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Lightning Round with Justin Phongsavanh

Release Date: May 24, 2024

Category: Blog | Para Athletics

On May 24, TKFLASTANI para javelin thrower Justin Phongsavanh is competing at the Para Athletics World Championships in Kobe, Japan. We put him through our lightning round of Paralympics-related questions. This interview was taken from a machine-generated transcript and has been edited for clarity.

Jill: What is your first memory of the Paralympics? How did you become aware of it?

Justin Phongsavanh: It was after I got paralyzed. I was playing wheelchair basketball because I reached out to an adaptive sports organization near me in Iowa. And they put me in wheelchair basketball, hated it.

And then that’s when they introduced me to Paralympic track and field and the Paralympic games. And that’s when I got it. So it wasn’t until 2016 when I was introduced into the Paralympics.

Jill: What’s your first memory of the Olympics?

Justin Phongsavanh: 2008, probably 2008. Yeah, 2008. Um, 8, 12, and 16 pretty vividly.

Jill: Where do you keep your medal from Tokyo?

Justin Phongsavanh: It’s over there in a box [gestures behind him]. You can see like I got, I got most of my, my metals and my degrees and whatnot over here.

Jill: Very nice. What is your favorite training exercise?

Justin Phongsavanh: Throwing heavy balls. We throw balls that are like a thousand grams, 800 grams, 600 grams, and I just like throw on them.

They go really far. And then my dog goes and gets them and then brings them back. So it works out, right?

Jill: So it’s like your own autonomous robot.

Justin Phongsavanh: Absolutely. This one, this one’s breathing. So I don’t throw her.

Alison: We are not allowed to joke about hurting the dog.

Justin Phongsavanh: No, no, no. I would never. I would never. She’s, my girl.

It’s my dogger.

Jill: If you could be a Paralympian in any other sport besides athletics, what would it be?

Justin Phongsavanh: Curling.

Jill: Curling. Why?

Justin Phongsavanh: It just seems easy. Gosh, it seems so easy. I really feel like I could just go out there and, especially wheelchair curling, I really feel like I could go out there and probably make a Paralympic team with one year of training.

Alison: Okay. We have somebody for you to talk to.

Jill: Yeah. We might argue that point.

Justin Phongsavanh: Yeah. We can try, but.

Jill: But again, there, there’s geometry at work.

Justin Phongsavanh: That’s fine. With curling. That’s fine. I kind of want to challenge you. I got an MBA in accounting. I can handle some, I can handle some, some math, but it just looks so easy.

Alison: Because they’re good at it.

Justin Phongsavanh: Yeah, but I’ve done it too like not on ice, on like a board. And I did pretty good.

Alison: Yeah, but ice is kind of an important factor there.

Justin Phongsavanh: Absolutely. Absolutely That’s the only that’s the only thing is uh, I respect it because it’s on ice and I grew up in Iowa and I hate ice and so I respect it, but I still look at it and I’m like I don’t even have to work out to do this. I can just go out there and push this rock and maybe go make a team.

Jill: I think that’s a challenge. I think absolutely the next, the next Oksana Masters. Cause she does winter and summer. So you need to do winter and summer now. 

Justin Phongsavanh: I would love to. Also, it’s just my ignorance of the sport. If I know nothing about wheelchair curling, I just look at it.

Alison: Okay. Cause so now I’m thinking challenges of wheelchairs and ice. Like, does it skid?

Justin Phongsavanh: They have people behind you, like three people, that are like holding you forward.

Alison: I mean just like in daily life.

Justin Phongsavanh: Oh, yeah. You’re not moving. You’re not moving. You try to push and you try to run away. You’re not moving because you’re skidding out.

And it’s, it’s, it’s horrible and it’s cold. It’s not fun. There’s nothing cool about ice besides it keeps my drinks cold. That’s it.

Alison: And what is your favorite Paralympic souvenir? Besides the medal. The medal.

Justin Phongsavanh: So when I went to the Games, COVID was a thing.So I couldn’t really go out and go to the city cause they’re in a state of emergency. The whole country of Japan was, so I couldn’t get anything. I bought like a fondant, a bottle of scotch at the airport. I bought in every country I go to, I get a new bottle of scotch.

And I usually go to the airport. I’m like, what’s your most expensive bottle? It never goes above $500. And so I always buy a bottle of scotch, but if I say my favorite souvenir, I got some chopsticks from the Village. They said that they were Japanese, I don’t know. They could have come from, you know, Panda Express and I would have believed them.

It was good stuff. Yeah. I still, I still use them to this day.

Jill: What’s, okay. So if you buy a bottle of scotch around every competition, where, where it’s the best you’ve had?

Justin Phongsavanh: I don’t even like scotch that much. I’m not going to lie. I really don’t. I never drink them. I can never open them. They’re only time I’ve ever opened them is like I bought a new house.

I came back from the Games with the medal, you know, world record. It’s special occasions because it’s always like 20-year-old scotch, it’s smoky. I don’t know. I just don’t really care for it. And I feel bad mixing it with like Coca-Cola. So I just drink it on like ice. And it’s just not great, but the best I’ve ever had was this is called Irishman.

I got it in Ireland. It was like, I think it was like 18-year or 20-year, and it was so good. It was very, very, very good. Very good. But I know if I bought like vodka, I got, I probably have half the bottle down in the afternoon. Like it just, you know, mix that stuff with some lemonade and carry on. Yeah. But scotch, I’m not chugging scotch. That’s, that’s weird.

Alison: Jill lives with a scotch drinker, so she has many opinions.

Jill: I’m taking notes.

Justin Phongsavanh: The Irishman is so good. It is so good.

Alison: And thankfully it is from Ireland and not like, you know, Korea.

Justin Phongsavanh: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s why I bought it. Cause even like, I went to Easter islands in Chile and I came back and I was like, I need some Scotch and they’re like, We’re Chile.We don’t have scotch.

Same thing in Italy. They’re like, we don’t have scotch. So I bought like tequila. I think I haven’t opened the bottle. Then in Italy, I bought, I was like a $150 bottle of wine from like 2007. And I was like, I don’t care for wine. I don’t drink wine. They said, we don’t care.

Alison: Drink it.

Justin Phongsavanh: Yeah, I will. I plan on having it after the Games. I plan on like making some steaks and whatnot. Polishing off the bottle, because I can’t just drink one glass of wine, that’s craziness. It comes in a glass that is one glass.

Alison: So we know what you’re picking up in France.

Justin Phongsavanh: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I plan on, uh, bringing back some baguettes and cannolis, macarons, and wine.

Wine. Wine. I plan on, we’ll bring another suitcase and start bringing it back. ‘Cause my mom loves wine too.

Jill: You gotta take care of mom.

Justin Phongsavanh: She’ll be there. She’s fine. She just retired too.

Alison: Well, I said this to Noelle [Malkamaki] for her event. I said, I really wanted to sit with her mother. for her event because I met her mother in New York. Yeah. So now I’m like, Oh, well, Justin’s mom and I can just sit and share a bottle while he’s competing.

Justin Phongsavanh: Oh, my mom would love that.

Alison: Well, thank you so much, Justin. This is great.

Justin Phongsavanh: It’s my pleasure.