Photo montage of para swimmers Jessica Long, McKenzie Coan and Olivia Chambers at the Team USA Media Summit.

Paralympic Swimming with Jessica Long, McKenzie Coan and Olivia Chambers

Release Date: June 10, 2024

While you wouldn’t think para swimming is much different from able-bodied swimming, the Paralympic classification system makes it a more complex sport to follow. Classification helps level the playing field (although we learn here that it’s not the most perfect system), but the diversity of swimmers and abilities means that there are a lot of classes in this sport. Case in point, our three guests for this episode.

Jessica Long first competed at the Paralympics in 2004 at only 12 years old. Since then, Jessica has won 29 Paralympic medals, including 16 gold. She competes in the S8, SB7, and SM8 classes, which are classes for amputees. Jessica has become one of the most recognizable faces of the US Paralympic team, including appearing in a popular Toyota ad from Tokyo 2020:

Next we chat with McKenzie Coan. McKenzie is a 3-time Paralympian, winning four gold and two silver medals. She has won 16 world championship medals and holds the Paralympic record for the 50m freestyle. She competes in the S7, SB6, and SM7 classes, which are for athletes who are of short stature.

Lastly, we talk with Paralympic hopeful Olivia Chambers. Olivia is trying for her first Paralympics. At her first national championships in 2022, she broke a ten-year old American record in the 400m IM, S13 class, which is for visual impairments. At the 2023 World Championships, Olivia collected two silver and four bronze medals.

Follow Jessica, McKenzie and Olivia on Insta! Jessica and McKenzie also have websites to check out for more information.

The 2024 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials will be on June 27-29, 2024 in Minneapolis.

In Paris 2024 news, we are less than 50 days away from the opening of the Olympic Games (we’re not completely freaked out!). To mark the day, the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee unveiled Olympic Rings on the Eiffel Tower, which will stay in place until the end of the Paralympics. We also learn more about some mental health features of the Athletes’ Village. And NBC announced more additions to its broadcast team: Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, and Tango from Sesame Street!

In our TKFLASTAN update, we have news from:

And Jill has a full report from the Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic, where she got to see TKFLASTANI Katie Moon vault from about 12 feet away!

Olympic champion Katie Moon sails over the pole vault bar.

Katie Moon clears the bar at the Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic.

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.

345-Paralympic Swimming

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?

Alison: Not as good as you.

You had some fun this weekend.

Jill: I did have some fun this weekend. I think I have very red cheeks to show for it. I went on a little test event to the Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic, which we will talk about later on in Shooklastan. But oh my gosh, it was more than I could have imagined. I will say that. So we will talk about that later in the show.

Alison: So you’ve learned sunblock. And a hat.

Jill: I’ve got to figure out the hat situation because I do not like wearing hats. My head gets very hot very quickly, so, um, I might have to figure out some sort of visor situation and see if that works, which I don’t love the idea of,

Uh, but I did get some heat training. That’s good. That was very good. That’s essential. It’s going to be, it’s going to be a rough game. So if it gets really hot, I will tell you that it might be a rotation of indoor

Alison: outdoor for, I was just going to say, you need the outdoor indoor planning for the hottest part of the day.

Oh, geez. I think this is a good time to see some indoor volleyball.

Jill: So we will get to the Katie Moon pole vault, the classic results in a little bit. But first we are talking para swimming today. This is It was really exciting. I did not expect to get time with these women.

Jessica Long Interview

Jill: Uh, first we’re talking with Jessica Long.

Jessica first competed at the Paralympics in 2004 at only 12 years old. Since then, she has won 29 Paralympic medals, including 16 gold. She competes in the S eight SB seven and SM eight classes,

Which is, uh, an amputee class. And Jessica has become one of the most recognizable faces of the U. S. Paralympic team, including appearing in a popular Toyota ad from Tokyo 2020. Take a listen.

When you start, if somebody has two full legs, they get the flexibility in their ankles. Where do you get your start power from? Well,

Jessica Long: we’re all in different classifications. So it goes through, they all go through like a very rigorous process.


Alison: Right. But this is your classification with a

Jessica Long: hodgepodge. Yeah. Well, I like to say it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish a race. Um, but yeah, I mean, it’s all different. And I mean, I would still say the classification process is not wonderful yet. Um, but I also know that like, if I, start slow.

I have a chance to catch up because at some point I feel like their impairment might come into play, right? Right.

Jill: And you’re jacked up top.

Jessica Long: Yeah, it’s been, it’s really interesting and I think that’s one of the most confusing parts of Paralympics is just like, how do you understand the classification system, especially right now with it being kind of flawed.

Um, so I mean, I think it’s still, we’re not, I know a lot of us Paralympic athletes aren’t a hundred percent satisfied. We want to make it the best, um, equal playing field for, for all. Does

Jill: having more

Jessica Long: competitors

Jill: help make the

Jessica Long: classification better? Yeah, it really does, yeah. Um, I mean, I think the more that you have in your class, you can kind of start, I mean, since I’ve been in it for so long, I can kind of look at someone and be like, Oh yeah, I know what class you’re in.

