We’re in the thick of Olympic and Paralympic Trials for Team USA. Swimming has wrapped up, and track and field (athletics to the rest of the world) is partway finished. This weekend we’ll have para swimming and gymnastics, as well as the last half of track and field. Just a few more weeks, and all of Team USA will join the world’s best athletes in heading to Paris for the 2024 Olympics!

On this episode, we’re featuring some of the gymnasts who will be vying for slots on the US’ gymnastics team. Yul Moldauer and Brody Malone talked with us at Team USA’s Media Summit in April, and they’ll be competing to get onto their second Olympic team.

Learn more on how to watch the gymnastics trials here. Follow Yul on Insta and X, and Brody on Insta and X.

Also joining us is rhythmic gymnast Evita Griskenas. Evita has already qualified for Paris 2024, which will be her second Olympics. She brought her clubs to the Media Summit, which was a topic of conversation (they’re much lighter than we thought they’d be!). Follow Evita on Insta and X.

Then we have Alison’s interviews with the women who will compete for the US in épée fencing: Kat Holmes, Anne Cebula, Margherita Guzzi Vincenti and Hadley Husisian. They talk about why épée was the weapon for them, how they manage a sport that’s asymmetrical, and what language they think in when they compete. Follow Kat, Anne, Margherita and Hadley on Insta. Thanks to USA Fencing for having Alison to their Media Day!

Need swag to celebrate the upcoming Games? We’re having a giveaway — sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll be entered to win a great prize pack, including:

  • Team USA donor windbreaker
  • Team USA “One for All” water bottle
  • Team USA “One for All” friendship bracelet
  • Official 2022 Beijing Paralympics water bottle
  • Official Beijing 2022 “Together for a Share Future” reusable shopping bag
  • Beijing 2022 “Together for a Share Future” postcard set
  • Keep the Flame Alive 2024 media pin

Sign up here while there’s still time!

More countries are opening hospitality houses and pavilions during the Paris 2024 Games: Casa Mexico, Mongolia House, and Pavilion Chinese Taipei are joining the group of houses at Parc de la Villette. Find your way around the park with this map.

Also, Paris 2024 has its own map with venues, events and the torch relay route. Find that here!

France Television is also ramping up its coverage of the Paralympics. Look for 24/7 action on demand at france.tv, as well as daily coverage on France 2 and France 3.

SKIMS is continuing its collaboration with Team USA. Find the collection here.

LA 2028 has announced that para climbing will officially be on the Paralympic program, the first sport to be added by a host city.

In our news from TKFLASTAN, we hear from:

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.

350-Olympic Gymnastics and Epee Fencing

Jill:, 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, one month to go. How are you?

Alison: yes, we are one month out. I mean, we’ve been talking about this for six months. It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming. It is so exciting and I’m ready to leave tomorrow and probably won’t be ready to leave for another year.

Jill: that’s exactly the perfect way to say that.

I I cannot agree with you more.

every once in a while I get a moment to just relax and go, Oh, this is happening. And I’m very excited. But yeah, it’s like my eyes are bigger than my stomach of what I want to do versus what we can reasonably do for a two person ish operation.

Alison: Absolutely. And even as a fan, I know my social media is packed.

You know, the feeds just overwhelming the amount of trials that are, you cannot watch everything. You cannot absorb everything. And. You have to accept that just as a spectator, nevermind as part of what we’re doing on the show, but just say, you know what? I’m going to enjoy what I see. I can always catch up later if I need to, and that’s okay.

Jill: Right. And it makes me have a lot more respect for larger news organizations who can send. Multiple people to an event to cover it and have, I don’t know how many hundreds of people that NBC has working for them right now, putting stuff together. But just when you have so many more resources, you can do so much and you have to learn that.

You know, when you don’t have as many resources, you learn your limits and you have to stick within your lane in order to produce something that’s good and fun. And hopefully that’s what we’ll be able to do for you. And doing something a little different.

Alison: We do not have a staff of drivers or guides or translators who are going to be getting us around Paris.

This can be great for the show. This could be awful if I don’t make it out of the metro alive.

Jill: Uh, we also do not have staff to tell us how the bathrooms work, you know.

Alison: Um,

Jill: that’s I think one of the things I’m most worried about is that it sounds like , I’ve been to Europe, I’ve used toilets, I’ve used toilets in many countries.

I’m worried about this for us.

Alison: I am going to be going to some of the farther afield venues. So I’m hoping. Um, since the French saved me from Beijing, the mountains above Beijing, that just by nature that the French will make sure I get to where I need to go.

Jill: We’ll find out in a month. We’ll see. We’ll see. I hope, listeners, I hope you’re on the edge of your seats for that. The edge of your toilet seats?

Hopefully not. And if you’re not, let us know. We’ll try to, we’ll try to cut back on, on the toilet talk. All right. , stuff that’s not in the toilet is, gymnastics and fencing today.

Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics Interviews

Jill: We have many more interviews from the Team USA Media Summit and the Fencing Media Day that you went to.

, first off, we’re talking artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. Who do we have today?

Alison: First up is Yul Moldauer. He is trying for his second Olympics. He has won five gold medals at the U. S. Championships, including this year on parallel bars, and he has been competing internationally on the senior level since 2017. I didn’t realize when we talked to him how long he’s been around. Brody Malone is a three time and reigning U. S. all around champion. He was the 2022 world champion on high bar, but in a competition last year in Germany, he fell and caused just incredible damage to his leg.

And in our chat with him, we talked a little bit about that and a little bit about his comeback.

And last up is Evita Griskenes. She finished 12th in the rhythmic gymnastics all around competition in Tokyo. And she is the first American to win an all around medal and an FIG world cup event in rhythmic gymnastics.

And to Jill’s utter delight, she brought her clubs with her. And let me play with them.

Jill: Take a listen.

Yul Moldauer Interview

Jill: Yul Mulder, thank you for joining us.

Yul Moldauer: Thank you for having me.

Jill: Yeah, so yesterday we were talking about altitude.

