Team USA BMX cyclists join us to talk about what’s in store for Paris 2024! We start with BMX freestyle and Olympian Hannah Roberts, who won silver at the sport’s Olympic debut in Tokyo. Hannah tells us how BMX freestyle courses are built (keyword: janky) and attempts to explain the sport’s judging.

Then we move over to BMX racing with Olympic legend Alise Willoughby and first-time Olympian Cam Wood. Alise will be heading to her fourth Olympics in Paris and looking for her second medal (she won silver at Rio 2016). Alise talks with us about how experience helps navigate competition. Cam tells us what to look for on the track at Paris 2024.

We also have the latest updates from Paris 2024, including some Canadian events during the Paralympics, which you can find out about here.The Canadian Cultural Center at the Canadian Embassy in Paris also has an exhibition called “Composition for an ensemble, or The Spirit of The Games” by Clive Holden, which is on display until September 8, 2024.

Canada will also be illuminating over 50 landmarks and buildings around the country on July 9 to celebrate the Paralympics. See the full list here (and send us pictures!)

We love talking uniforms, and Paris 2024 has released the medal bearers kit and medal trays from Louis Vuitton. See them at WWD.

In news from TKFLASTAN we hear from:

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



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 Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

352-Olympic BMX Cycling with Hannah Roberts Alise Willoughby and Cam Wood

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 am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are you? I got

Alison: two new Keep the flame alive t shirts today delivered So I am that much closer to compiling my paris wardrobe

Jill: Excellent.

I have to get a couple more to round things out because i’m very worried about Heat and sweat and lack of laundry facilities, or actually not even lack of facilities. It’s lack of time to do the laundry.

Alison: I know it’ll be one o’clock in the morning and the two of us will be washing socks in that tiny little sink in our bathroom.

Jill: But we will get there. Yes. If you are going, don’t forget to wear your team Keep the Flame Alive merch so that we can find you in all the crowds.

Alison: And if you are staying home, pick up a t shirt and post a picture of yourself on the couch as you are watching. That’s right. We’d love to see that

Jill: stuff. it’s almost two weeks, basically, till we go.

It’s three weeks. No. It’s two and a half weeks.

We leave two weeks from today. Boom!

I will sleep on the plane just because I will be so exhausted from all the emotions of I’m excited, I’m freaked out, I’m overwhelmed, I’m scared, I’m everything. You know, that all happens in about five minutes. And that’s every five minutes of every day.

Alison: Like everyone who’s flying from the US to Europe, we get overnight flights.

So it’ll be good to be absolutely exhausted. But I think this time, you know, when I flew to Beijing, I slept on the plane. It was kind of funny. I just kept falling asleep on the plane and waking up to eat. I think this time I’m not going to be able to sleep because I’m going to be just so excited and kind of we’re so revved up.

Whereas in Beijing, we up into the last second, we didn’t know if we were going, you know, every second that they stuck a Q tip up our noses, it could have been the end of the trip because of COVID and that’s not this. So it’s definitely a different excitement and a different nervousness and a different level of planning.

So I think I’ll be that really annoying person on the plane who’s like, do you know where I’m going? Do you want a pin? I have a pin for you. Like,

Jill: ma’am, you’ve given me four pins already. It’s

Alison: like, sit down and drink your Diet Coke. Just stop it.


Jill: All right. We are talking today with some other people who will be in Paris, , Team USA announced its Olympic BMX team last week, and we have three members on the show today.

We spoke with Hannah Roberts and Alise Willoughby at the Team USA Media Summit and got some time with Cam Wood in June. So we will play all of these for you. At only 19 years old, Hannah Roberts won the silver medal in BMX freestyle in Tokyo. The Olympic debut for the sport. She is the four time and reigning world champion.

And one of my new favorite people, I will say that

Alison: she was great at the summit. She was really great.

Jill: On Hannah’s interview. You’ll also hear another voice and that is Angelina Palmero, who is with USA cycling and she was, Hannah’s handler for the media summit.

Alise Willoughby is heading to her fourth Olympics in Paris. She won a silver in Rio and women’s BMX racing and is the reigning world champion. And Cam Wood is a two time world champion in BMX racing.

Despite injuring his shoulder earlier this year, he earned enough points on tour to qualify for his first Olympics. Take a listen.

Hannah Roberts Interview

Alison: My name is Hannah Roberts.

Jill: Okay, BMX. What is the park made of? Is it like concrete?

Hannah Roberts: Uh, no. Most of the ramps that we ride, um, have to be taken down. So they’re a metal structure underneath, and then some janky dy wood on top that lasts a weekend, but can’t be outside for too long or it falls apart.

Jill: So how does it feel to ride over?

Hannah Roberts: Usually it feels pretty good. There’s some, there’s some places like, you know, the humidity changes that, um, there’s some places where it just kind of feels a little soft. but it’s, it’s super easy to adjust to. And, uh, it makes, you know, having, having that wood that, that is on top, um, makes it easier to dry off when it’s raining and we need to get at least a run out there.

So, um, yeah, I mean, they feel different at every event, but sometimes they’re just a little bit softer. Not, not the greatest, so.

Jill: Okay, so wait, hold on. When you said janky wood, I immediately thought like, you’re riding over a wooden bridge. But no, we’re talking like a sheet of plywood. Yeah. Okay, thank you.

Yes. I went, oh my gosh, how are you doing this? It’s janky to be riding over a bridge all the time.

Angelina Palmero: But you can still feel it move more than you think. Yeah. So,

Alison: how are you training for that jankiness? I love that we’re using this word.

Hannah Roberts: I mean. I definitely do not add it into my, into my training routine.

I am, I’m hoping that we go to a really, really nice, nicely built course. Obviously some, some events have to be a little bit different. Um, but I’m hoping for the games that, that they’re in the OQS. I’m hoping that they’re well built ramps. Um, and it’s, I, I would not ride janky ramps at home. Like I, I couldn’t put myself through that for, um, I’ve been home for a couple months, so I couldn’t just be like, Oh, this is fun!