Based off of like, amputation. I think the hardest thing is amputation versus like, neuro. Um, that’s even hard for me to understand. Just cause I, you know, I’m very cut and dry. All the amputees are cut and dry. Um, but neurological is really hard because even on their worst day, like my legs don’t change day to day.

And they have different, you know, every day is different. Um, so I think we still need to figure that out in the Paralympics.

Alison: How has it changed for you and for the movement in general? You’ve been doing this a few years.

Jessica Long: I know, I felt, someone the other day was like or here was like, what’s your age? I was like 32. Okay, you’re way

Alison: younger than us, so just come sit here and you’ll feel young. I’m

Jessica Long: a leap year baby, so. So I just turned eight. I know. Um, but it’s changed a lot. Like it’s, it’s amazing how much it’s changed, right?

From the time that I was 12 years old at my first games to now going into my sixth games. You know, the fact that we’re here at the 100 Days Out or the Media Summit and there’s the same Paralympic athletes that there are Olympic athletes. And there was a time I think in 2008 when I did one of the media summits.

And people didn’t even want to talk to me. And I was like, I have three gold medals. Like, I, I am, I am an elite athlete. So the fact that you’re seeing so much, just even up on the posters and the Paralympics and the Olympics and the fact that it’s, you know, the name is changing, it has changed so much. And I think there’s such a level of respect.

I would say one thing though, is we need to stop calling Paralympic athletes, Olympic athletes. I still think that needs to be respected. And, you know, there was a time that I never corrected people when I was really little, cause I was almost embarrassed to be a Paralympic athlete. There was a time when people would be like, Oh my gosh, you’re an Olympic athlete.

And I’d be like, I’m a Paralympic athlete. And you could see the difference, right? They would just be like, Oh, like, Paralympic? That’s really sweet of you. Good for you. And I think for me, I took that, and I decided to train with the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, right? I’m from Baltimore. And I just realized, I never have to question if I’m just as Um, but I, I’m really, really excited to see the movement continue to grow and that, you know, the word para is parallel to the Olympic games, right?

It’s not para Olympics. It’s, it literally is alongside the Olympics. And I just want to continue to get that out, that message out to everyone that we are the same thing. Team USA.

Alison: And you have that fabulous Toyota commercial.

Jessica Long: Super Bowl. Um, yeah, I think that was pretty cool. I want to be like, how many Olympians have super

Alison: bowl and really good ones.

Yes, I think

Jessica Long: it won some awards, but we filmed that in South Africa, and my husband and I, we ended up having our honeymoon after we filmed that. But, it’s amazing to me how many people truly saw that, and, um, being stopped in the airport, or, you know, just traveling, or speeches, just how impactful that’s been for women, or people with disabilities, or being an athlete, or just in the Paralympics.

They gave me an entire minute for a Super Bowl commercial, which is pretty unheard of. And I never even thought they would use it for that, right? It wasn’t supposed to be used for the Super Bowl. It was supposed to be used for the Start Your Impossible campaigns. And the year before, they actually told me they were like, we were four days shy, like short of submitting it in 2020.

And I just remember being like, please don’t tell me that. And then the next year they chose it. So it really came full circle. Excellent. Thank you so much. Appreciate. I love talking, so it’s hard to thank you. Thank you. You too. Thanks.

Jill: Thank you so much, Jessica.

McKenzie Coan Interview

Jill: Now we’re talking with McKenzie Coan. McKenzie is a three time Paralympian winning four gold and two silvers. She has won 16 world championship medals and holds a Paralympic record for the 50 meter freestyle. She competes in the S7, SB8, and SM7 classes. That’s short of stature?

Yes. Okay. Those are short of stature classes. Take a listen.

McKenzie Coan: So this is not your first rodeo on Media Summits.

How are they each different? Except for, let’s take out the Tokyo one because that was just weird. Yeah. It’s funny, I feel like, Each media summit is different because I’m a different person going into it as well And this will be my fourth games in Paris, which is crazy to say out loud. So I’ve had a lot more life experience I’ve had a lot more Team USA experience throughout the years and with each games.

I think I have a different goal going into it Um, and And this one, I just can’t put it into words. I can’t believe I’m still here going into my fourth. It’s such a privilege and an honor. And I feel like I’m just kind of soaking this in that much more and talking about my excitement for the games because this is number four.

How is it being a more senior member of the team? I don’t want to say old. I like that. That was a great one. But I mean like a veteran. You know what it, you also, you know these things. Different stages. So you know what it’s like to be the first timer and and now, uh, You know, swimming is really big in the Paralympics have come so far.

Absolutely. And hopefully this’ll be just like London. Yes. Oh my gosh. But, but like really, how do you mentor other people on the team? What are they looking for? Yes. It’s funny. Um, I was telling someone this the other day, I was 16 when I went to my first games in London and we were on a trip a couple months ago, we were in Chile.

