.

Alison: Did you ever consider not fighting that bronze medal match?

Evan Medell: No, no, never. Nah, there’s no way I was like, I’m not coming all the way here. Like. Because I, the only thing, like if you don’t leave without a medal, the only thing you have is pictures.

And I was like, I’m not, I’m not coming back with, the only thing I have is pictures. So, yeah, I was like, I’ll give it a go, you know.

Alison: And how did going in with that injury change your plan? Like, how did you have to strategize around the fact that one of two feet is not really working.

Evan Medell: Um, I think I use a lot more front leg than I usually did.

cause it was my rear leg that got hurt, my right leg. So I knew, and like I did throw it a couple times just to keep them kind of honest of like, cheating away from me. So I would throw my front leg usually like straight. Like I, we call it a cut kick. It’s like a jab, think of like a jab. So like jab.

With that leg and then like kind of show on my right, but I didn’t throw it too hard. Yeah, my brain is Yeah, it worked. Yeah, I was gonna say, it was just fine. I squeaked one out. I squeaked one out. So, it worked out in the end.

Yeah, that was, that was a tough match because I only ended up winning by two, I think. So yeah, it was like way tighter than I wanted it to be, but. ended up working for me.

Alison: How does that affect you mentally when you’re going in knowing one, you’re in pain and two, you’re struggling physically.

Evan Medell: yeah, I mean, it’s not, it’s not great, but I don’t know. I’ve fought injured before. I’ve fought with like a tear in my hip before I’ve, I’ve fought where I tore my, my hamstring. And by the time the tournament rolled around, I only had one training session in three months. But I was like, you know, which is not a great, not a great place to be mentally when you’re like, I know I haven’t trained in forever, but I have to do this.

So I think when you go into a match like that of like, I’m hurt, I’m doing this, you can’t let that sink your boat. You kind of have to be like, this is what I have. Regardless of what I don’t have right now, this is what I have. And you got to be able to believe that what you have is what you need to, to win the match.

Alison: Yeah. , I’m now very worried for you, Evan, because you’re, I mean, because you’re doing a sport, going in there, knowing you’re going to get hurt.

Evan Medell: Yeah.

Jill: You just rub some dirt now in it.

Evan Medell: Yeah,

Jill: that’s what we are learning here, Alison. You just rub some dirt in

Alison: it and you go on and you keep, so were you like that as a kid?

Were you the, just rub some dirt in it and keep going? Oh

Evan Medell: yeah. Like So between the ages of 12 and 15, I ended up in the ER every summer because I would break a bone or like get a real bad burn or something like that, where I had to go to the ER. So when I turned 15, my dad told me, he was like, From now on, all the medical bills are half.

you’re paying for a half because I can’t, I can’t do this anymore. And then, so I ended up getting a job and that kept me out of trouble, but yeah, like a hundred percent, I was definitely that kid that always got hurt.

Jill: That’s a rude awakening to the costs of the American medical system. Well,

Evan Medell: yeah, the straw that broke the camel’s back was I, I was playing in a, in a field with some kids and we were like blowing stuff up and then I got a third degree burn from like my thumb all the way up to like my elbow.

So they had to like strip the skin and like wash it and do all this stuff to it. And that ended up being like, 2, 000. So my dad wasn’t too happy about that one.

Alison: Are your parents going to be in Paris?

Evan Medell: Uh, yeah, my dad is, um, I think so, yeah.

Alison: Excellent. Your dad and I are going to have a chat. Yeah.

I just can tell dad and I are going to be friends.

So what is the time look like between now and Paris? What competition training, what’s going for you?

Evan Medell: So I had Serbia and that was my last, competition. I went to, yeah, it was like European open. So I went and fought all those European guys that were going to be in Paris just to see what they were doing.

And. How I felt about it. So yeah, now it’s just training. I train Monday through Friday at night and then Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday lift in the mornings on top of that, and then Tuesday, Thursday in the mornings, I’ll either have like a light kicking session or like a cardio session. And then maybe as we get closer to like mid, I leave the 21st for Paris.

So probably like early August, I’ll ramp it up a little more for a couple of weeks and just hit my peak. And then right before I leave, it’ll be my peak. And then I’ll taper down for my competition in Paris.

Jill: Is that a good amount of time to have between competitions or do you like to compete more often or less often?

Evan Medell: I like it now. I guess it depends on where you’re at in your career. I think when you’re younger fighting a lot more is, it’s better for you because you’re getting experience. But I mean, now I’m almost 30, so it takes me a little longer to recover from. Some of the injuries that I get and the bruising and the, you know, your tendons or whatever, a little sore from, from whatever.