No, I can’t stand it. I’ll adapt. I’ll make myself adapt, for sure. I

Jill: mean, nothing is the same from park to park. Everything, I mean, you,

Hannah Roberts: I guess you, your bike, um, Everything else, though, I mean, uh,

Jill: Yeah. Yeah. They’re always a ramp. There’s always, yeah, there’s,

Hannah Roberts: sorry, there’s always like ramps. Um, usually we have, uh, the, the most important elements, I guess is, uh, the quarter pipes and, uh, the box jumps.

But at every single event, they switch radiuses, um, which is like the, the, the takeoff, uh, you know, how, how steep it is, how mellow it is. They switch that at every event, so. Um, they always have about the same obstacles, which is, uh, a step up or spine, um, and then a box and quarters. Like those are the main things that, that are always there.

They add a few hips. Um, occasionally they add. You know, the big spine and the little spine and the scary step up and the not so scary step up. And, um, they definitely change it around where everything, every contest is a little bit unique. but like, building wise, like there’s, I don’t know, I don’t know how or why, but.

Every time it’s something a little bit different. Okay, I have two questions. Because the

Alison: coverage at the MX is often terrible. What’s a spine? What’s a hip?

Hannah Roberts: Okay, yeah, so a spine is basically I’ll describe it as this. When you have a normal box jump, there’s a side that you jump off of, because it’s a bit steeper, and then you have a side that you land.

A spine is basically Two sides that you take off of like too steep. They can be super steep. They can be super mellow Um, but they’re usually the exact same um radius and uh, very very short gap at the top to jump um when you do tricks like really high like really really really high on a spine and It’s the best feeling in the world because it feels like you’re just floating for a minute and then you just drop um, I really really enjoy spine stuff and then hips are Um, you know any Any two ramps that are at any kind of angle.

Um, so whether it’s, you know, 45 degrees, it’s, you know, that one’s way chiller, way more fun, um, or 90 degrees where you’re like sweating bullets because if you case you’re messing up pretty good, so.

Alison: How much do you get to

Hannah Roberts: see and or practice on the exact course before

Alison: competition?

Hannah Roberts: It’s crazy. So they have drawings, but the drawings never, you know, you could look at a drawing and be like, dude, this to this.

It’s gonna be sick, and then you show up and they’re 50 feet apart. You’re like, that’s a lie. I lied to myself, um, before I came here. Um, and I’ve done that so many times that I don’t even look at the drawings anymore. basically I have my coach just be like, hey, there’s a spine, there’s the step up, but there’s no big, you know, big spine where it’s an extended, uh, rollout.

And I’m like, alright, cool. And then I just like plan on doing tricks on those obstacles instead.

Angelina Palmero: And you get, what,

Hannah Roberts: 30

Angelina Palmero: minutes of training and then qualifying the next day?

Hannah Roberts: So, yeah, usually it’s an hour. They try, they try to give us an hour and then, uh, 25 minutes the next day to warm up before we, we ride.

But, the worst, the worst event that I’ve ridden at was, we legit had 30 minutes to, to figure out the course with 12 other athletes. Um, and then we were dropping in in the wind and, and all that, uh, so, and the freezing cold, so. So, um, It really is just weather.

Angelina Palmero: Yeah, not much

Alison: time. How

Hannah Roberts: much

Alison: do you adjust? Is it a routine?

A ride? What’s it called first so I’m using the right terminology? Uh, a run. Okay. How much are you adjusting a run

Hannah Roberts: from competition to competition day to day? I mean, I adjust, I adjust when, when absolutely necessary. Obviously, uh, different contests, different courses required different, adjust, you know, different, uh, techniques.

if one course requires more transfers, then I have to switch my riding over from what I usually do to, to extend and look very comfortable in a different way on a bike. So, , I definitely have to think about how the course is, but then, you know, day to day. You have to look at. I mean, I always look at the weather, um, the wind, and definitely the rain percentages to see how much I have to push, um, on.

Days where I usually don’t, like semi final or qualification days. if we’re not going to have finals, then I’m like, dude, I’m trying to get as high as possible just in case it gets rained out. Like, I’m good. that’s what I did in Japan, and I won Japan, so that was pretty cool. Um, but days where it’s super, super windy, I will, I will look at my coach straight in the face and I’ll be like, I ain’t doing nothing but spinning.

Because spinning is the easiest thing to do in the wind. you jump, if you jump straight, the wind will legit take your front tire. And I fell, I’ve fallen a lot on that, um, and then if you, you know, if you flip, you’re just kind of, you’re just sitting upside down, up, waiting for the wind to just blow you.

So, that’s, that’s not a fun thing either.

Jill: Again with the bad commentary. How do you win? I mean, seriously, like, you know, the commentary is bad.

Hannah Roberts: Yeah. And it makes us mad, because the sport is awesome.

Angelina Palmero: Oh,

Jill: I

Angelina Palmero: know.

Hannah Roberts: Um, so the main ways to win, I guess, um, I don’t even Like, what are you judged on? Uh, I, well, so Low key, I feel like the judging changes all the time. Um, that’s, that’s a whole vendetta that a lot of athletes have against, um, what’s laid out. But, um, they say that the height, the height that you go, uh, the speed that you go, your flow, um, how you use the course, like your creativity, and then the level of tricks that you have.

those are all what they judge on. Um, sometimes that’s true. Sometimes. We could have fights about it, uh, you know. But, yeah, I mean, that’s what I, uh, There’s been times where I legit ask, like, Yo, what’s the leading score? And I did this at 2022 Worlds and I was just like, what, who’s in first and what’s their score and I’ll get told and then I’ll be like, all right, I’ll drop in and I’ll, I’ll make sure that what I do is enough to get at least a little bit higher than that.

And, um, I guess that’s just, um, on experience on, you know, dealing with the judges and stuff. Favorite track? My favorite course. Was 2022 worlds. I mean, it was, I didn’t like where, like how it was, where it was set up. It’s set up on a, on a road or a parking lot that had a little bit of a slant to it.

But like, as for the ramps, they were, they were perfect.

Alise Willoughby Interview

Alison: Alise Willoughby, with BMX Racing. How sick are you of getting your name misspelled?

Alise Willoughby: You know, honestly, I thought it was bad when it was Alise Post, and now my married name is Alise Willoughby.

So, oh my goodness. As in Allison with one L? Yeah, you get it. I feel you. You get it, yeah. Now it’s not just one of the names, it’s all the letters.