We’re at the Pan American games and we had. A 13 year old there a couple 16 year olds and I looked around I go Oh my goodness to think being that young and being at something like this then it hit me I was in their same position one time So on that trip, I started to think about all the things that I wish I would have known back then And for me, I definitely have days where I feel old around them But I see it as a really great responsibility and opportunity to share what I so wish I would have known or what someone would have told me going into it.

So I just try to spread as much wisdom as I possibly can and try to make their journey just a little bit easier, a little bit better where I can.

Alison: What kind of things would those be?

McKenzie Coan: Yeah. So I will never forget in London, putting on my racing suit to go out there for my first Paralympic race. And. No one really, they touched on it in team meetings, like what that would feel like going out there.

I remember I was in the locker room and I burst into tears and I go, I need my mom, like I want my mom. Um, and so now I, I tell them when we get there, go out to the pool and take a moment for yourself and realize that this is happening. Don’t let it hit you five minutes before you go to the call room while putting your suit on.

Let it kind of the energy flow through you first and then, you know, team things what to pack what to bring. Um, part of my routine is so like having everything that I need to compete and being sure of that puts me in a really good space mentally. So I always tell them no matter what you need to bring, no matter if you have superstitions, if you have this or that, You need to be comfortable going out there as yourself and not letting anybody else dictate that.

So just having the confidence to be you and to do what you need to do to perform. What are you hoping for these games? Because it was like, London was such an amazing Paralympics. Oh yeah. Rio. Tougher, but they came around. Mm-Hmm. Tokyo. Weird, unfortunately. But you know, there was so much hope that like you turn back the corner and Covid thanks.

Right. But. Now, especially with England so close to Paris. What are you hoping that this game achieves for the movement? Yeah, I think there’s a humongous opportunity. It’s so exciting for us here because not only are we going into Paris this year with a huge opportunity to go out there and highlight Paralympian stories and everything, we also have a Games coming up in 2028.

So it’s kind of like, okay, how do we get all this momentum going in a really good place? Place for Paris. And how do we build off of that? After I look at the movement, I think back to 2012 how much has changed, but also being in London and seeing how they kind of went about showcasing their Paralympians.

I saw Paralympians on billboards. And, you know, you’re starting to see that here in the U. S., but we need to amplify it right now. Put people out there, get that exposure piece rolling, and let’s build off of this into L. A. So, I feel like this here in Paris is a really great starting point, and we’ve got to keep it going.

We need to amplify it by times like a thousand. That’s what I think. How is it then, because part of it is, you know, Work on the media, work with USOPC. But part of it is athletes making time in their schedule to do that work as well. And that’s hard, especially Paralympians. You’ve got to balance a job or school.

your training and then do extra stuff, especially if it’s not comfortable for you. Absolutely. Um, I’ve always said this and it’s not anything against my olympic counterparts. They have a lot going on as well, but I’ve always felt as a paralympian, I have just a little bit more responsibility on me. So, To go out there and be a big part of changing the movement and growing the movement.

Um, and that’s a responsibility I’ve taken on since 2012. Anytime somebody comes up to me, I could be at an airport about to miss my flight. If someone comes up to me and goes, I saw the Team USA tags on your bag. You’re in a wheelchair. Like, what does that mean? Like, what do you do? I will take time to stand there and tell them all about the Paralympic movement.

I will take the time to tell them all about the things I’ve been through yet. I am here going out and competing for my country and you should watch the Paralympics because of that. Um, so I’ve always felt a really big responsibility there. I think every Paralympian probably feels that, but. A lot of that does at times come on us to go out there and essentially be educators to society and the public.

What, wait, I know you’re going to say. What is your response to people who think the Paralympics is the Special Olympics? Yes, so, you know, the Special Olympics is, is really great. It’s tremendous. Um, but what we do is very, very different. You know, we are the same elite level competitors as our Olympic counterparts.

We just so happen to have physical differences. And, um, that’s the exact same way I would present it to someone on the street. It does not, I will never be a person that is going to bark at someone for coming up and asking because this is an opportunity for me to, you know, tell them that’s great, but that is not what I do, um, and present it in that way, because I also think I, I have known people at times who, Get very upset sometimes if someone comes up and does not understand what we do.

And to me, that’s just not the best teaching tool. You can get frustrated and everything else, but at the end of the day, you need to educate them because that could have an impact. They could go tell their friends and family, Hey, I just had a great experience meeting a Paralympian. And I’m going to go watch the next Paralympic games.

Like that’s a huge opportunity.

Alison: Who else at the Paralympics? Are you excited about getting a chance to go see?