Alison: Yeah, so I was thinking, after I talked to you and you said, yeah, training at altitude is great for endurance. But does it mess you up on tricks?

Like, is there a difference when you’re doing flips on the high bar? And then you go sea level.

Yul Moldauer: You know, I’ve never thought about that. And it’s just the way my mindset is. When I get to a meet, I don’t care if we’re at high elevation or sea level or their equipment is gymnova to speed to A. I. to any of that.

I know as a gymnast that you have to go in there and just trust it and be ready for anything. And so thinking about the altitude and feeling the thicker air or thinner air it’s, it’s something I don’t even feel. Um, my mind is just do my job for the team and, and maybe some people might feel it. You know, maybe some people think running down the vault might feel thicker.

In the air, which now that I think about it, it has, but I don’t, I don’t let those external factors, um, interfere with what I have to do internally.

Alison: Yeah. Just ’cause your timing is so precise, I mean Mm-Hmm. literal split seconds. Yeah. That the smallest differences.

Yul Moldauer: Yeah, yeah, they really can’t, um. I mean, that’s why it’s important to really do what you need to do in your warm ups.

You know, everyone’s different. Some people might be doing routines the first day they get there. Some people might just be filling out the events. But it’s It’s like you said, we’re all different, we all have different timing, so it’s really up to your own training plan to really, you know, feel out the board, the bounce of the floor, the bounce of the high bar, the stiffness of the rings, and thankfully, you know, you can adjust a lot of that, you know, the tension on the high bar, tension on the rings, chalk up the p bars a little more, so it’s really up to you to make sure when you get to the arena, you make yourself feel as comfortable as possible and get all the key points.

Jill: one of the things we want to talk about, dismount of the pommel, because if I’m sitting watching at home and it looks like, oh I just have to do a handstand, but what does the momentum of the movement ahead of time, how does that affect you?

Yul Moldauer: So if you want to know what a pommel horse dismount feels like, Get two chairs, put them together, and he’ll hold yourself there for a minute, and then try and swing up to a handstand and see how hard that is.

That’s what it So it’s all about keeping the momentum going, and using your strength, because that is what defines a palm routine. Did he have a good dismount? And if it looks slow and he’s shaking, it’s not a kick up the handstand, it’s You’re on two chairs, try it out at home, for a minute, and try and swing up the handstand and see if you get cramps in your triceps.

Because

Alison: dismounts from other, uh, apparatuses seem much more difficult. They’re much flashier. And the pommel is just, Oh, up and you’re not going to fall. But.

Yul Moldauer: Yeah, so it’s it’s a momentum and strength but also on any event with the dismount it’s you have to be You know, your endurance has to be there your grip strength has to be there Whatever it is You have to make sure that you’re prepared for that dismount because everyone can do a dismount by itself easily It’s when you put the routine before how well can you do the dismount?

And I think that’s why sticking a routine is so important because it puts the cherry on top

Alison: It’s the last thing the judges say Exactly. Perfect.

Evita Griskenas Interview

Evita Griskenes: My name is Evita Grishkanis, and I’m a rhythmic gymnast. Okay, thank you.

Jill: You had the clubs. How heavy are those clubs?

Evita Griskenes: They’re not very heavy. Actually, you can feel them if you’d like. So, um, they’re, I wish I could tell you how many grams they are. I don’t really remember. but yeah, the top is rubber and the rest of it is plastic. And so they can stick into each other, actually. Um, wrong way.

Alison: No, end to

Evita Griskenes: end.

No, no, no. You were right. She was right. Because I’ve seen that. Yes, yes.

Alison: Do you balance this on your forehead?

Evita Griskenes: No, not really. It’s possible, but I have not tried that. Do you practice with weighted clubs? No, we don’t practice with weighted clubs, but we do sometimes practice with a double ribbon, um, to make the patterns a lot more sharper and clearer, so you kind of weigh the ribbon down by making it a double ribbon, um, and heavier, and then you work through the patterns to really, like, tire out your, like, forearm muscles, and then you get back to the other ribbon and it feels super light, but that’s the only time we would really add weight.

Alison: I do have a question about what is going on with Russia. In the sense of the Russian women have not been competing for several years. Have you seen a difference in how judges are judging? How people are putting programs together without that influence?

Evita Griskenes: I don’t necessarily pay attention to those things.

I’m very focused on myself and um, knowing that like, what matters is what I execute and how. Um, obviously there’s a certain um, I think that’s kind of the style that Russian athletes have on the floor, which may be rhythmic in general has shifted in a different direction. But then again, it all matters on the Code of Points, not necessarily what one country is doing or the other.

A

Alison: lot of differences this time in Code of Points. There were a lot of shifts. This quad I like this one a

Evita Griskenes: lot better That was going

Alison: to be my question. What have you been able to do? Does it allow you more freedom or do you like doing better?

Evita Griskenes: It fuels a lot more creativity and I think it’s safer because this time you’re limited in the amount of acrobatics that you can do on masteries which are sort of the little tricks.

Um, and also I think you can create more interesting connections and have more of that expressivity and art being integrated into, yeah, the routine.

Alison: What’s your favorite apparatus?

Evita Griskenes: I don’t have a favorite apparatus. Oh, you’re lying, Isida. No, I’m not. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair to pit them against each other.

Because I can bounce, roll, throw, like catch all of them. Um, yes I can bounce a ribbon. Um, but what’s really important is the composition and I feel like it’s almost unfair for me to pit my like jovial clubs routine to my like very serious hoop routine. Because they’re just so different and the storyline that I’m trying to tell with my body is very different for each of these apparatuses.

Granted, there’s some days when it’s cold in the gym and you really don’t feel like doing clubs. But, other than that, you know, sometimes you feel like an apparatus, and other times you don’t. You feel like doing the slower routine or not, but yeah, otherwise I feel like it’s unfair to pick a favorite.

Alison: Do you like to do different interpretations with each apparatus?

Like, is the jovial one, or Yeah, so it depends on the Moods. Mood of what

Evita Griskenes: you feel in that season.