Jill: What are the advantages of disadvantage starting

Alise Willoughby: of each lane? Um, so every single track, the name of the game of BMX racing is adaptability, right?

You’re gonna go there. Every single track is built different. Every jump’s different. It’s built out of dirt. Um, even the starting gates, as much as they are regulated, they are slightly different depending on what they’re made of and the structure of it. So, I think that the name of the game is Adaptability, and so on some tracks, um, you know, you want that inside line, and it’s almost the be all end all, which is lane one, which is always going to be on the side where, uh, the turn, the first turn is going.

So whatever the inside of that turn is, is always going to be lane one. And there’s some tracks where that’s absolutely critical in order to get the whole shot, as we call it, as you exit the first turn, um, other tracks where it’s a bit longer, um, It’s not necessarily so bad to be out in the outside late night because you have the opportunity to just go and you don’t have to worry about the person next to you start, um, and being able to essentially shut you down because we are a full contact sport and, uh, unfortunately if you miss even by, you know, a millisecond, uh, the person next to you is gonna take up that space so, um, that can shoot you off the back real quick and I think the most important thing is being able to put yourself in the front and then you have the opportunity to control the race.

So basically from inside to outside, I mean every lane has their advantage and disadvantage I think. But at the end of the day, it’s more important um, how you start and how, you know, every single rider is going to be different. So some people, you know, I tend to love being kind of forced with my back against the wall.

And maybe I’m in the middle, or however it is. I tend to get good starts like that. Whereas some people love lane one because it gives them that inside advantage. And even if you’re a little behind, sometimes you can kind of squeak your way in and make a move in the first turn. And then some people are just maybe not the best starter.

And they need the outside lane to get going. But then by the time they enter the first turn, they’re moving and they’re really good on their bike and powerful. They can make up that ground from the outside. So it really depends on the rider and which lane would be advantageous or not.

We just saw the Parrish Track, um, last week actually. Um, and it’s big and it’s a lot of jumping. And big jumps and it’s in an existing structure. So we actually have been to the venue before for world cup experiences, um, and races. Um, but I think that it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think it’s a wide open track.

Um, it has a really good mix of, you know, the sprint and athleticism that it takes, um, you know, for us on the powerful side and the start side while also having a really good technical ability, um, the last straight might. sneak up on people with how technical it is when your legs are burning and you’re tired.

So I think it’s going to demand, um, every aspect of, of skill in our sport, which is a really good way to have an Olympic track.

Alison: How has experience played in to how you ride now versus how you rode 10 years ago?

Alise Willoughby: Uh. Having pretty much seen everything that can be seen on the track at this point in my career and, you know, experiencing the full spectrum of Olympic experiences, um, I’ve definitely changed and grown in how I ride and, you know, how I approach each event.

It’s an ever evolving process, um, in getting the best out of yourself. But I think the biggest thing is, you know, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t ride like this, this one lap is going to make or break when, you know, when you’re young and you’re trying to make your mark and everything, I think you maybe ride a bit more.

I don’t know if carefree is the right word, but like you just, you know, you ride with I don’t want to say carefree, but you just, you’re so excited and you want to take every opportunity and maybe even at times ambition outweighs your ability, you know? And, uh, So I think now I’ve gotten to a point in my career where, you know, I, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove and I just, you know, I want to run clean laps and do my best and get out there and, um, have good, nice, clean racing and I worry a lot more about, I hope everybody stays up on their bikes than, uh, than maybe when I was younger and I didn’t feel, feel the aftermath as much.

Alison: When you’re talking about feeling the aftermath and. I hate to call you old, Alice, because you’re so, you’re not. But in the sport, you’ve been doing this a long time. So, you talk a little bit about that fear of getting hurt at this point in your career.

Alise Willoughby: Yeah, I mean, everything you do in life, there’s, there’s a risk, right?

Yeah, there’s, there’s danger in everything we do. And I think when you train and prepare for things, um, obviously that fear subsides because you’re prepared for it, right? You don’t feel so scared and you cannot ride with fear. We call it hesitation, devastation. And, uh, I think when you ride scared, you ride hesitant.

And you can’t be like that. The day that I feel, you know, I feel like that fear or something’s there that I can’t compete with these sort of thinking about what could happen. I think that’s the day you gotta hang up, hang up the bike and, and watch from the sidelines and, and be a fan. So, um, I think that, yeah, ultimately, um, yes, As you get older, you think about the consequences a little more, and I think you just better know, for lack of a better way, what’s the saying, know when to hold them, know when to fold them, kind of a thing, and um.

we like to say you’re never as experienced as you are that moment and in that race. And so I’ve just gotten more and more experienced as it goes on and I just try to use that to my advantage. And like I said, there’s nothing out there that I haven’t seen, so it’s not like I’m going to get surprised out on the track.

I mean, obviously every lap is different, but I can pretty much imagine everything that could happen because I’ve probably seen it out there. So, I wouldn’t say fear is the right thing or, or that. You know, being scared to mix it up. I think I’m just as competitive as I always have been, but I, I would say that having that experience and seeing those things actually plays in my favor and I kind of know what to expect, almost more than the young gun coming out and maybe is leading their first lap around and they get so excited, they just do something silly.

You know, they, um, Out of character, so I think that, um, I’ve obviously grown with time and, uh, know myself better now.

Jill: How do you develop your reaction time to, like, I would imagine that as you progress in racing, the track slows down and you see stuff better. But how do you develop the reaction to be able to take advantage of a hole, or advantage of something, uh, you know, somebody else’s mistake?

Alise Willoughby: Yeah, um, BMX racing is definitely, um, it requires all Every aspect of athleticism, the fact that you have to be as strong and powerful as you know a sprinter and then you have to have like the cycling capability of you know obviously a top tier cyclist but then you also have to have the the skill of you know freestyle aerial skiers or something like of that nature because you’ve got to be so good at it.

So good and precise with no suspension on the bike. And then you have to be as tactically aware as like a race car driver of what’s going on. So it’s like, it’s demanding every sense. It’s all heightened. And as you said, like as the more you do things and the more things you see out there, it becomes like second nature, which is that feeling of, you know, slow motion, almost, you can see things happening and take advantage.