McKenzie Coan: Oh my goodness. So swimming is one of those sports that we we go all 10 days of the game. So it’s so hard to find time. I’ve never seen another Paralympic sport played in person. But personally, when I go back to the village and if I’m in a team room, you know, refueling or whatever wheelchair basketball is like My all time favorite and I’m I feel like a fangirl over the wheelchair basketball players, but I love it so much I actually I had fragile bones So I got recruited to do wheelchair basketball to swim meet one time and then I went and gave my mom the business card And she’s like, I don’t think We’re going to try that.

So I’m living vicariously through them basically. So wheelchair rugby is not on your agenda. No, I told Chuck, I was like, Chuck, yeah, I probably won’t be out there with you anytime soon, Chuck. Who’s my favorite? I know Chuck is like the best person ever. His, his social media gives me life too. He is the funniest person ever.


Alison: so much. It was great to have

McKenzie Coan: you. so much,

Alison: guys. Are

Jill: Thank you so much, McKenzie.

Olivia Chambers Interview

Jill: And finally, we’re talking with Olivia Chambers. Olivia is a Paralympic hopeful trying for her first Paralympics at her first national championships. She broke a 10 year old American record in the 400 meter IM S13 class that is a visually impaired class.

And at last year’s world championships, she collected two silver and four bronze medals. Take a listen to our interview with Olivia.

Okay, Olivia, we have been trying frantically to Figure out if your classification does the tapping on the head when you’re getting ready to hit the wall or no.

Olivia Chambers: Um, you can if you choose so, but you don’t have to, so most people don’t. Okay, so you are not tapped. I am not tapped. Are you using blackout goggles? No, that’s only S11, which is the lowest visual class.

Alison: Okay. So, given that you are not getting tapped, how are you planning that flip? How are you knowing where you are in the water?

Olivia Chambers: Yeah, it takes a lot of practice, but one of the things that helps me the most is, uh, counting my strokes. So I know when I get to a certain stroke count, I must be at least near the wall, and so that helps me know when to flip.

Jill: As you get faster, how does that stroke count? Do you just have to build in the practice time?

Olivia Chambers: Yeah, it does change and it varies from race to race and where I’m at in the race, but I think it comes with a lot of practice and, um, Your stroke count, I feel like, changes, um, over time. It’s not necessarily one race to the next, it’s going to be very different. And it’s something that I work on a lot, just because it’s so important for me to get that stroke count right.


Alison: and I am. Yes? Are you, are you wanting to include everything?

Olivia Chambers: Yeah, I mean right now at trials I’m swimming everything that’s in the S13 class and then at games. Um, I think I’ll try to do as much as I

Alison: can. Okay, now I know a lot of medley swimmers love medley. What, are you one of those? Yeah, I do love it.

It’s fun. Okay, what about it makes it better?

Olivia Chambers: You know, it’s a mix of everything. It’s all the strokes you’ve got into one race. And so it’s really exciting because you can have, um, someone who’s incredible at fly, absolutely be terrible at breaststroke. And so the leader can change throughout the entire race and whoever starts it might not be who, um, finishes first in the end, which I mean, it’s true for every race, but especially so in that one, because it changes so often.

And it’s, um, I feel like one of the most interesting ones to watch too, because You get to see a little piece of everything.

Jill: So, in your IM, how do you rate the strokes in order of your strengths? Like, best strengths. Oh, yeah.

Olivia Chambers: Um, that honestly differs from year to year.

I, I’ve Switched up the strokes a lot. I’m mainly a distance freestyler, but, um, you know, right now I’m, I feel like I’m really leaning into breaststroke, but I train all of the strokes, um, but, you know, who knows, maybe in six months from now I’m, you know, really having a nice fly. It changes things. Given

Alison: the loss of vision was not from birth, did you find the difficulty with balance adjustments?

Olivia Chambers: Yeah, um, with my vision loss, I have pretty much no depth perception. So, just honestly navigating and knowing where I’m at is really difficult. But, I think, um, over time and learning and just continuing to do what I love, I was able to figure it all out.

Alison: Do you ever lose your place in the pool?

Olivia Chambers: Um, not too bad, no.

When I have to switch from like, say, long course meters to short course yards every now and then I get a little confused, but most of the time I’m, I’m fully aware of where I’m at.

Alison: You’re swimming at college now. How has that changed?

How you’re training, how you’re prepping going into Paris?

Olivia Chambers: Um, yeah, I wouldn’t say so. Lucky enough, uh, the college season and para like big para meets are at different times of the year. So, um, from about like October to February, I’m, you know, in the college season focusing on that, but luckily it’s all swimming and, um, I mean, I’m still swimming, still training.

So it’s not like I’m. Hurting myself in any way for the summer when um, trials comes around or games comes around. And I would just say it’s more of just making sure I’m in a competitive state longer, for longer time of the year. And it might mean taking less breaks than say my college teammates or even my para teammates.

Or just having a different schedule as everyone else around.

Jill: What does competitive state mean to you?

Olivia Chambers: Just staying, like, in training throughout, so just staying, um, in my best physical shape to go as fast as I possibly can.