Alison: I

Evita Griskenes: think it’s more of the mood of the season. season. Obviously there’s some musics that, and this is what rhythmic people are attuned to, you’ll hear a music and you’re like, that would make a good club’s routine.

also seeing how the stage presence, how it would, you know, interplay with all of that is important. I think this time around, like last year had very serious, like intense, dramatic club’s music and this time I found like literally a Broadway musical that was just so exciting and like thrilling and gospel y and I loved it and I was like, I have to do it.

I put it. It felt like clubs, and I was like, alright, we’re doing clubs to this, you know, so. And sometimes you’ll take a music, so you’ll have like one music that you’ll use for ribbon one year, and then the next year you’re like, let me try it with balls, so I’ve done that before, like way, way in the past, but this time it’s all fresh.

Thank you so much. for your time.

Alison: They’re waving at us.

Evita Griskenes: Thank you.

Brody Malone Interview

Alison: Okay, Brody, you’re ours now.

Brody Malone: Alright.

Alison: That’s okay.

Brody Malone: Oh, God, we

Alison: feel you.

Brody Malone: How much? One minute.

Alison: We have one minute. Well, I have one question. Maybe. All right. I have like 475, but we’ll pick one. I’m just going to have you say your name into the, so we can keep our tapes organized. Brody Malone. Okay. I’m first going to tell you that our fans love you.

We have a lot of gymnastic people, but you’ve had your injuries. I understand the physical recovery, but when it comes to mental, how do you know your legs going to hold up when you’re flying off the high bar? How do you get over that, that fear for lack of a better word?

Brody Malone: Honestly, I just kind of push, push it to the back of my mind.

But how? I don’t know.

Alison: You just do. Yeah. You just

Brody Malone: push, push it to the back of your mind. Um, I mean, I, I trust myself when I’m doing gymnastics. So, I mean, yeah, I had a bad injury. I had one slip up and it happened at a bad time, but, um, I mean, I’ve had plenty of other dismounts that have gone perfectly fine before that.

So why not? Why focus on the one that I messed up and hurt myself? I’ll trust myself that I’m able to do it based off of it. Thousands of others that I’ve done, you know.

Alison: What are you most excited in the new code of points that you get to do differently this year? The new, like Well, new code for this quad.

Oh. That you get to, that

Brody Malone: changed for, for you. Let’s see, well I’m doing a new skill on high bar that I haven’t done previously. I’m doing a, it’s called a Lucan. it’s like the layout to catch it with a full twist and I’m doing that from a talk half. , Which, you get connection bonus now, for that, and I don’t believe you got connection bonus last quad, for connecting out of, uh, TOCs, so, that’s what I’m looking forward to.

Have you done the Lucan in front of Lucan? I have not.

Alison: I

Brody Malone: should.

Alison: That’d be cool. Will he be, he’s gotta be at, at trials. Oh yeah,

Brody Malone: I’m sure he will be, yeah. That’s great. Perfect, thank you so much. so much. Good to meet you.

Jill: Thank you so much, gymnasts. Um, Evita has already secured her spot for Paris, so we will be seeing her there. Yule and Brody will be competing at the U. S. Gymnastics Trials starting today, June 27th through June 30th in Minneapolis. Streaming is available on Peacock, Antique, and YouTube. TV COV streaming is available on Peacock and TV coverage will air on USAE and NBC.

Team USA Epee Fencers

Jill: Right next

Alison: we got the ladies ofe. So once again, thank you to USA fencing for letting me come and talk to these amazing women. These were my first interviews of the day, so we’ll all sound a little chipper here. Uh, first up is Kat Holmes. She is a graduate of Princeton University where she was a four time NCAA All American.

Kat competed in Rio and Tokyo and will compete in the team competition. She is currently studying at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Sabah was the 2019 NCAA individual champion. She represented Columbia University and she will compete in both a team and in individual events. In Paris, margarita TI is competing in her first Olympics at age 34.

She came to the United States from Italy for college and decided to make the US her home. Margarita will be competing in both the team and individual events. And last up is Hadley. Lusician. She is the youngest member of the EPPE team and only moved up to the senior level last year. She competes for Princeton and will also fence in both the team and individual events in Paris.

Jill: And she talks about iCarly in her interview.

Alison: Right. I asked her about the iCarly story in the media kit. They included that Hadley Had her first exposure to fencing from the show iCarly

Jill: amazing. How TV can do that to you? All right. Take a listen to our epic fencers

Kat Holmes Interview

Alison: Why? Epic.

Kat Holmes: Why epic? Well, I mean, , the boring answer to that is that it was the only weapon that my club had. , so when I started, like that was kind of what was there. but it turns out that it really did fit my personality. I feel like at base tend to be a little bit more geeky.

Let me be a little bit more nerdy. Um, so kind of like fit right in there. And I also don’t think that I would have. Adapted well to right of way rules. I think I would have gotten very frustrated by those.

Alison: I’m so glad you said that because my partner who is not here with us today, is always talking about right of way.

Does not have right of way. Do not

Kat Holmes: know you’re not, which is, which is really excellent because I don’t understand them at all. Like, I mean, I, I’ve like messed around with foil and saber a little bit, but even like all the years I’ve been in the sport, like when I’m watching foil and saber, I still can’t make the calls most of the time.

I’m like, I have no idea.

Alison: Okay. All the years you’ve been in the sport, this is third trip. Yes. How has your physical training changed?

Kat Holmes: Yeah, I mean, like I’d say that when I was younger, I just kind of trained a lot more blindly. Like, I just like I went to practice and that was what you kind of did. but like, as I’ve grown, I’ve taken a much more thoughtful approach.

Um, especially as like the, during the past quad, I’ve been, or try, three years. I’ve been in medical school. So time has been, um, Like I have not nearly had as much time. so really looking at, like, what can I do to optimize my training with the little bit of time I had? So, you know, kind of looking at the whole year and my tournament layout and taking a much more periodized approached.

and then, you know, really thinking very thoughtfully about each training session, each lifting session, each conditioning session. and then also, quite frankly, like, you know, As trite as it sounds, like listening to my body more, like I just hurt more, frankly. and so like recovery has played a much bigger role, this quad than it has before as well.