But I think it’s not necessarily like developing reaction time. I think it’s just quieting. Like, when the first time that you see something, Whoa! You know, it’s almost like a shock. Like, okay, how do I react to that? I think that the more experience you gain in doing things. You’ve seen it. So it’s second nature as to how to respond and you learn every single time.

Like you can reflect upon, Hey, how could I have done that different? Or how could I have made that a better, you know, whether you win or lose, like how could that have been done differently or how, what other ways could have that played out? So then, then it’s the mental side of everything, right? Like, okay, then you got to be able to visualize.

X, Y, Z happening, or maybe something you’ve never even thought of happening. So, um, yeah, I think, I think just experience in general. I don’t think it’s necessarily developing reaction time to those things, I think it’s just, um, I guess visualizing and, and probably actually physically experiencing how those things play out on the track.

And, you know, some people are more, more, to, you know, some people are really good in corners, you know, and they just naturally are able to find those holes. Like some people have to develop that skill more. So some people are really good at jumping or manualing on the bike, or some people are really good starters.

Like everyone has their strength. And I think catering to your strengths out there, um, obviously you need to improve your weaknesses, but I think catering to your own strengths, um, How

Alison: have things changed in the sport? More competitive, more countries, what are you seeing over your career?

Alise Willoughby: Honestly, the entire sport has changed because when I first started, what I’m doing didn’t exist.

So, so it’s really, um, it’s changed. It’s done the whole, the whole spectrum and I think even, you know, the social media side of things like the marketing, I mean that’s changed of how you are as an athlete as well even from like 08 when BMX was introduced to now and the impact that that part of it has on your career.

Um, but the sport itself, joining, BMX racing joining in 2008, I think it was kind of that gateway sport for action sports and drawing in that youth, that next generation of, of Kids to watch with the Olympics and keep, keep the, keep their eyes on it. Right. And maybe for us with a shorter attention spans, you know?

Um, so, uh, yeah, I think, I think it’s been really cool to see the development and growth and I think on the women’s side, it’s It’s even tenfold, um, like the depth and the talent has grown and the numbers that you see. It’s really cool for me to be able to, you know, because BMX has such a connection with the youth, even just out at the local track.

I see the young, I see the 5 year olds coming. I have the kids and their parents coming up to me. Hey, I saw you on TV or I saw you on YouTube or I saw whatever it is. And now I’m doing it because they now they have the visibility and the opportunity to see other, I guess, me out there doing that and some of the other women in the sport.

So I think it’s just been awesome to see the retention in the women’s side and the depth of the field change, um, over the years. And, you know, it used to be, if you could make the jump, you’re, you know, the first one, you’re probably going to make the final or whatever, you know, and now it’s. It’s just as heavily stacked.

Um, you get down to the semi finals and that, and you know, it’s anybody’s game and everyone enjoys watching the, the women’s side of it. For, for, you know, ability and you know, just the racing and tactical side of it. As, every bit as much as the men’s and that’s really cool to see. the prize money’s shifted, that’s equal.

The numbers in the games are equal. And, Yeah, so you’re just seeing, seeing that shift happen, which is pretty awesome. And I think that, ground level grassroots, everybody has their BMX story, right? Everyone had their BMX bike. And, um, it’s really cool to see that retention kind of changing and people now saying, Oh, we saw you at the Olympics versus, you know, just, um, not that it’s any less, but you know, whatever it was back in the day when they, you know, I saw my friend up the road doing it.

So it had that, but now it’s, you know, I saw you at the Olympics and that platform is really. Amplified our visibility.

Jill: Does that increase in the depth of deals? Like, that increases the challenges for you. Yeah. Does that keep it fun and keep you in the sport?

Alise Willoughby: Yeah, I definitely look at it these days as a fun challenge to, you know, how, uh, How long can I keep these young guns down, Danny? How long can I beat you for? And, you know, I’ve been sharing the story that, you know, right now, because I turned professional at 15. I mean, that’s not even an option now with how things are.

I turned pro when I was 15 and I won the professional title, the national professional title, at, that year, in 2006. And there are, Girls in the gate with me now that were born that year. And so that’s a real humbling thing and I’m like, all right Hey sit down. I still got this, you know, and I think being able to have You know fine longevity I take a lot of and draw a lot of confidence from that.

Um, I think it’s a testament to the continuous effort and showing up that I’ve done in my career as well. Um, and I, and I just think it’s fun to see the smile on their face. You know, not only, not only are they, you know, racing, racing me, but now, now, you know, we’re talking about impact. Now I’m the one that they’re watching on that and now they’re actually racing with me, so it’s cool to be on kind of both ends.

I can really see that impact.

Alison: So you’ve had the. You’re the reason I do this from other athletes.

Alise Willoughby: Yeah, yeah, I have, which is a really, uh, rewarding feeling. And a little disconcerting. Yeah, there’s, there’s that a little bit too, but you know, hey, I, I like to keep it fun. I’m not old. You know, you’re only as old as, you know, you let it be.

I’m just, you know, in our sport, it’s hard to, it’s hard to stay on top and continue competing with people once you, you know, it’s just hard. So I think, like I said, I just draw a lot of confidence out of that. And I have a good time with, with all the girls on the team that are just coming in. And, um, Yeah, as much as you want to help and show and lead, I think more of it at this point in my career is leading by example.

And, um, you know, I’m not going to give them all the secrets. So I’m going to keep doing my thing for a little bit. But, uh, yeah, but lead by example and just keep showing up.

Alison: We

Alise Willoughby: are all

Alison: turning out. Thank you.

Alise Willoughby: Thank you so much, Elisa. It was good to meet you. Yeah, you too.

Cam Wood Interview

Jill: Thanks so much for joining us. We really wanna talk about the track at Paris. Okay. And what that’s

Cam Wood: like. Alright, let’s do it.

Jill: Alright. So it looks like it’s concrete and dirt. Is that correct?

Cam Wood: Yes. So yeah, the surface, like on the straightaways where the track is straight is a dirt surface. And then, yeah, the tours are asphalted.