Alison: What throws you off during a race? Or does anything throw you off? Well,

Olivia Chambers: I try not to let anything throw me off.

Um, I would say, um, with being a visually impaired athlete, Luckily we have plenty of warm up times but every now and then you get to a pool where the lighting is just really weird. You know maybe you brought um, tinted goggles and the lighting is super dark so you can barely see anything or you know some pools the flags are a weird color you can’t see them or just really small and so you have to adjust for that and luckily I can work those things out and warm up but every now and then something like that can throw me off in a race.

Alison: What are you thinking about? Because I’m always curious, especially for the long races and the focus, what is going through your brain and how do you push that?

Olivia Chambers: Yeah, um, a lot of the time I’m just counting my strokes, but I’m also, you know, finding a song that, um, is like to the beat of the pace I need to go, singing that, or just, I like to cheer myself on in the race, like, keep going, um, try my hardest, or just, you know, think about random facts.

Jill: Count of the, the lapse in a 1500,

Olivia Chambers: um, . I mean, is that a yes or a no, mom? No, she does not. I do not. Um,

Jill: a little bit.

Olivia Chambers: I I’m usually pretty on top of what lack my on, I mean. Every now and then I might lose a little track, especially, that’s more in practice is where I lose track, but usually in the race I can stay on top of the count.

Alison: What is success in Paris gonna look like for you?

Olivia Chambers: Honestly, just getting there. I think if I get there and, um, I just, Really want to take it all in and not be too stressed about my races and to just be grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to compete with the flag on my cap, um, and to really just have fun.

Do you wear one cap or two? One. How do

Jill: you keep Okay, this is I was an age group swimmer, and I could never keep my goggles on when I dive in. How do you keep your goggles on when you dive in?

Olivia Chambers: Um

Jill: Keep them tight. Um They’re actually pretty nice. Maybe you

Olivia Chambers: just had a fight. I probably did. Indeed. It was the 80s, come on.

Oh, guys. so much, Olivia. And

Alison: thank you, Mahi.

Jill: Thank you so much, Olivia. The U. S. Paralympic team trials will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota from June 27th through 29th. Everybody’s on Instagram. We’ll have links to those in the show notes. Jessica and McKenzie also have websites. That’s jessicalong. com and McKenziecohen. com. It’s less than 50 days to go.

Get your Paris Viewing Guide

Alison: It is less than 50 days to go. Are you panicking yet? Yeah, there’s a lot of panic going on. So I’m, there may be some panicking as to what people are going to watch, what people are going to see, but we have you covered there. So the Keep the Flame Alive Viewing Guide Olympics and Paralympics Summer 2024 is available as an ebook from both Amazon and Apple books.

And. And in there, you’ve got daily detailed schedules. We’ve got easy to use tables. If you’re looking for metal events and info on all the sports that will be on the Olympic and Paralympic program. Um, this is the coolest part to me. As we do updates and get those round robin and pool events, we’re going to be updating the schedules and those will automatically be sent to your device, whatever it is, uh, for all the latest matchups.

And you can find a link to purchase those in the show notes and through a graphic on our website, flamealivepod.

Jill: com. And if you get Kindle Unlimited, it is part of the Kindle Unlimited program, so you can borrow it. Early and often to see all those updates.

Paris 2024 News

Jill: The realization that we are with less than 50 days to go

Alison: oh Mon, dude, I’m not even I could swear in French I have been learning some French swear words, but I don’t want us to get a not family friendly rating

Jill: Oh, that’s good. We are 50 days to go. The Olympic rings went on to the Eiffel Tower. Very exciting to see and that was no joke. Those things are huge. They are huge They are they weigh 30 tons First off they are made of recycled French steel and they’re 29 meters wide 13 meters high Each ring is 9 meters in diameter.

So these are big rings. They are meant to be seen on all over. Uh, they are on the, south side of the structure. So you can see them from the sun and between the first and second floors of the structure. They also contain a 100, 000 led bulbs to be part of the nightly light show. So this is going to be pretty spectacular.

They are supposed to stay there until the end of the Paralympics, which, you know, I thought that maybe they get swapped out for the Gitos.

Alison: I don’t know, swapping those out would be a little rough.

Jill: Yeah, I mean, I guess, I mean it would take time to, to take those up and take those down and you probably have to close the tower while you’re doing it and that’s prime tourist time.

So I’m guessing that’s the reason why, but I’m kind of hoping that we get nice Egito somewhere.

Alison: I mean, the tower’s got four sides. There you go. Why aren’t we putting them on the other side? I don’t know, maybe,

Jill: maybe, yeah, well, maybe that’ll come with like 75 or 50 days to go to the Paralympics. Don’t know.

New to the athletes village this year will be an area called the 365 area. Athlete 365 Mind Zone. This is going to be a mindfulness and relaxation area that is designed to help athletes with their mental health a little bit more. And it will have VR headsets for meditation. They’ll have sleep pods there.