Alison: What is the fencing to medical school pipeline?

Kat Holmes: Oh, um, a lot of tears, um, a lot of tears. No, so I mean, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, , ever since I was a kid. and fencing, I think, is actually a sport that, like, facilitates that in a lot of ways. I mean, like, the NCAA programs have a very strong presence in fencing.

Um, so, you know, I was pre-med in college, majored in psych and neuroscience. And then, you know, med med school, that was, it was challenge. It was really challenging. Um, because, you know, when you go to med school, like your top priority is, is becoming a doctor. and so fitting in training is challenging even more so as fitting in competitions.

but I think, like, you know, we start going to World Cups. when we’re young teens, and so we learn how to manage school, we learn how to manage training, we learn how to manage competitions altogether. It’s taken to a new extreme in medical school. Like we did as much in two weeks as we’ve been doing a semester in college.

so like I would literally be at world cups, like studying in between bouts. Like it was, it was rough, but, but alas, like, you know, I’m on, I want to, um, you know, go into sports medicine. I’m on track for that. And I, I made the. The Olympic team,

Alison: Does that change your approach to training with your medical training?

Kat Holmes: I mean, for sure. So like I know a lot more now. Like, I mean, I, I, understand like metabolism. I, I understand biomechanics. I, I mean, I, I say I understand these things in a looser sense. Like I’m by no means an expert. and then my, my research that I do is all based on fencing sports meds. So also understanding, um, the sport itself, like what, what the most common injuries are, the most common mechanisms that lead to injury.

, knowing how to take better care of myself and what to train. we know that a, fencing is an asymmetric sport, but you know, we don’t know to what extent. Like, okay, so, you know, we’re establishing that, but how do we compensate for that? And will that, how will, how and will that benefit the sport?

The sport. So, so certainly, you know, everything from understanding, you know, those mechanisms to then also, you know, understanding different forms of metabolism of what I need to put in my body when all of that have really played a role in kind of helping me become the athlete that is sitting right here.

Alison: How do you train for the asymmetry and so that you’re not literally crooked?

Kat Holmes: No, no, I mean, it’s very complicated and I honestly wish I had a better answer for you. I mean, the answer is like cross training, cross training, cross training. But to what extent, I don’t have a great answer, you know, I, I do strength and conditioning six days a week and like I’m still, like you just look at my right side, I’m right handed and it’s much physically larger than my left.

And you know, when we get, you know, test done, um, you know, looking at those strength asymmetries by what’s called like a dynamometer, where they actually measure those strength asymmetries or with force plates, um, like despite the fact that I do such heavy cross training, um, you know, my right side is still dominant, by every metric.

And so then I guess you’re just kind of looking at, okay, so what’s the best way to prevent injury because we’re never going to really like attain pure symmetry. and so that really comes to looking at joint stabilization, looking at the hips to make sure those are in

Line and then the spine. and so it comes down to just like a lot of core, , making sure that that’s really stable and can support the frame and then just making sure that the body can sustain load on each side so that even when you are fencing in that asymmetric position, your joints and your muscles can load appropriately to compensate for that asymmetry.

Alison: What are the injuries that fencers need to worry about?

Kat Holmes: Yeah, I mean, so this was a I love asking this question of people. So, like, before I started my research, there was really no great answer. There have been studies looking at, acute injuries in competitions or number of injuries across Olympic Games, but nobody really had a good answer.

So what is the most common injuries fencers have? And so I can answer now that in the U. S. The most common injury is actually elbow tendonitis. Like, By far and away, if we’re looking at, no matter the level of fencer, no matter, like, foil, epee, sabre, men, women, elbow tendonitis, number one, followed by ankle sprains, and then, tendonitis of the knee, ligament tears, ruptures of the knee, and then meniscal tears, within the knee.

So those are really the, the most common ones that fencers do. So really in there you have a mixture of chronic with that tendonitis and then acute, of those strains and sprains.

Alison: Right, I hear sprained ankle and I’m like, the quick footwork. Exactly, yeah, yeah. You just put that foot wrong. Yeah. Has it changed the way you, are you thinking of these things?

Like, are you able to separate Dr. Kat from Olympian Kat? Yeah, I mean. On the piss day.

Kat Holmes: For sure. For sure. So, I mean, I, like, again, like, I’ve had experience with that since I was. and so, when I’m on the strip, like, I very much am, like, the fencer that’s out there. and when I’m in the box with my teammates, that, that is my role.

but also thinking a lot, like, you know, I want my career. Later on to to be I want to do fencing sports, but that’s really what I want to do and help USA fencing and kind of help the U. S. Olympic Committee in that aspect. So I’d say that like fencing cat really informs Dr. Cat. And while Dr. Cat may inform how fencing cat trains.

there’s less of an overlap in that way. but you know, I tend to retire after Paris, and so really kind of utilizing the totality of my experience to really inform that latter part, that next part of my career.

Alison: Thank you so much. They’re waving.

Anne Cebula Interview

Anne Cebula: Anne Sabula.

Alison: Why Epee?

Anne Cebula: Oh, I admittedly was kind of forced into Epee.

They were like, you are a 5’11, you are kind of thin, go to Epee. Like distance runner build, you know. So I was kind of thrown into that. I know most people get to start out in like foil and try saber, but no.

Alison: And you were, I mean, I hate to say you were a little older, but you were in high school when you started fencing.

So what’s the advantage for you starting later than a lot of the other fencers?

Anne Cebula: Yeah. So I actually wanted to start earlier. I wanted to start when I was 10 years old. I saw the 2008 Beijing Olympics and just absolutely fell in love. I think because I wanted to do it for so long, I had a little bit of an edge.