So we, I was able to go there for a testt event in early April and uh, yeah, we all got to, to ride the Olympic track. Uh, there’s gonna be some things that. Some subtle things that change leading up to the event. Yeah, for the most part, it’ll be pretty similar. And I think they might make changes to the surface.

A lot of the times they’ll blurry or soil tack the track, which means they kind of put a layer of glue over the top. So the surface becomes faster and harder.

Alison: Does the tackiness How does that make it faster, though? Because I’m thinking if it’s slurried It would slow it.

Cam Wood: Well, I think over time as it dries, it becomes, I mean, it feels like you’re essentially riding on asphalt or concrete.

Like it, it feels rock hard, uh, which obviously makes the crashing a little bit sense, a little bit tougher. Um, but yeah, no, the track speeds up and, uh, yeah, the turns typically everywhere we race, uh, are asphalted.

Jill: Does it help to have that slurry then in the straightaways? Because then the dirt doesn’t change as much.

Cam Wood: Yeah, I think, collectively, most pros like it. Obviously, when it’s slurried, it’s a more consistent surface. And yeah, it’s just more predictable. Obviously, you know, sometimes with crashes, you can get, you can try to take out chunks of the dirt, stuff like that. When slurried, it’s, you know what to expect all the time in all types of conditions.

Uh, especially rain, right? You just have the normal dirt. Um, rain can affect the track a lot. Uh, obviously at the Olympics it’s a covered facility, so you don’t really have to worry about that. But slurry holds up water really well. Uh, we’re to the point where you really don’t have to worry about the surface at all if it’s raining.

Um, on the straightaways at least, the turns kind of become the main area of concern.

Jill: Does heat affect the track at all? Because they keep talking about how hot it may be in Paris. So, even though the track is covered, does the heat affect how the track feels?

Cam Wood: I wouldn’t say a whole lot. I think in general, people probably ride, I’d say, at faster speeds when it is hotter out.

When you get in, like, cold conditions, and the muscles are cold, I’d say the pace kind of collectively slows down a little bit. But no, I don’t think heat, it doesn’t change much, and obviously, Being under, underneath the ruins and having the shade should be pretty normal conditions for everyone.

Alison: How does that roof affect your visibility and sort of seeing with the shadows?

Cam Wood: Yeah, it’s, it’s tricky. And so this one’s kind of unique too, like, there’s some of the turns, right? The end of the straightaways that are covered. So you’ll have like the sun in this kind of reflection coming through at the end of the track. And then the straightaways themselves are, they’re fine, they’re shaded.

Yeah. Yeah, there’s certain times of the day. It’s kind of a visual challenge. I know they’ve kind of scheduled our event to be later in the night. Honestly, I think like our races are from 8. 30 to 10. 30 p. m. And I don’t know if that sunset has something to do with it, but I do remember riding at sunset earlier in the year and it was pretty challenging.

Alison: How does riding so late in the day affect your race prep and how you’re working on that day?

Cam Wood: Yeah, I mean, we have a great opportunity. I’m actually heading to Paris in a couple days. We have a four week camp there, so we’re going to do everything we can to adjust to that per timing. Obviously, our track session will have scheduled at that time window, 8 to 10 p.

m., which is typically way later than we train at home. But yeah, we have a good opportunity to kind of tailor things towards the event. Um, and I’d say, yeah, obviously your sleep schedule is going to change a little bit during the midst of competition at 10 p. m. It’s not going to be very easy to go to sleep right when you get back, so, um, we’ll probably have to change the sleep schedule a little bit.

Um, but other than that, I’m kind of a night owl, so I’m not complaining.

Alison: When I was reading some of the reports from the test event, a lot of the riders said it was a technical track. And that it lent itself to tight and bunched racing. What does that actually mean in terms of what we’re going to see riders doing?

Cam Wood: Yeah, I think that’s spot on. Uh, there’s a very technical track. It’s, it’s demanding. Um, and I guess when I say that, I guess the best way to explain that is it’s not just all out speed and power. There’s an aspect of it where you have to be really skilled on your bite and very sound and sharp, clear, concise, your decision making and very precise.

Um, so. Yeah, it’s going to present new challenges to different people. Every straight that goes on, it kind of gets more and more complicated and it’s going to come down to all the way to the finish line, which I think as a spectator, that’s, that’s really fun to watch when you know what there’s going to be people shifting around and, and a lot of opportunities to pass people.

So. Yeah, I mean, it’s, I think it’s, it’s a good balance of everything. This is obviously, I, I was able to ride the testament in Tokyo for, uh, the last Olympic Games. And, uh, this one is very, very different to that. Uh, you have everything that’s a lot closer together, not as spread out. And, um, like I said, it’s gonna, it’s gonna affect everyone a little bit differently.

So, um, yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

Alison: So in Tokyo, there were no spectators. Here, the spectators are practically in your lap. So how does that affect your ability when you’re talking about racing very bunched and the spectators are very close? What does that do to your brain? And what does that do to how you’re riding?

Cam Wood: Personally, I love it. You know, I love spectacles. I like, you know, when there’s that kind of electricity and that atmosphere, I think it feels like a proper event. Um, I felt that several times going to South America, some of the international events there when there’s a lot of people. I, as an athlete, like, that’s, that’s what I live for.

I, I love when you can just walk into an arena and feel all the energy that’s, that comes with it. And I would expect, obviously, that, that facility in the Olympics as a whole to be something like I’ve never experienced. And, uh, I honestly, I couldn’t imagine racing without spectators. I said that I didn’t have to do that in Tokyo, but I think, you know, I’m just used to as soon as that gate falls and you’re in gear, kind of that outside noise.

And, um, just a full on adrenaline rush to the finish line.

Alison: Does the purple track matter to you? Because on video it looks so odd.

Cam Wood: Yeah, so, I actually haven’t seen it in person yet. The testament, they hadn’t painted anything. And I, I think, honestly, for the next four weeks that we’re going to be there, it’s not going to be painted yet.

So, we have this blocked through, uh, July. Come home, I think, on the 4th of July. Okay. And then there’s like a few weeks of downtime. And during that time, we’re going to make the final changes to the track, paid the turns, probably put up all the banners. So I think visually it will change quite a bit after that first trip, when we go back, not I’ve raced on pain terms before.