So, I like a little break personally now.

Alison: What does that recovery process look like? are there ice baths? Are there massage? what’s happening?

Evan Medell: typically it’s like, it’s not, they tell you not to fly when you’re, when you’re bruised up or whatever, but typically you get on a flight right after.

So I’m just like immediately, immediately after like metals, I take as many like aspirin or ibuprofen as I can. And then, and then like I pound water and then I sit in the ice bath and then I get on a plane. And then when I get back, I usually. rehydrate and then maybe more ibuprofen and then see what, see if I’m really hurt.

Like if I have a tear or whatever and you go see a physical therapist, but that’s typically my recovery, my recovery plan.

Alison: And then you rub some dirt in it, apparently.

Evan Medell: Yeah, pretty much. I get yelled at because I don’t, I don’t go to PT enough. I’ll have, I have bad turf toe when I train. It’s just something that kind of developed from, From using, cause we, we, we train barefoot.

So our, our toe is always being kind of dragged around or stubbed or whatever. but yeah, I got, I got bad turf toes, things like that kind of linger, but I’m pretty much healthy.

Jill: Does that affect your shoes then when you do wear shoes?

Evan Medell: Uh, yeah, I, I choose like wide, wide toe box shoes for sure. And trying to like, I like vans cause vans are wider and like they’re flat.

I’m not a big sneaker guy. I don’t wear sneakers, but I’m usually in vans or slides.

Jill: Gotcha. Cause , my husband has fenced and he has discovered that one of his foot feet have grown longer. Oh, really? Yeah. He’s like two sizes difference on his feet now.

Evan Medell: my left foot is bigger, but I don’t know if that’s from training or if it’s from, just like the weight distribution on my body.

Alison: I’m sorry. I am so concerned now. I cannot tell you how many and Jill. I try very hard to be professional. And then all of a sudden people, the athletes will say things like, Oh, I just get on a plane and I go immediately into mom mode and listen, I know

Evan Medell: it’s not good, but like, I don’t, I don’t book the ticket, so I got no choice in it.

that’s just how it is.

Alison: I kind of want to change our team name from Shook Fo Stan to like Allison’s Italian grandchildren. Because I do, I instantly become Nona and I’m like, what are you doing? What do you, why you no take care of yourself? You make me

Jill: worry.

Evan Medell: But

Jill: it’s true. Complete with that

Alison: Italian accent.

I know, it’s just like. But no, Evan, you, In the video that I was able to see, I have not watched Para Taekwondo before, and I absolutely will now, it is so amazing, and what did we not talk about? that we should know about para taekwondo?

Evan Medell: Oh, we’re part of the youth Olympic games now in Asia, which is a big, big news for us.

So I think that’s just more evidence to the growth that the sport has had. So I’m, I’m excited for that. Obviously I’m not going cause I’m way too old, but I’m excited that kids have somewhere to compete now because like when I was growing up, I fought able bodied cause I had nowhere else to compete. So I’m hoping that, younger and younger kids get more involved early on because it’s a skill sport.

So the earlier you start, the better, the more skillset you will have and the better you’ll be at the sport.

Jill: did you develop skills in competing in able bodied taekwondo that do not help you for para taekwondo?

Evan Medell: Yeah. I mean, all that, all, yeah, all the head kick stuff for sure. Cause in able bodied head kick when I was coming up was three points for a head kick and then one point for a body kick.

So you spent a lot of your time developing ways to attack the head. So like, so that stuff obviously kind of went out the window, but I think the core of it, like you’re just movement and, blocking and, just your basic kicks, I think that’s great development for, for most people anyway, but yeah, there’s definitely certain things that I kind of had to retool and figure out for myself because I didn’t have anyone in the U S that was competing.

and Paratech 1. 0 at the level I was, so I had to basically develop my own little system to, sharpen my tools for Paratech 1. 0 specifically.

Jill: even though you are a rub some dirt in it kind of guy, How’d you feel when you didn’t have to get kicked in the head anymore?

Evan Medell: honestly, I missed it.

I’ll be I’ll be honest because I like kicking people in the head that was my favorite like that I always known as a head hunter and in my because growing up I was like a five time state champion able bodied So, like, people in my area kind of knew me and I was known like they know like, if you fight this guy, he is gonna try to take your head off.

Like, that was just like one of, one of the things I was known for. So like when I went to Para, I, I did miss that, but I’ve learned, I’ve learned to love a, a good, hard back kick to the ribs. but yeah, I just,

Jill: the head and a lower place,

Evan Medell: I missed it. But I, I don’t miss getting hit in the face though, to answer your question.

that part, you know, hopefully I’ll be able to. remember my kid’s name at 30 years, you know, that’s a benefit. I

Alison: love you, Evan. I gotta tell you, you are fabulous. This has been so much fun. I’m so excited to go see you fight now.