And also around 15, 16 years old, you know, a lot of kids at that age have been starting around eight or nine years old, and they are already being combed over at colleges for the recruiting process and having that pressure, whereas I was kind of just beginning, like, my love story, and I felt freer in my fencing, so I definitely noticed that when I first started, you know, the club environment, kids are a little more stressed, where I was just kind of there to Have fun.

Alison: Now, I was interested in the Barnard Columbia relationship, if you can explain that to me because you were a Barnard student, but fencing for Columbia. Yes. How does that work exactly?

Anne Cebula: So Barnard College itself it’s like the sister school of Columbia because they didn’t admit women for a long time.

Alison: Right, that was one of the seven sisters.

Anne Cebula: Yes, exactly. And that’s kind of how their athletics program also came about. I have to admittedly look at the dates a little closer, but yeah, it’s an interesting relationship. It’s hard to, like, separate the two, because it was funny, like, Barnard was like my little home nest in the larger Columbia campus, you know.

I would go back to Barnard to take my classes, but then I’d scurry across the street to go into, like, the dungeon of the Athletic Center to find some, yeah.

Alison: How has training changed since you graduated and you’re not in the NCAA system anymore?

Anne Cebula: It’s definitely a little more intense. I feel like, being on a campus, while it was hard, everything was, you know, within a block or two of each other.

Nowadays, I train at four different clubs a week, and they are scattered throughout. One club is in Coney Island, the other one’s in Port Washington, Long Island. So, I have to make my own schedule, budget my own time. Again, I did have some aspects of that in college, but obviously now it’s a little more extreme and intense.

Alison: I’m glad you mentioned budget because there’s not only budgeting your time, there’s budgeting your life. And we know fencers just rake in the bucks from their sport. So how are you balancing that having a life and affording your apartment and trying to train? Yes.

Anne Cebula: So I actually I’m still at home with my family.

Yeah. And, uh, this isn’t really talked about, but I might’ve had like the most affordable journey into fencing. I started at 15 and I didn’t start going into national tournaments. They’re called NACs until I was like 18 years old. And so I did my freshman year at Fordham because I missed the recruiting process.

I didn’t know how it worked. I didn’t have a high enough ranking because I wasn’t going to NACs. They’re very expensive. And when I transferred over to Barnard, Michael made a point of covering all the expenses for the NACs, encouraging me to try out for junior team, covering all the expenses for that.

That’s how he creates this incredible Olympic pipeline program. And yeah, and then again, the circumstances, I got very lucky. Well, this is a little unlucky, but COVID hit. There was no fencing for a year and a half. You saved on expenses. And then, I was part of the New York Athletic Club, which has a elite athlete program.

And so for the first year, everything is covered. And then after that first year, , you get coverage based on your ranking. Luckily when that one year ended, I was ranked high enough that USA Fencing covered me. I already know I was in the four. So I’ve been very lucky and blessed that. My expenses have been minimal in comparison to What they could have possibly been and I think that’s not really talked about and I hoped with as the Visibility of the sport increases costs can go down and I’m really trying to push for that, you know after the games But yeah,

Alison: how expensive is?

A weapon. Yes. And is it pieces? Because I know there’s the handle and the, so are you buying it all at once or is it separate pieces?

Anne Cebula: So you could buy a completed weapon, but most of us just like if a blade breaks, you just swap out the blade itself and then you keep, you know, your bell guard and your grip and everything unless, and then you replace those as needed.

But a blade costs around like two hundred ish dollars. And you’re supposed to have around five or six with you at all times. A completed weapon, you know, with the guard and everything is about 300. A FIE, so like an internationally approved jacket. You don’t need that at the domestic level, but pants cost 400.

Jacket costs 400 to 500. You know, it all adds up. And

Alison: how do you travel with them?

Anne Cebula: How do I travel? I have a fencing bag and it looks like a giant golf bag and we’re encouraged because bags get lost all the time. Uh, we’re encouraged to put everything in our carry on. So it looks pretty funny at TSA.

They’re like, what the hell is in your bag? It’s like a mask and a bunch of wires and, you know, a whole fencing kit. And the golf bag itself, that the checked baggage, only has our blades. So God forbid our baggage gets lost or more often than not it’s delayed. We can just unfortunately purchase weapons or borrow from other countries, that sort of thing.

Alison: Which kind of handle do you use? I use a French grip. Why do you like that better?

Anne Cebula: It is funkier than a pistol grip. And there’s, with a pistol grip, you have more strength, you have more power. It’s in the grip of say like a pistol shape. It’s like you’re holding a gun. So you beat the blade a lot more. You could do a lot more blade work and sort of that sort of thing.

French grip, you have way less power, but I like to say a little bit more precision and you could go a little more wild, a little more free. And you definitely have to be, there’s a whole like different rhythm. To French script fencing.

Alison: Now, you are very tall. Yes. And you are very lanky. I’m not insulting you by saying that.

No, I’m sorry. What advantage is that for you? Besides, obviously, reach. Let me see.

Anne Cebula: Definitely being tall, um, helps with reach. I guess, but it’s funny because, you know, I was shuttled into EPPE because I’m tall, but some of the best EPPE fencers, like world ranked one through ten, are very short.

Very short. So height isn’t a determining factor, really. Um, it does help in the beginning, but after that, you know, you can’t just rely on reach alone. Um, and being on the thinner side, I don’t know. Unfortunately, we’re so cardio heavy that, again, it kind of, It’s the distance runner

Alison: build that helps. Okay, perfect.

He’s waving at me.

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti Interview

Alison: My name is Margarita Guzzi Vincenti. So you and I share dual citizenship with Italy, so I wanted to ask you about the differences because you grew up fencing in Italy.

How is American fencing different from Italian and European training?

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: I just love the American system. First of all, people here are So modern when it comes to technology. I mean, we have state of the art clubs, state of the art facilities. And so it’s just unbelievable to train here compared to maybe Italy, where things a little more old, old version, old style, they have the antique flavor for sure, but, uh, here, everything is just phenomenal, fantastic, really appreciative to be here.

