We welcome back Phil Andrews to the podcast this week. When Phil was last on our show, he was CEO of USA Weightlifting, but in July 2022 he moved over to USA Fencing and became its CEO.
We love learning about what goes on behind the scenes at sport governing bodies. Phil talks about the state of weightlifting when he left it, and the learning curve he went through with fencing. Even though these two sports are both smaller sports in the grand scheme of things, fencing is larger than weightlifting and has a bigger youth component. The needs of the population that USA Fencing serves is also different, which has been a good challenge for Phil to face in leading the organization forward.
Fencing in the US has not been without its problems—Olympian Alen Hadzic had been suspended by SafeSport for sexual misconduct, but an arbitrator overruled the suspension, allowing Hadzic to go to Tokyo 2020 as an alternate for the US epee team. Not surprisingly, some of his teammates were not happy about this. In June 2023, SafeSport permanently banned Hadzic from the sport. We talk with Phil after about that situation, and how as an incoming leader for the organization, he’s managed it.
We also discuss the issue of women in the sport, getting more para athletes involved with wheelchair fencing, and what Phil’s looking forward to at Paris 2024.
In our history moment, Alison looks at the fencing competition at Seoul 1988. Even though these Olympics had a lot of suspect events—and fencing had been suspect at previous Games—this particular sport had seemingly fair competition.
In our visit to TKFLASTAN to see what’s up with Team Keep the Flame Alive, we have news from:
- Paddler Luuka Jones
- Beach volleyball players Betsi Flint and Kelly Cheng
- Wheelchair fencer Ellen Geddes
- Archivist Teri Hedgpeth
- Filmmaker John MacLeod
- Plus, the TKFLASTANIs representing Team USA at the Pan American Games later this month—streaming coverage will be at panamsportchannel.org
In Paris 2024 news, Paralympic tickets are officially on sale. Another development for the Paralympics is that the flame will be lit at Stoke Mandeville, and this will be the case for all future Paralympics.
We haven’t heard our doping sounder for a while, but sadly, this week it’s back—with one of Alison’s least favorite types of doping.
Big news from LA 2028: The LA 2028 Organizing Committee has announced the sports it would like to add to the competition program in five years’ time. It’s heavy on team sports—cricket, flag football, baseball/softball, and lacrosse. The only individual sport it wants to add is squash. This leaves breaking off the program after Paris 2024. We’ve got the lowdown, including the heated discussions and negotiations that apparently went on behind the scenes!
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Phil Andrews.
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.
USA Fencing CEO Phil Andrews (Episode 308)
[00:00:14] 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?
[00:00:49] Alison: Qualifiers and test events and training videos. Oh my.
There has been so much sports this week. It feels like in October, other than, here in the U S we have football and the end of baseball season coming up. It just feels like qualifiers are everywhere this week.
[00:01:11] Jill: And we’ve gotten just tons and tons of announcements about. Athletes going to the Pan American Games, , it’s really been exciting.
[00:01:19] Alison: Lots of news flying.
[00:01:22] Jill: But it keeps all those sports federations on their toes, right? They
[00:01:27] Alison: are busy, busy, busy.
[00:01:29] Jill: .
Phil Andrews Interview
[00:01:29] Jill: And one of those busy people is our guest today. Shukla Stani, Phil Andrews. We are happy to welcome him back to the podcast. Last time we talked with Phil, he was CEO of USA Weightlifting, but in July, 2022, he became CEO of USA Fencing.
So we talked with Phil about his new wish role and what he hopes to see for the organization in the future. Take a listen.
Phil Andrews, welcome back to the show. Last time we talked to you, you were CEO of USA Weightlifting, and now [00:02:00] you’re CEO of USA Fencing. You’ve been in that role for a little over a year.
What’s it been like?
[00:02:07] Phil Andrews: All right, put the barbell down and pick up the sword. It’s lighter.
It’s a start, you ask? More seriously, , fencing’s a very interesting sport. Wonderful community. , very smart community. Very well educated as general rule. Very large in the Ivy Leagues and the Ivy adjacent schools. A big NCAA sport. Much more focused on youth sport than weightlifting is.
Weightlifting is a very adult sport generally. Uh, it will not escape many people’s attention. You listen to this podcast often that we in weightlifting had one or two challenges in the international sphere with the IWF happily though, I think they’re making progress on that front in my former sport.
Here we have some challenges. There’s no question. And I’m sure we’re going to go on to talk about one or two of those coming up. But much, much less than we did in the sport of weightlifting, the FIE and IOS, which is our international federation for, we call it power fencing worldwide is called wheelchair fencing in the Paralympic games.
One of your guests recently, Ellen Geddes is doing really, really well and looks good to see her in Paris as well. So it’s, been a great transition. We’re about 40, 000 members and so it’s about. Double what we had at weightlifting a little under double really interesting. As I say, community that the fencing has is very tight knit community, very passionate community and very, very intelligent community.
Like nothing I’ve ever seen in sport. That’s not to say that sounds like I, I mean, other sports are not so smart. I mean, just one’s particularly smart. I still didn’t get that right, but still! It’s been good.
[00:03:48] Jill: You do have a lot of people who go on to compete at very high level universities. Yes. And it probably, you have a different way of [00:04:00] thinking.
cross membership than you would for weightlifting, and the concerns are probably very different between the two.
[00:04:06] Phil Andrews: Well, yes, for a number of reasons. First of all, the sport’s, you know, different. We fence each other. We literally go to bouts with a, what is a weapon that originates in war against each other.
So that’s, that takes one step of personality compared to weightlifting, where you’re Effectively, you are going to battle, but that battle is against gravity and your own mind. that’s one set of, of different minds. So you also think about the personality of the average weightlifter and personality of the average fencer.