Evan Medell: Yeah. Oh, it should be good. It should be good. It’s always a good time on a fight.

Alison: Evan, thank you so much for sitting down with us again. We appreciate it.

Evan Medell: Yeah. Thanks for inviting me. It was a good time.

Jill: . Thank you so much, Evan. You can follow Evan on Insta at Evan underscore Medel 616 TKD. We will have a link to that in the show notes.

Giveaway!

Alison: We’re giving away stuff. We are not, we are not giving away my floral floppy hat that is coming with me, but we do have a whole nice little package of Olympic and Paralympic and Team USA swag that we have collected. And all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter through the, uh, The giveaway site, so we will have a link to that in the show notes.

We will be sending that out before we leave for Paris, so you will have your tools in plenty of time and decorate yourself.

Jill: Yes, and also, uh, those of you who donated to our Kickstarter and were at the pin and sticker level, your pins and stickers did go out. So that was very, very exciting to do. Thank you to all of you who support of Kickstarter.

Thank you to all of those who sign up for our newsletter It means a lot to us to keep connected with you

Paris 2024 News

Alison: Je n’ai pas un plumeau

Jill: we’re talking water and water quality today for Paris 2024. If it doesn’t rain, I

Alison: don’t have an umbrella.

Jill: But you have a floppy hat to keep the rain off of you. A floppy hat.

Alison: I’m so excited about my hat, you have no idea.

Jill: I want to see a picture of your hat, man. I’m surprised you didn’t bring it to the recording.

But we have been, uh, reading nonstop about the water quality of the sun. But listener Brittany found the plan B for open water swimming, so that was very cool. Swimming World reports that the rowing venue at Varsaman can host the marathon swimming event as well.

The article says it can also hold the swimming portion of the triathlon, but the rowing venue is 35 kilometers west of central Paris and the other two lakes of the triathlon are scheduled to take place in central Paris. So there’s no real word that I could find on how they would manage to do swimming that far away.

So another option for the triathlon is is a duathlon of biking and swimming, but the World Triathlon Federation does not prefer that. Obviously they do, uh, World Triathlon did have a water quality update on its website. The water quality has been okay. Let’s just say that the, the Seine water flow is four to six times its usual summer flow.

So there’s a lot of water going down the river. There’s been a lot of rain. Lately, when there’s rain, the quality of the water goes down and on June 24th and 25th, it was over the limit for, uh, E. coli. Then it was good for four days. Then it rained again on the 30th and so it was two times the limit needed, but then the next day it was below again.

So this is one of those things where it could be high one day if they postpone it for a day or two and the weather holds. It could be well in the safety range. the Ontario caucus limit was also high on June 30th, but it went down to acceptable levels the next day as well. So right now, if I look at AccuWeather, because they will do a 45 day forecast, they have no rain forecasted around the competition days for triathlon.

However, it’s really hard to guarantee an accurate forecast that far out. I have been kind of monitoring, uh, AccuWeather for, for weeks now to see like, oh, here’s another day, here’s another day. And we have gone from 70s Temperature wise, 70 degrees Fahrenheit or upper 70s Fahrenheit, I would say, into now we’re hitting the low 80s consistently throughout July and August.

So there’s only a couple of days of rain forecasted at the moment, but we’ll see if that forecast will actually hold. I’m not sure, but it could hold, it could not hold.

Alison: Talk about a game day decision. I wonder if there is. any discussion of moving it up, doing it, or, you know, if we’ve got a good day, okay, kids, triathlons today. I mean, that’s a nightmare for the athletes.

Jill: Yeah, I don’t know if they could do that. That’s the other thing, because you also have the athlete’s schedule and their training.

How much, how much do they get to train in the river versus just training for swimming? What is the forecast going to look like closer to the event? I think that’s when they start thinking about contingency plans. When you have something like a 10 day forecast is when you start to get a little bit more accurate, you know, cause I am a middle aged weather geek now

Our local meteorologists who we love talk about forecasting a lot and how it changes a lot. When you’re that far out. It’s just it’s really hard to be accurate. So we shall see The open water swimming events right now. It’s scheduled There could be rain, but we don’t know

Alison: but that’s a lot easier to move because it’s a single event It’s not ideal.

Obviously, they have a plan in place. They have viewing Sites in place moving it is difficult for everyone involved, but it’s definitely Much more doable than trying to reschedule the entire triathlon and they’ve been prepping for that crazy course that has steps in between Right because there was the steps from the river up to where they have to cycle.