Alison: When we spoke to Eli a few weeks ago, he talked about how the United States has a mix of styles. So your coach here, cause you went to Penn state. I did. Yes. So how was that transition to all of a sudden, you know, you had all Italian coaches and now you have this mix of Eastern European and Asian and, , more traditional Western European.

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: Yeah, I think it’s one of our advantages to be honest, because it makes our style so unique and it’s a blend of all different cultures and all different really techniques. And so. Usually when you go to World Cups, you will identify the Italian style, the French style, the German style, the Korean style, whatever it is.

But America, being just, uh, all these styles together, I think, gives us the unique edge to really find the right techniques against every single country. And so, I believe it’s really a good thing for us.

Alison: You are one of the older athletes. And I can say this because I’m still like 15 years older than you.

How has your training changed? You know, what was your training week like when you were 20 versus now?

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: I feel really my body hasn’t really changed that much. Really hasn’t aged. Thank God I have good genes. I have, knock on wood, I’ve never had any injuries. And so I feel that my training has been pretty much similar to when I was younger.

Although now it’s, um, there’s a lot more maybe mental preparation and more, , tactical things that maybe in the past we’re just still building upon, but now it’s more like, okay, let’s, let’s have everything done in a specific way.

Alison: So what’s changed for the mental? What, what do you do differently?

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: I would say growing up back in the days, the mental preparation, Uh, part wasn’t as big as it is nowadays, there’s a lot of emphasis on really doing a self talk, visualization, positive thinking, meditation, um, just being with yourself, and I think that can really give you an edge in many things, so it’s really the discovery, I think, of the mental aspect in the game and how important it is for the game that is really improved us as athletes in the last few years.

And that’s something that was really not apparent back in the days. And we recognize that that’s just as important as train your body to win a tournament. And, um, in, in epic specifically, because everything comes down to just a fraction of a second. If your mind is strong, you can really overcome a lot of the obstacles that maybe, you might have physically or other things.

But if your mind collapses, you’re basically done for the game.

Alison: Do you talk to yourself in English or Italian?

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: In English to believe it or not? Yes. So I think in English. Is that because you’re here, you’re living here and training in English? Absolutely. Yeah, since I moved here, kind of my brain really switched from thinking and processing everything in Italian to just now it’s English.

And it’s funny because when I talk back to my family or friends, sometimes I come up with funny words or funny languages or sentences just because my thinking now is so American and the Italian is kind of fading away a little bit, which is strange.

Alison: Do you swear in English or Italian?

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: I actually don’t swear.

Oh! Sorry! Sorry! Hahaha! Why EPPE?

Why EPPE? So, I started actually with foil when I was a little kid. I started when I was seven and a half years old, and I did it for five years. Usually when you start in a young age, they, at least in Italy, they want you to start with foil because it’s the weapon that gives you the basics, that right away you understand the rules of fencing, and it gives you a lot of discipline.

I decided to switch to EPPE Because I felt that it, my body was more conformed for Epe. I was on the taller side, my speed, , I felt that it was better for Epe, and I just liked the black and white aspect of the game in terms of if you score a point, it’s your point. In foil and saber there’s a lot of judge decision.

The referee has to award the touch because it’s a right of way weapon, so It doesn’t mean that if your light goes off, you necessarily get a touch. So there, sometimes there is bias in that in epic, it’s black and white. And the target being the whole body makes it even more interesting because that’s where you really have to trick your opponent into making noise somewhere and really focusing his or her attention there when in reality you want to go completely somewhere else.

Alison: If you had to convince someone to watch that, what’s, what’s your sales pitch? for getting into fencing. Yes.

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: Fencing is a physical chess. it’s a physical chess because it really makes you work hard on the strip physically. You move a lot, right? But you also have to set up your opponent in a way that you can checkmate your opponent.

So fencing is very interesting because when you watch it, even from the outside, even if you don’t understand much of the rules of fencing, it really translates into what life is. Let me explain why. In life, sometimes you have to, you have to advance and you have to attack. So you have to go and pursue a goal, right?

And that’s when you wanna maybe be forceful in your attack. And fencing. Sometimes in life you have to wait a little bit. Retreat, wait for the right moment. It’s all about the timing in life to accomplish goals, to accomplish things. Same is in fencing. When you set up your actions, when you stop your A, your, your, your points, that’s how you gotta do.

Alison: What are you most excited about for Paris? This is going to be your first time Olympics and I mean, and going back, going back, I assume some families going to be able to come over. So what’s, what’s, are you looking for besides the Grand Palais?

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti: For sure. I’ve been to Paris many times when I was a kid, of course, living in Europe.

Uh, and traveling a lot with my family and friends. Paris was always a place where we, we, we, we used to go. I think going there now as part of the U. S. delegation, U. S. team is, in bringing so much pride of representing our nation, is something that I really cherish about, um, this Games. I feel that I’ve received so much from the United States that it’s my honor to go there on the strip to represent our country.

And so just to live the whole experience, just seeing Fellow athletes to see how they compete to ask them questions about their sports and just get to know people I think it’s something that really really attracts me about the games And of course, you know working hard for our team and try to get a medal and try to come home with the best result We can okay.

Perfect.

Hadley Husisian Interview

Alison: . Hadley.

Hadley Husisian: Okay,

Alison: So why?

Hadley Husisian: Oh, I gotta be honest. I started at this one club that my mom found for me and we did a little, we did one bound up, a one in foil and one in saber.

And EPA was the only one that I won. So, the competitive side of me decided that that was going to be the route that I went with. And, very glad that I was able to win that, that five touches. Cause, put me where I am today.

Alison: You took some time off from school. Yes. Are you going back in the fall, or are you going back?

Hadley Husisian: Yeah, I’ll be going back in the fall. So, I just had to like, go through the process of re enrollment and re registering for classes. Which I’m, I’m very excited for, for like, To get back into the swing of things, but of course the next few months are pretty exciting as well.

Alison: So how does that change for you in terms of you had the real structure of school and NCAA rules and now it’s all training all the time?