I would say it doesn’t, uh, doesn’t bother me a whole lot, but it definitely does change where the weight and current perceived turns, right? You don’t see the textures as well, depending on the color. And, uh, sometimes. Sometimes when they paint these turns, it also can make it a slicker surface. So, uh, I hope that doesn’t happen, but no matter what, we’ll show up prepared.

Jill: How much practice time do you get ahead of competition to get to know the track again once it’s finalized?

Cam Wood: I believe we will have, like, three full days, uh, before the Olympic events themselves. So, yeah, I think the last, uh, July 28th through 30th, I believe our official training. So that’s going to kind of be your, your last opportunity, make those final tweaks, adjustments.

And in a lot of ways, the work’s going to kind of be done that when it’s just about acclimating and getting comfortable with the environment. And, uh, yeah, then on August 1st and 2nd, we’re straight into the competition.

Alison: How hard is this track as compared to some of the other world cup tracks?

Cam Wood: Yeah. I mean, I honestly think it’s, it’s gotta be one of the most challenging tracks I’ve ever ridden.

There’s only one other track we’ve raced the World Cup on that I think can, can match it in terms of technicality. It’s just a different style of racing, especially we’re being from the United States, where kind of our tracks are known to be pretty straightforward, uh, kind of mellow. So, kind of contradictory to what this track is.

Uh, that’s what I grew up on, just a lot of pedaling. Uh, flat out, high top speed this one. In some ways, going slower is faster, right? You just have to be really precise and sound and sharp. So I think we won’t see anything more challenging than this. And if we do, it’s very, very rare.

Jill: The start hill is 8 meters tall, but in other, in some of the world courses you can have a shorter start hill.

What does the higher start hill do to the tone of the rest of the race?

Cam Wood: I guess all of our World Cups are typically on an 8 meter hill. I think the difference is, is not all of them are exactly the same. So they’re supposed to be, right, like there’s certain specs, guidelines that they’re supposed to follow.

Um, so they’re both supposed to be similar, but naturally everything is a little bit different. And when we do this all the time, we race all these different tracks, you can feel all of those little things and they become noticeable. So. Uh, this 1, I would say in my eyes, the start hill is pretty standard, um, across all 8 meter hills.

And yeah, I mean, we are going 40 miles an hour in less than 3 seconds at the bottom of the hill. So, uh, yeah, it’s, uh, there’s little intricacies. This 1 I’d say is We’re all pretty used to it, and there’s nothing, uh, out of the ordinary about the hill itself.

Alison: I’m still stuck on the roof, I gotta be honest.

Because, I was watching some video over the weekend about somebody pole vaulting inside a mall, and I was thinking about the visual of it being enclosed, where you’re so used to seeing, I mean, maybe the, the helmet changes that, so used to seeing the width of everything. And that, with the roof, not just the shadows, but your actual peripheral vision gets shot.

In a way. And does everybody seem closer on this track? Does it just change your perception? You

Cam Wood: know, I don’t know if it, I think there’s, there is a little visual differences, but we race so much and like, you realize like, you know, nothing’s ever really the same. Like we have typically 18 to 20 stops here and they’re all on different tracks.

So that’s just kind of like something we’ll just have to adapt to. And I think, uh, being in X Rations themselves, we do have a lot of, kind of, sensory feedback. But, in some ways, when the gate drops, like, we’re kind of just autopilot, uh, in the competitive mindset and just going for it. Yeah, I think there’ll be little visual things, but for the most part, they do a good job.

They, they light the track very well. At nighttime, we were able to ride and there’s no issues to be honest. I’m, I’m, I’m glad they are racing at night. Cause I think it’s the best lighting the entire day. Or I guess from my experience, that was the best time of the day. So yeah, I wouldn’t say it changes much.

Obviously you’re always close no matter what we’re elbow to elbow going 35, 40 miles an hour over jump. So yeah, it’s a courageous same thing we’ve been doing all the time.

Alison: What kind of changes are you making to a bike based on the track? Mostly.

Cam Wood: I guess for me, you know, my, my biggest thing is, you know, being comfortable, so I’m not going to change a whole lot, uh, leading up to the Olympics.

Um, I’d say if there was the, I guess one thing people do change is their gear ratios. Um, so if tracks are a little bit faster, you know, they would compensate and they would change basically how far they travel with 1 revolution of the pedal. Um, so a track like Paris. Where it’s kind of all closer together, you don’t necessarily need to do that.

Um, so a lot of people, you know, might go a little bit lower in their gear ratio, so they can get up to speed a little bit faster, because there’s not quite as much pedaling. But I think, uh, Yeah, there’s, there’s a little subtle changes, if there’s one thing BMX racers are very, very particular about, it’s their bikes.

So, at this time, when you’ve done all of the foundational work, you’ll want to change a whole lot, at least, you know, on my end, that’s kind of the way I view it.

Alison: Would you ever change anything between heats? With a

Cam Wood: I guess in a very, um, I’m trying to think of a situation where I would. Honestly, I don’t, I don’t think so.

Uh, kind of run, run what you’ve run, make it happen, and, uh, if something breaks Uh, I’m switch bikes, probably not trying, you know, we all travel with a spare bike on hand, um, in case our mechanic can’t fix something in a timely manner, we have a backup one, uh, ready to go, but even then, like, you feel the difference just bike to bike, even if they’re built up identical, uh, that’s how much time we spend and how in tune we are with, with what, what we do, so, yeah, I’ll make the decision on, on what I’m running and then that’s it for the race day, I don’t think much further than that.

Jill: With a track that’s on the longer side, and it’s technical being that you don’t have to pedal much, what kind of endurance do you need for this track, and is it hard also to lay off the pedaling in order to go the speed you want to go?

Cam Wood: Yeah, I mean, it’s still, uh, a lot of the times, these technical tracks, they can be just as demanding physically as, you know, when you’re doing a lot of pedaling, at the same time, you know, we do, you know, When you’re jumping and mandoling, like it’s a lot of squats and with a bike and using your upper body a lot to control the bike, you know, there’s 2 straights of, uh, what we call a rhythm section in BMX, where all the jumps are really close together.