They will have art activities. The whole area is going to have low lighting, so it will be very relaxing. There will be an alcohol free bar in the village. So very different from Montreal, 1976. That’s, that’s of course, the first thing I think of is like, Oh, the disco, Oh, the Esperanto lessons. Oh, the cigarette ashtrays in every athlete’s room is so different from.

2024, where we have cardboard beds and sleep pods and alcohol free bars.

Alison: But if you do remember from some earlier reports we did that the Olympic condoms are back. Yes, that’s very

Jill: true.

Alison: So there is that.

Jill: That through line from 1988.

Can you imagine? I mean, they are going to do some media tours of the Athletes Village, so I’m very hopeful that we will get to go on one of those. But can you imagine? I’m going to be the idiot going, uh, where’s the disco? Uh, are they doing Esperanto lessons this year?

I want to go to the Olympic barber. Oh, I know, and see what the hair stylist looks like. No, I want to

Alison: go, like, I just, I want them to cut maybe some aguitos into my hair. I mean, I want to get some Olympic hair going. Um,

Jill: Anyway, the, the 365 Athlete 365 MindZone will also, uh, have guides to maintain good mental hygiene, i.

  1. avoiding screen time. And they’re going to have a mental health helpline in 70 languages. Now, uh, 90 countries are bringing along their own mental health welfare officers with their teams and which is a big deal for teams this time around. This is a new type of accreditation apparently that was implemented in 2022 after we all learned in Tokyo 2020 how important mental health was for athletes.

We got some new members of the NBCUniversal team, broadcast team, coverage team. Sesame Street Muppets are back! Way more excited about this than Kelly

Alison: Clarkson, I

Jill: gotta be honest. More excited about this than Snoop Dogg, okay? I’m more excited about Kelly Clarkson than Snoop Dogg, to be quite honest, but, you know.

Alison: Way more excited about Elmo.

Jill: Uh, very, very true. So, uh, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, and Tango will be part of the coverage team. They will be on social and broadcast coverage. Do you know who Tango is? I do not know who Tango is.

Alison: Tango is Elmo’s dog. Oh, okay. Can you imagine, oh, can you imagine doing a croissant tour with Cookie Monster?

Jill: That would be nice. I, cause I really worry for him because they don’t really do chocolate chip cookies. In Paris, I think. He has expanded

Alison: since we were kids.

Jill: Oh,

Alison: that’s good. He, he will, he will experiment with a bisquat, or I didn’t learn, I didn’t get that

Jill: far. Biscuits, that’s it. So there are cookies, there’s biscuits, so you know, but, but I think chocolate chip cookies are kind of a distinctly American food, so that will be very exciting.


Alison: Welcome to Shookflustan.

Jill: It 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, Shookflustan. How about some results?

Alison: Chuck Aoki and the U. S. wheelchair rugby

Jill: team took fifth at the Canada Cup.

Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic Report

Jill: All right. Katie Moon, pole vault classic. Okay. Oh my gosh. This was So cool to see in person. I went to a press conference on Friday with, uh, Katie and Emily Grove. Who is qualified for the Olympic trials and also Gabriella Leon who is also qualified for Olympic trials and They were very nice. It was it’s at Katie’s high school where she would have so we had like we were in a big room with the high school backdrop and Just had access and could could talk to these ladies for quite some time.

Then the day of the competition, I did not know what to expect or where we would be or anything, but it was basically you have a credential here.

We’re going to let you under the flags and onto the competition area. So all they said was, Oh, media, you got to stay. one side of this, this line. You can’t be by the top of the runway where the athletes are. You got to go sit over by the pit. So I sat like, I know I was like 12 feet away from where they were jumping.

That’s why I got sunburned.

Alison: Yeah, there was no shade where you were.

Jill: No, I was with Elizabeth, our friend Elizabeth Emery from Hear Her Sports and she was in, like, under a tent for a good chunk of it. And she had a hat. She was smart enough to bring a hat. But I’m out there in the sun! Love and life! Um, seeing Pole Vault in person is pretty amazing because you don’t realize on TV how short the runway is.

And how fast they have to get up to speed, how long those bars are, Gabby Leon, when we were talking with her at the, press conference, she said that when she drives, uh, she will see the, you know, when you’re driving on the highway and you go under a bridge and they’ve got the height of the bridge, she will think, I can vault this.

Alison: Oh, I already love her.

Jill: Right? She, she was fantastic. I could vault that bridge, no problem. I know, right? Or if it would be like, can’t get that one yet. I’m working up to that height, you know?

Alison: She would have a field day here in Connecticut driving down the Merritt. Oh, oh,

Jill: totally. Totally. I should have asked.

I should have remembered to ask her. I wonder if she would do better than the trucks on Storrow Drive in Boston. Much.

But it was amazing to see, canisters of poles strapped to the top of a car. I’ve posted pictures around on social. I’m probably going to have some more pictures too. but. being so close to the action, you just saw how much work goes into it and, and the event was about three hours long.