Hadley Husisian: It took some figuring out because I think fencers especially, but sort of any high level athletes that are also enrolled in school are going to be used to pretty much being on all the time and always feeling like they need to be productive in the times when they’re not training, they need to be doing homework and when they’re not in school they need to be practicing.

So having that sort of dead time was, was new to me and it always made it kind of tough to turn it off when it was time to take a break. But that took some, some figuring out. And if I were to go through another Olympic cycle, I think I’d be more prepared for it now, but it was, it was definitely an adjustment, but it was one that allowed me to pursue things outside of just academics and sport.

That was a really fun opportunity that I didn’t anticipate.

Alison: What’s your mental training look like? Because every, I think it was Margarita said to me already, it’s, it’s a It’s physical chess. So what does that do? Because you’re, you’re very young. I know you’ve been doing this a long time, but how do you prep your brain to do this?

Hadley Husisian: Yeah. That was another thing that I haven’t thought about a ton just cause like it was always go, go, go. And there wasn’t really time to sit back and take that aspect of it as a top priority. But it was, it was interesting. So I took up journaling, I like took up sports psych, like talking to friends became really important and just having a few trusted confidants to.

to confide in because at times like you go through these periods where you’re honestly like a bit bored, like practice could sometimes be a bit redundant. And then I didn’t again, have school to turn back to. And then all of a sudden it would spike up and it’d be the high stress of competition and perform at all costs sort of environment.

So it was, it was a roller coaster and it took a lot of adjustment, but, it was like a trial and error sort of process. And I learned a lot about myself outside of just, uh, who I am on the strip through this year.

Alison: What’s the difference mentally when it’s a world championship versus I’m looking at the Olympics?

Hadley Husisian: It being a world championship, like, it is a huge accomplishment to make it, but it does happen every year. So there’s a lot more opportunities to be able to do that, but the it was really interesting the first tournament of the cycle, even though it was sort of an arbitrary point in the year where you go to one World Cup and it’s of a certain, like, level of stakes, and then you go to the next one and all of a sudden, like, people are screaming, people are crying, like, after every point, and you’re like, whoa, like, this is, you know, it was just another World Cup and you are fencing the same people in the same locations, but that, that level of pressure, like, you saw a lot of crazy things happen this year, like, a lot of upsets, a lot of people Who you thought were shoo ins like sort of not being able to perform at their highest level because like there just was that much Extra pressure with it being the Olympics as opposed to something that happens annually

Alison: Please tell me the iCarly story.

Hadley Husisian: I Saw that no, I had to ask. Yeah, I mean used to watch that with my family back when I was in elementary school and It didn’t immediately dazzle me, just seeing fencing on screen. I didn’t really understand it. Like, I thought that the masks also obscured your vision, so people were going at it blind. And it wasn’t, it didn’t really have like a, a lot of, like, I wasn’t putting a lot of thought into it until I initially wanted to go into archery, actually, and that was I was on the, the boardwalk with my family for like a beach vacation and did us like shooting game and was half decent at it.

And my mom made the leap of logic that I would have like a star career in archery as a result, but there was such a long wait list that we went with the second option of sort of like niche sport, which ended up being fencing, which had a much shorter wait list. And very happy that I didn’t get my top choice in that moment.

Alison: Talk a little bit about the difference between you’ve got a college team. And now you’re on the U. S. national team with people you may or may not know terribly well. And how that team comes together.

Hadley Husisian: It’s definitely interesting. I mean, I definitely know these people well, because fencing is such a small community that, I’m very aware of who they are.

We’ve traveled together this, this whole time for the last few years. I’ve only been in the senior circuit for a couple years, , because of my age. Because of like the pandemic, but that’s, it’s certainly a fun aspect of fencing that they might not have in as many sports, but like we have an age variation of like 14 years on this team and we have such like different life experiences.

So that’s the, that’s a very interesting sort of thing because you have a little more in common with your college teammates. You’re all around the same age. You’re, you’re studying, you’re following the same schedule, but being able to take a, almost sort of motley group of individuals and. From all like four corners of the nation and stick them together on a train a team and they’re all bringing something different to the table That’s just such a unique experience.

Okay, great.

Alison: They’re giving me the hands. I

Jill: Thank you so much Kat, Anne, Margarita and Hadley.

Alison: The women are having a nice run up to Paris. They swept the podium in the individual event at the Pan American Zonal Championships this week. Margarita defeated Hadley, uh, for the gold and Anne won the bronze. So again, thank you USA Fencing for having me that media day.

We are not done with our fencing interviews. We’ve still got foil to do. So we’ve got the men and women of foil coming up soon.

Giveaway

Alison: We also have something special going on. We’re doing a giveaway.

Jill: We’ll

Alison: We do. We have some swag for you all. Some, some fun items of Olympics and Paralympics and Team USA that we have gotten at these various media events, actually.

And we will be handing those out to you. Uh, you sign up for our newsletter, you get additional entries. If you share us on your social media, we will have a link to that entry in the show notes and on our social media pages. So, and if you are

Jill: already signed up for our newsletter list, you will be automatically entered so you can also share, share the newsletter, share the show for on your social media for additional entries, but, but know that you already entered and we welcome new newsletter subscribers at any time because you don’t want to miss Alison’s fun stories.

You had a good one this week.

Paris 2024 News

Jill: we have some more hospitality house news. There will be a Casa Mexico, a Mongolia house, and a Pavilion Chinese Taipei. They will all be in Parc if that’s familiar to you. It’s like hospitality house central there in this huge park area. We don’t have a ton of details about these three houses. Mexico is going to be ticketed.

We don’t know if that’s free tickets or paid tickets. Mongolia will be free except for some to be announced special events. And then the Chinese Taipei pavilion will be free. You can keep track of everything on houseparty. blog. And also for the site, for the hospitality houses that are in Park de La Vallette, there’s also a handy map and, , list of them at lavelette. com. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes. you seen this games map?

Alison: I am overwhelmed by this games map. There’s so much information on there.