And it demands a lot from your upper body as well. So, um, the track may be shorter. I think our lap times are right around 33 seconds long. you know, you’re just as gas when we cross the finish line here. Like everyone’s pretty, pretty tired. No, I remember running 656 laps in a day. It was not easy at all.

Um, so luckily it’s broken up into a few more days. I believe it all goes well. It would be three laps on the first day and four laps on the second day. Um, so I think, you know, in terms of endurance, it won’t be here this year, but you’re definitely I’d say it’s, it’s probably, you know, what we’re used to when you’re giving all out effort for 35, 30, 30, 35 seconds, like you’re gonna be exhausted by the finish line.

Alison: Thank you so much, Cam.


Thank you, Hannah, Alise, and Cam. I’m excited. I hope to get out to BMX racing. It’s a little hike. I will say that.

But BMX freestyle is in.

Jill: The freestyle is in the

Alison: Concord urban park, right?


Jill: Yes. But it’s, it’s the racing that I do love.

Alison: I know you do love a good sort of, you love ski cross and this is just ski cross on a bicycle. So you are consistent, but yeah, I’m definitely going to hit some BMX freestyle. And as we’ve mentioned many times on the show, I do not know how to ride a bicycle.

So this is so impressive to me

someday. Maybe someday I’ll learn. Oh, maybe Hannah will come back and show me, but she’ll be like, spin your, your handlebars around a few times. No, Hannah, I’m old.

We’re having a giveaway!

Jill: You know what’s not old is our giveaway that we’re doing.

Alison: We are doing a giveaway. So to get you ready for Paris, we have a giveaway of a lot of fun swag from Olympics and Paralympics and Team USA.

There is a link in the show notes to enter that, and we’ll be giving that away right before we leave. And, uh, You’ll get a fun package in the mail.

Jill: Right. And then you will be signed up for our newsletter. So you make sure you are up to date with everything that’s going on in Paris during the games.

Paris 2024 News


Jill: That’s very good.

Alison: Thank you.

Jill: We have another update on the bars and cafes situation in Paris. AFP is reporting that on opening and closing ceremonies days, bars and cafes in Paris will be allowed to be open around the clock. So if you don’t have a place to watch the game, well, I don’t know if they’re like sports bars in TVs, but there will at least be atmosphere and people to hang out and watch the, uh, be.

With during the ceremonies,

Alison: so I have a feeling a lot of these places will pull out A TV, like even if it’s not normally part of their, atmosphere, they’ll pull like a TV out from behind the bar and just set it up.

Jill: I’m wondering if there’s going to be any shops or anything that will just put an old television in the window.

You know, like back in the day when you’d go buy stores and like there would be a TV and everybody would be gathered around it because it’s the only TV in town.

Alison: I hope so. I hope that’s the feeling in the atmosphere in the city, not. Anyone who actually lives in Paris has either escaped or hates us for being there.

Jill: So those days will be July 26th, August 11th, and then August 28th and September 8th. We have some more kit.

Alison: This is a special kit. This isn’t even just team kit. This is and I found out, you know, over the years I have called them the medal girls. which is so dismissive of what they do. And as you have pointed out to many times, there are medal boys.

They are medal bearers. That’s their official title. And I feel so much better knowing what their job name is now.

Jill: WWD is reporting that Louis Vuitton has designed the medal trays and podium volunteer outfits, and it has released those two elements out into the world.

The medal bearers will be wearing 1920s inspired unisex outfits. They are focused on having an elegant, sober, and comfortable look. It is a neutral colored polo shirt, loose pants, and a traditional gavroche outfit. Cap, and that cap is a nod to the last time Paris hosted the Olympics in 1924. The design team is led by Kaori Moritz Ishikawa, and the outfits,

Really went to town with that sustainability stuff. So the outfits are made with 100 percent eco designed materials sourced from the LVMH Circularity Closed Loop Textiles Recycling Ecosystem. Polo shirts and caps are in a Jersey fabric made using off cuts from different LVMH brands that have been upcycled by French startup WeTurn.

And the polo shirts are made in the Vosges region of France by the family run Duval company. The caps are manufactured in Italy. The pants. Are made from a poly wool blend fabric using recycled polyester. They’ve been made by La Fabrique Nomade, a nonprofit that supports the professional integration of refugee artisans in France.

And if you were one of the lucky 515 volunteers who will be the medal bearers, you get to keep your outfit and you got a set of Fenty beauty products. So you’d look beautiful when you’re presenting those medals. I know that’s a pretty sweet gig to get. So then we’ve got the medal trays, which. look like a Louis Vuitton trunk.

Basically they were made at one of the leather goods workshops that the company owns. The exterior is covered by the company’s, very classic checkerboard patterned canvas. The interior is lined with matte black leather. They are crafted to be as light as possible and can hold between two and six medals.

Uh, a reporter noted that the brand’s You know, on the Olympic stage and the Paralympic stage, you don’t see branding and he goes like, you know, that’s the, the Louis Vuitton checkered and they go, well, you know, if you are well versed in our brand, you know, that, that what it is, but if, if you’re not, you don’t know, and it doesn’t quite work.

Flat out say Louis Vuitton, but it’s a clever or subliminal way to be present. So they said,

Alison: because on so many Louis Vuitton bags, you have that LV in the light color and then the dark brown. So they’ve taken those two colors and made it a checkerboard instead of the print with the, with the usual LV.

Okay. It’s. I love everything about this because remember, uh, Louis Vuitton made those medal, trunks to transport the medals to different venues. And this is just an extension of that. And yes, if you know Louis Vuitton, it is obviously Louis Vuitton, but I agree with them that it doesn’t scream it. If you don’t know, you wouldn’t automatically say to yourself, Oh, that’s a branding, You know, those colors are a particular brand if you’ve never seen Louis Vuitton and it doesn’t have their logo so good on them for making it work for them and that they’ve paid probably a lot of money to be able to do this

Jill: right and it’s not really ostentatious either and you’re just not going to notice these trays and you will see the checkerboard maybe.

But if you don’t know what that is, you don’t know what that is, and it’s just going to look like a very nicely designed tray.

Alison: And I love everything about the outfits except the color of the pants.

Jill: Okay, so the polo shirt is kind of an off white ecru. The pants are khaki colored with a ecru colored tuxedo stripe on the sides.