So Wow, I really did. You know, I remember saying oh, they’re gonna get it clean. They’re gonna get it clean They are not gonna screw this up. I Had too much faith apparently

Jill: Yeah, I think this always goes back to the conversations we had with, um, Randall Rourke about the planning in, uh, Atlanta, 1996, and how the Olympics are good for forcing governments to do things because it gets a deadline and, you know, if you go back to cleaning up the Senn.

Jacques Chirac was talking about it, and Jacques Chirac was leading France when we were, what, in high school, maybe?

Alison: When there was a Czechoslovakia.

Jill: Right? And maybe even a Soviet Union. So, you know, they’ve actually finally done something to make it, you know, A little bit better. Hopefully this will be on the road, but you and I have both lived in places where the water river water quality has been atrocious.

you know, we both lived in Boston and you don’t swim in the Charles River and the Charles

Alison: is. A thousand times better than it was 30, 40 years ago,

Jill: right? And I live in Cleveland where the Cuyahoga river has famously caught on fire with so much pollution, but they’re now having, different fish are coming back.

So I mean, they’ve worked really, really hard to clean up that river as well. And it’s just, it takes a long time, but it takes a lot of effort and hopefully this will be a. The Olympics has been a good catalyst for making that happen for the Senn, which is sad, you know, I, I have to say, like, the Charles River is a big deal for Boston, the Cuyahoga River is a big deal for Cleveland, the Chicago River is a big deal in Chicago.

The Senn is, you know, the heart of the city. To not take care of it. Wow. It’s hardly the first city to screw that up. Right. Right. Thanks, industrialization.

TKFLASTAN News

Alison: Welcome to Shookflist on.

Jill: It is the time of the show where we check in with our team. Keep the flame alive. These are our past guests and listeners of the show who make up our, citizenship of our very own country, Shookflist on. Shookflist on.

Alison: Jacqueline Simineau and partner Audrey Lamotte won gold in Women’s Duet Free at the World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup Superfinal in Budapest. Canada also won silver in Team Acrobatic and bronze medals in Team Free and Team Technical. Also competing there was Team USA and our swimmers, Mugumi Field and Daniela Ramirez.

They won gold in all three team events and were also named the World Series Mixed Team Champion.

Jill: For all of them, that has to be a big boost going into the Olympics.

Alison: I mean, Jacqueline, when we spoke to her last time said, you know, duet was really where they were focusing and for the Canadian team to be coming together.

like this. It was so unexpected. And for Team USA to be going in with these golds, I mean, they are, have no history in this team, artistic swimming, and to be coming in with such a powerhouse team is, I’m going to go with my floppy hat. I don’t care that it’s inside. Uh,

Jill: sprinter Kenny Bednarik has partnered with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to raise awareness of the urgent need for foster care adoption. We’ll have a link to the Dave Thomas Foundation in our show notes, but also Kenny said on X that he is on the 4×100 relay team for Paris. The full announcement from USA Track and Field is supposed to come at like any moment.

I have seen that the announcement was supposed to be the 8th. It’s the 8th today as we tape. Have not seen the announcement yet, but he may have let that slip. Oopsies!

Alison: Andrew Maraniss book on WNBA legend Maya Moore. Beyond the Game, Athletes Change the World is now out in illustrated form. You can look for it on our bookshop.

org site, which is bookshop. org slash shop slash flame alive pod. And we will have a link to that in the show notes.

Jill: And table tennis player Millie Tapper has been named to the Australian para table tennis team, making it yet another Olympic Paralympic double double for Millie. Outstanding.

Coming Soon

Jill: And that is going to do it for this episode.

Let us know what you think of para taekwondo.

Alison: You can find us on X YouTube and Instagram at flame, a live pod, send us an email at flame, a live pod at gmail. com call or text us at 2 0 8 3 5 2 6 3 4 8. That’s 2 0 8 flame it chat with us and other fans on our Facebook group. Keep the flame alive podcast and sign up for our weekly newsletter with even more Olympic and Paralympic info for you at our website, flame, a live pod.com.

Jill: On Thursday, we will talk all things paddling with Canoe Slalom’s Evie Liebfarth, rower Michelle Sexer, and canoeist Nevin Harrison. And if you’re wondering about Extreme Kayak Slalom, we will have answers for you. Please do not forget to tell a friend about the show.

And if you’re getting merch to wear in Paris, get it now so you have it before you leave or before you have to sit on the couch for two weeks in a row. Looking for me and my floppy hat. That’s right. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.