Jill: Okay. Paris 2024 has put out a, Uh, interactive games map that has venues, events, torch relay stuff.

And there’s so many special events going on. So if you’re looking for the cultural events around the Olympics, if you’re looking for fun stuff to do around that has an Olympics connection, if you’re trying to figure out the venues and where they are in the hospitality houses, they put it all together in an interactive game map.

The events are fun. are really cool. They range from like scavenger hunts from kit for kids to inclusive Zumba sessions and more. So like if you wanted to go work out while you were in Paris and didn’t know what to do, check this map out because there might be like free yoga days or whatever that you can do.

I know that Sephora had special stuff too. Oh yeah. I know

Alison: that’s right up your alley. It is. And it is a little overwhelming when you first look at it. But if you put in the days you’re going to be there or if you start categorizing things, it becomes much more manageable. So don’t be scared when you look at this and it’s just the map is full of color and full of lines and you feel like this is not, going to help me.

It’s just going to confuse me more. Once you start selecting things, it really is just a great resource.

Jill: And super helpful if you’re going to be at an event or section of town that might be not near your hotel and you have a couple hours to kill before you can get into the venue. Check out the map and see what’s going on because there’s going to be something.

also coming. To, your screens is a sneak preview of the opening ceremonies. This is going to happen on Friday, June 28th. Olympics. com is going to tease an advanced look at the performances and by advanced look, they mean 30 seconds. And it is. It’s supposed to be something dance y related and is said to mix contemporary and urban dance.

So we will see what this is like. They have announced that the director of dance for the opening ceremonies is Maud Le Pladec, who is a renowned choreographer and director of the Centre Choreographique National d’Orleans. She has worked with Ceremonies Director Thomas Jolie before, uh, in 2016, they collaborated on the opera, Gaballo. So the ceremonies, all four of them together will have a total of 3, 000 artists. And the, we’ll put a link in the show notes to this article that, that talks about what, what Maud is doing because, she’ll be working with groups of small groups of dancers and they’ll be like, well, you know, there’s 50 of us here, but we know that we’re doing X in a bigger production of like 400 people.

And we don’t know what everybody else is doing.

And if you are in Paris now, and if you are in early, early riser, you may. Um, wander over to the Seine and see some boat training because they’ve been doing that very early in the morning. And luckily , the ceremonies has backup plans for different types of weather. They’ve been focusing on that.

Alison: Because on our last show we talked about that the Seine was running very quickly and there goes a few countries and you miss them. So Um, you would, as you would hope, they’re trying to, uh, account for every, every variable.

Jill: Also some good news is that France Television will have 24 7 coverage of the Paralympics.

They will have daily coverage on France 2 and France 3. And then all events will be broadcast live and on demand on france. tv. And online, there’s also going to be a live chat fan zone that you can comment in real time to, with other people who are watching. Uh, with you. So I’m, I’m very glad to see that.

And, Team USA is still collaborating with SKIMS and we have a new collection

Alison: out. Right. So there’s a new capsule collection for 2024. Jessica Long, our Paris swimmer is a model and she’s been posting some beautiful shots of herself from the, from that photo shoot on her social media. And it’s all, they are the official Underwear provider, which underwear collaborator, excuse me, for Team USA, which I didn’t know we needed, but I say, why not?

And we will have a link to that collection in the show notes. It really is some cool stuff.

Jill: It is and they’ve got some adaptive. Uh, underwear too, which is really nice

LA 2028 News

Jill: LA, here we come. I’m still like bowled over at the stadium news that we talked about in the last episode.

Alison: I’m so excited. You know, given your experience at Lucas Oil. With swing in a football stadium and how successful that was. I am so glad LA was watching that and respond. I mean, they weren’t responding to it, but they were certainly watching the prep for that and said, Hmm, I see an opportunity.

Jill: Right. And we have been to SoFi. So we know what an amazing stadium that is and putting swimming there, it’s going to be cool. And how

Alison: much, branding is going to have to be covered up. And

Jill: I believe that was a Pepsi stadium. If I remember correctly, it was, not for long. What else will be cool is that LA 28 has just announced that the, their proposal to feature para climbing on the Paralympics program has been ratified by the International Paralympic Committee.

This is, the first time. That an organizing committee has ever added a Paralympic sport to the Paralympic program. So now there are 22 sports for LA and it’s going to be really exciting to see this sport in action come up. It’s only like Four years away, four and a half years away.

We will sneeze and we will be in LA. Well, and we will be watching para climbing as well.

TKFLASTAN News

Jill: Welcome

Alison: to

Jill: Shookfluston. Now is the time of the show where we check in with our team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests of the show and listeners who make up our very own country of Shookfluston. slow couple of days for Shookfluston, but don’t worry.

Alison: A few breaths as we’re going through the U. S. Track and field trials, but for right now, Louise Sugden competed at the world para powerlifting world cup in Tbilisi, Georgia. She finished in fourth place and got a personal best by five kilograms. She is currently seventh in the Paris rankings.

Jill: And former biathlete Claire Egan was selected as one of eight women for U. S. Biathlon’s Women’s Coaching Initiative. And that is going to do it for this episode. Let us know what you think of gymnastics and fencing. And I’m Sure, if you’re not in the Facebook group, get there now because I’m sure there’s going to be some gymnastics talk all weekend long.

Alison: And you can find us on X YouTube and Instagram at flame alive Find us on X YouTube and Instagram at flame alive pod You can send us an email at flame alive pod at gmail.

com call or text us at two zero eight

That’s 208 flame it and chat with us about gymnastics and other fans at the Facebook group. Keep the flame alive podcast. You can sign up for our weekly newsletter with even more Olympic and Paralympic info for you at our website, flame alive, pod. com.

Jill: And don’t forget that, that signing up gets you an entry into our very cool giveaway.

We’ve got a lot of fun stuff, in that prize package. So you won’t want to miss that. Next week on Monday, we will be featuring an interview with a paracyclist, Samantha Bosco, who is a really fascinating woman. So please tune in for that. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, keep the flame alive.