We had, um, 11 vaulters take play or take part in it and by the end, I was starting to get to understand. what to look for and when somebody was going to run through or not make it. And that was really interesting. I just wanted more. And there were, they said they, they had registered cause tickets were free, like 2, 800 people were there and it was pretty deep where everybody was on the football field.

So the, runway was parallel to the end zone, if you can picture that. So the whole runway. did not cover the whole end zone either. That’s how short it is. Yeah. So if you’re going across the end zone from not, not from end zone to end zone, but the other direction, that pole vault area is shorter than your end zone.

East west

Alison: versus north south.

Jill: Yes. Yes.

Alison: Wow.

Jill: That is, that is not much. It’s very short. It’s not very much. And they weren’t even using the whole runway. So that was pretty incredible behind me were some girls. There were a lot of like high school aged girls there. I know it, it about melted your heart with everybody there who is pole vaulting already and wanted to watch.

So behind me were a couple of girls and one girl and her mom wearing team USA and U. S. Olympic gear. So of course I had to say something to them. They drove from Utah to be here. Yes.

Alison: That’s

Jill: amazing. It was unbelievable. Which is exactly

Alison: why Katie wanted to do this.

Jill: Exactly. And she’s sitting next to a girl from Indiana who they had just, they just met sitting there and talking and they just were like, Oh, we love being able to analyze the jumps.

It makes me feel invested to, into their sport. So um, Shout out to Lacey and Hannah, and thank you for being my go to’s, because if I had questions, I was sitting there, and if I had questions, I’d just scoot back and be like, okay, what’s up with this? They were very kind to me. You’re like one of mom’s friends.

Right? Yeah. Crazy old lady. Who’s getting sunburned. But it was, really, really cool, officiating job I would like to do. Oh, cause, oh my gosh, the officiating job just for this alone. We had a woman on the mic who was, telling who was up, who was on deck, who was in the hole. There was a guy with who was by the timer because they have so many minutes.

They only get like a minute to jump and Unless they are jumping Repeatedly or in a row because sometimes they would be the only jumper to go and then they have like three minutes and That person has a flag because once the timer goes down so far they raise the flag to Tell the jumper you got to get this thing going Then there is another guy who sat near where the jump happens with the red and the white flags to know if it was a legal jump and then also has a cone because the cone every time there’s a, the bar falls off or a, uh, new height is added, he puts the cone in the runway.

So nobody goes. And then you have the two guys who are manning the bar and have to put the bar up with special poles

Alison: every time. That is the job I want, which is ridiculous because I’m the shortest person in the room and could never get this job even with their extended poles. But when you posted the pictures, I never, this is so silly and I’m sure a lot of spectators who watch most of these events on TV have the same experience I do.

You never think about how does the pole get back up there? How is the height adjusted? You know, we saw in Tokyo, all the field service robots bringing the shot puts and the javelins back. And that was the first time I ever thought about that need. And when you were posting the pictures of, Oh yeah, these guys are, are moving the ball.

Of course there has to be a person who does that.

Jill: Right. I mean, cause you, you would think that there would be a system with like a little elevator almost to take it up to the next, to the right height. But maybe that’s just because we were at a high school. So there were four or five different. Um, pins for the bar to sit on, depending on what level the athletes were at.

Alison: So this sent me down a rabbit hole of watching, of trying to find videos. And when you’re at Olympic world championship, that is more automated. The pole kind of expands. I mean, there’s still somebody who’s in charge of making sure it’s all correct, but it is more elevator like and not so much by hand, but still somebody has got to take the pole off the mat.

If it falls. And. So there’s all those things still have to happen manually, but the height adjustment

Jill: is more

Alison: automated.

Jill: Well, and there’s also maybe, maybe this would be the person for you because every time the bar had to move up a height, there was a woman there that had a measure. No, no, it, well, they did crank it up.

They had to, to, to twist it up, but there is another woman who came in and was about where they placed the pole in the little hole where you had to place the pole. And she had some sort of measure sensor to make sure the bar was at the right height.

Alison: I was hoping you were gonna say she had like, um, a tape measure that she whipped out.

There was a tape measure on the ground, but not, but in case any of the automation failed, you have to have the manual backup. And

Jill: there’s also an element that I probably should have asked, but there’s an element of the bar will move forward and backward. So they had to keep like kind of moving it backward into play and into the right place.

Yeah. Okay. It’s very complicated. I would say that about this, this element.

Alison: And now multiply that event by how many field events there are. How many track events there are. How many different sports with events in there. And that’s where you remember, why do we need an army of 20, 000 volunteers?

Jill: Exactly.

And, of course, the best part was, they did give me a score sheet, because I asked if they had one down there, like, oh, here, just have a score sheet, and I’m like, oh, you know, I didn’t even, I, I was very good about not geeking out about that, but I did keep score. I, I can’t geek out in front of other officials.