Alison: Oh, I thought that tuxedo stripe was more pink. The pink the photograph.

Jill: Oh that the photograph we have is kind of is very fuzzy, but I thought it was all I didn’t think it was pink But it makes me like

Alison: it even less because they they’re using such brilliant colors everywhere else in the design elements and These poor kids get ecru and dark beige and right they

Jill: do fade into the background

Alison: Which I guess is kind of the point they were making they said they wanted them to be sober and not noticed in a way because it’s the, the athlete’s moment.

But I love the Nantes to 1924. I love the caps. I love that these seem weather appropriate. I love that they’re not overly sexy because we’ve seen a lot of medal bearers with some very sexy outfits. Just so inappropriate. I love that they’re unisex and look good on both, uh, men and women. Why didn’t they use this style for the French Olympic teams opening ceremony instead of that psycho cutoff tuxedo thing.

Jill: Well, I would agree with you on this. These look cool and classy. The very neutral color to me is very different, but maybe it will be a nice balance with all of the color that we’re going to see on the stage. And wherever they are, there’s so much color around, maybe this neutralness balances it out because it won’t clash necessarily with everything else that’s going on.

Alison: This I would absolutely buy.

Jill: Oh my gosh. Right. I

Alison: would so get this outfit because on me, neutral colors are a good thing. I would wear the cap. I would wear the loose, the whole thing. It’s like, Marlena Dietrich, like it has that feel to it. And I, it’s fantastic. Nice, nice job,

Jill: classy, very, just so stylish and it’s going to look great.

We have a lot of Canadian related news. So on July 9th, if you are in Canada, 50 plus landmarks and buildings across the country will be illuminated in red, violet, and or gold to celebrate the Paralympics. We’ll have a. Link to the list of the buildings on our show notes, the red connotes national pride, violet is a color commonly associated with disability and inclusivity, and gold denotes strength and our ambitions.

So be on the lookout for that Canadian Paralympic committee will also be hosting four events for athletes, family, friends, and supporters at the Canadian Paralympic house, which will be at the Canadian cultural center at the Canadian embassy in Paris. These events will be on. August 31st and September 3, 6, and 7th by invitation or registered guests only.

We will have a link to this in the show notes. Maybe you can wrangle your way in. The Cultural Center does also have a games related exhibit on now through September 8th. It’s called Composition for an Ensemble or the Spirit of the Games by Clive Holden that you can go check out. Putting it on my list for sure.

And all of that will be at the The Canadian embassy. This is tough news. If I was in Canada right now, I would be, you know, we’ve been here. CBC host Scott Russell will be retiring after Paris 2024 after nearly 40 years with the CBC. He has covered 16 Olympics, including six as host. Canada, we feel for you.

You are losing a beloved host. I will say that. I wonder who the next one’s gonna be. You know, it’s just like Bob, it’s like when Bob Costas left.

Alison: Jim McHale for me. Going a little back. But yeah, that’s, it’s the voice of the Olympics. It’s that steady, constant presence when you see Scott Russell on the TV, you just automatically get excited as, as a Canadian, you know, a Team Canada fan.

So that change is always hard, but here in the U. S., we ended up with Mike Tirico when we had that changeover for Bob Costas, which has been fantastic. So I hope for the CBC fans, they do as well as we did.

Jill: Uh, another NBC correspondent announced SNL’s Colin Jost will be in Tahiti to cover surfing. Why?

He apparently surfs as a hobby, so he knows the sport a little bit.. So he’s going to be on to interview the athletes and preview the waves and the rest of the commentary, which will be announcer Joe Turple doing play by play and analyst Michael Parsons. They will be in Stanford, Connecticut for the rest of the broadcasting element of that. I hope for, for the best.

Listeners, I hope you get better coverage. I was watching a little bit of surfing the other day because I wanted to see the wave in Tahiti. So I was watching some Tahitian surfing and the team was good at talking because by golly, there is a lot of sitting around and waiting for a wave to come your way.

And if you don’t have the right team that can constantly banter while we sit there and wait for potentially minutes. It’s going to be very boring. So I’m still on the fence with watching surfing. And of course, we aren’t going to really pay attention to it because it’s going to be so far away.

Alison: Right.

Jill: And Samsung has released a number of Paris 2024 phone accessories, including cases, waterproof pouches, and lanyards. We’ll have links to what those look like in the show notes, but it looks like you can buy them at Samsung stores in France. I have a Samsung phone, so I am very excited about this. I do not.

Disappointing. But you know, maybe your phone would fit into a nice little

Alison: waterproof pouch. And I would probably need that. Knowing, knowing my, uh, track record.



Alison: Welcome to Shookfluston.

Jill: Now is the time of the show where we check in with our team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests and listeners of the show who make up our citizenship of our very own country, Shookfluston. First up, Perry Baker, officially named to the U. S. Men’s Rugby Team. Go Speed Stick!

Alison: USA Fencing won 19 medals at the Pan American Senior Fencing Championships, including golds for Margarita Gozzi Vincente, Elizabeth Tartakovsky, Eli Dershowitz, and the men’s and women’s saber teams.

Jill: former IPC marketer, Alexis Schaefer has started a company called AXS. AXS. across sport, which partners with companies who work in the world of sports business.

Alison: Warren Perrin has been named the 2024 class of the Lafayette Bar Association Hall of Fame, and he will be inducted at the end of September. Congratulations, Warren.

Jill: And Shukla Stan, if you are going to Paris and have not told us your plans, please do so. Email that to us. So, cause we’re trying to keep an eye out for who is where, and hopefully that we can meet you in person.

And that’s going to do it for this episode. Let us know what you think of BMX cycling.

Alison: You can find us on X, YouTube and Instagram at flamealivepod. Send us an email at flamealivepod 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 alive, pod. com. The Facebook group has been hopping. It’s exciting. We’ve already got opinions. It’s fantastic.

Jill: On Monday, we will talk with Para Taekwondo’s Evan Medel.

Please do not forget to tell a friend about the show and enter our giveaway. And if you’re getting merch to wear in Paris, don’t forget you’re coming up soon on, some time deadlines. So make sure you order it now. So you get it before you leave. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, keep the flame alive.