Come on.

Alison: Game recognizes game, Jill. Those officials took one look at you and said, I see. That stopwatch in your pocket.

Jill: so that was fun because then it, well, it keeps you engaged with stuff. It, but, I will say Marissa Kelsey, American vaulter, she made the Olympic standard cause this is, was like, One of the last meets you could qualify on like that.

I think Saturday was like the day an end of qualification day She made the height. It was so good and and so much fun to see her just bouncing off the mat and Cheering like crazy. So that was really cool many things they all had their own hype music So I don’t have a whole lot of sound from the day because we can’t have other songs in the background.

, but everybody had their own hype music and everyone was very different because Katie would have like that, that I’m good. And I’m feeling all right. That the, the one where I want to sing blue butterbee. The original song, because I’m old. Uh, and then there was somebody else who had like red hot chili peppers and ACDC type stuff and there was some Daft Punk around.

Alison: You know whose dad picked out their hype music that they’ve been training to as opposed to them picking it themselves.

Jill: Oh, I’m sure. No, actually, she looked like she would like some red hot chili peppers. It was quite nice that everybody was there. Everybody was super excited. They’d be clapping and cheering for everybody.

Um, Canadian Olympian, Anika Newell was there, did not have a great day. And I was talking with her, uh, Afterwards, because she ended up placing, tying for sixth, and, uh, was pretty far back and just, she said, yeah, and I’m a coach too. So I’m analyzing everything. And, and it was interesting because they’d jump, they’d vault, they’d immediately get off the mat and go to their coach and watch the vault.

And analyze it and try to like, how do you analyze this and pick out one or two things to adjust because like, how much can you adjust vault to vault? seeing Katie in person and a, she recognized us. So thank you, Katie. I know. I was just like, Oh my gosh, you know who we are. the determination on her face in person and just how she dialed in for competing was amazing. So fascinating to see and the speed that she can get some of the speed that some of the others can get, and some of them, which is like the high knees ability to run down the runway.

It’s just phenomenal about all the little things that you have to think about when you vault, except for you can’t think about anything when you’re vaulting. and all the little adjustments that you can make to do better. And it was just, it was just a really cool event. Don’t know if it’ll come back next year.

I hope it does. And most importantly, who won Katie Katie Moon. Thank goodness. Cause how bad has been, I think it would have been rough. So the vault started at 4. 18 meters and then they’d go up from there. She did not start vaulting until 4. 53 meters. She skipped 4. 58. And then went to 4.

  1. She in both of those. Her 1st, 2 heights, she missed a jump. She missed the 1st jump, got it on the 2nd 1. And, uh, she made 4, she skipped 4. 68 made 4. 73 right away. And then. that she was already the winner of the race, uh, the meet at that height. So then she decided to bump it up to 4. 86 to get a season’s best for her and a world lead.

She unfortunately missed all three attempts.

Alison: So congratulations to Katie on what sounds like a win. Just an amazing event. Yeah. She

Jill: was, there were a few tears because like they named the, the pole vault runway after her and she got to spray her name in the AstroTurf there. So that was really cool. The crowd was cool.

Her talk, like she talked to everybody afterwards and signed a lot of stuff. The, the girls who all look up to her, what. What a great way and like she would have stayed there. I don’t know how long she ended up staying there because She was starting to give advice jumping advice So I know I know and and you can see these these girls be like, okay, how about that?

Well, they’re just kind of dialed into talking vault and Katie was so there for that She said that her injuries getting a lot better she’s still a little rusty, but she’s, she’s doing better. She used to have to, uh, the other week she competed and she had to massage her calves a couple of times here.

She only felt like she had to do it once. So that is an improvement. She’s just like, it’s, it’s getting better and better all the time. So look for, look for a few more reels, look for probably a few more pictures and probably maybe some audio will show up too. It may show up for patrons. I’m not quite sure yet, but great day, great test event.

Thank you, Katie. Thank you, Olmsted Falls High School for putting it together. And it was, it was a great time.

TKFLASTAN Update (continued)

Alison: So some more news from Shaqlistan. Jacqueline Simoneau has officially been named to Team Canada’s Paris 2024 artistic swimming team, and it was also announced that the Canadian Olympic Foundation’s Great to Gold initiative would be Offering up 80, 000 in support for the artistic swimming team to split.

Jill: Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes won the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 in Ostrava, Czechia.

Alison: And congratulations to rugby coach, Ben Ryan, he and BBC presenter, Michelle Ackerley were married at the end of last month.

And that will do it for this episode. Let us know what you think of swimming at the Paralympics. 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 208 352 6348. That’s 208 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

Jill: on Thursday we are staying in the pool with interviews from the Team USA media day on swimming diving water polo and artistic swimming We are just ahead of the US Olympic swimming trials and I’m gonna be there at least for a few days.

So we’re, getting ready for that. Please do not forget to tell a friend about the show. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.