In fencing, you’re really solving problems. How do you defeat the other person? How do you get around their ability to defend themselves with their weapon? Whereas in weightlifting, it’s, it’s much more about technique and your brute strength, obviously, to be able to lift that barbell, in the best possible way that you can.
And you’re correct. , the NCAA programs and the Ivy League in particular are really important to fencing. A lot of people get into fencing in part to go into engineering, law, medical, and similar professions through financial services as well, through their education that they receive as a part of their career in fencing.
And if you look at the amount of fencing universities out there, The majority of them are really good universities. I had a conversation with, I’m not quite sure, but I would imagine they’re a top, at least 35 university in this country maybe a shade lower than that, I guess.
And they said, we’re the academic poor of fencing. And I’m sitting there at the other side of the table going, I did not go to a university anywhere close to as good as the one I’m currently sitting in. So I am the academic poor of fencing, I guess is what I derive from that conversation. Well, I guess if they’re the academic poor, I’m possibly the academic destitute of fencing.
[00:05:48] Jill: Did you have any background in fencing before you showed up there?
[00:05:52] Phil Andrews: I have some weird, weird associations with fencing over my life. I actually went to the top, so I went to [00:06:00] two high schools, one segment’s college. It’s where I went for the majority of the time. Most people know that as Hogwarts. Or at least most people who have seen a photo of it know it as Hogwarts.
It’s not the actual place where Hogwarts was filmed for Harry Potter. But it looks very similar. Yes, we had houses. And I was in one that had the colours of Slytherin. But… Aside from that, I went to another school called Brentwood, which would happen to be the largest, or I guess, best fencing school in the country.
Oddly, the coach from that school is now here in the U. S. in Boston. So we re met each other in Minneapolis at one of our championships. And one of our employees here introduced me to them. Where are you from? I’m from Charlesford. Oh, so am I. And we deduced who each other were over that period of time.
and then I actually worked with a national team fencer when I was at the University of East London before I came over to this country, who is still in touch with the fencing community here. National team US fencer. In a video in the run up to the London 2012 games, there’s actually a video of me fencing him as part of the promotional effort for that.
So, though I’ve never been a fencer in earnest, I’ve had some odd associations with fencing over a number of years, , coming , , my Olympic and Paralympic life, if you like. That said, it wasn’t, if you said, have you been a fencer? No, but I have done more of it than I had weightlifting before I got involved there.
What’s your weapon of choice? I love watching Saber. I’ve done more fencing in FA, but Saber’s the one I like to shop.
[00:07:32] Jill: when you started watching fencing really in earnest for the job, how long did it take you to be able to see something like
[00:07:41] Phil Andrews: right of way? That’s an interesting question right away.
Specifically, bear in mind. I’m doing this pretty intensely because effectively I’ve watched fencing every day in some way, shape or form, even if it’s not live, maybe 2 to 3 months.
[00:07:57] Jill: Oh, wow. Wow. When you’re watching a lot of fencing. Yeah, that’s 1 of [00:08:00] the challenges I think for. spectators and maybe it is.
Is that a challenge? Is that a challenge for you as a leader trying to get more people into the sport or more people to watch the sport?
[00:08:13] Phil Andrews: It is, and I think the question is, to what extent do you need to understand the nth degree of detail to enjoy a good fencing bow? And I think my initial advice to people watching fencing for the first time is just enjoy what you’re watching.
And the people around you will tell you the score. They don’t necessarily, you don’t necessarily need to be tremendously… Intricate with the details of the rules. It’s ideal if you are, and it’s great. And great if you can sit next to somebody who can explain some of that to you. But, do you need that to enjoy your first exposure to fencing?
No. Enjoy the spectacle first. And then, go and see, if you started with Saber for example. Go look at some foil, go look at some Epee. Okay, what looks interesting? What do you want to know more about? Because if you try to learn all three at once, you’re going to be drinking from the firehose.
[00:09:07] Jill: What kind of challenges were presented to you when you first walked in the door?
[00:09:12] Phil Andrews: So, fencing had a challenging time during the pandemic. As a national governing body, we went through some governance issues, some safe sport issues, some staff turnover issues, uh, our revenue was a challenge fencing.
Interestingly enough, not through the sport. But through the cost of doing business, so in other words, the travel commitment, fencing competes more overseas than at least any other sport I’m aware of, and that cost is enormous on people, so both the domestic travel that you need to do to go to North American Cups or NACs, as we call them.
And then the international travel to go to Cadet and Junior World Cups or Senior World Cups is enormous. Both on the people who are self funding, generally at the younger ages, and [00:10:00] even the top athletes who we’re funding, that cost is enormous. So, in order to keep up the pace of the cost, you’ve got to keep up the pace of the revenue.
And that’s been some of the bigger challenges. So, there was a lot of, through those governance and state sport issues in particular, there was a lot of mistrust. Of USA fencing and a lot of wounds that needed to be healed and still do so a lot of that came down to what do we do to bring the community a little bit more together?
What do we do to bring the community a little bit closer between quotation marks, USA fencing, and The community and how do we get away from the mindset of there being a USA fencing and the community separately, we’re all kind of USA fencing was once ultimate national governing bodies in my mindset of membership organizations, you might want to think about your members.
So, that is a collective good. One of their terminology is it was the challenge.
[00:10:57] Alison: Okay, we got to talk about the safe sport issue. We have to talk a little bit about Alen Hadzic. Yeah, you walked into this. This was not. under your watch, and yet this ended up on your desk. Yeah. How do you start dealing with something that you inherit like that?
[00:11:16] Phil Andrews: I think there’s two sides to it. There’s the side of… Let’s own what happened. Some people went through an incredibly challenging experience as their, as part of their participation in our sport, we need to stop thinking about whose fault it was and start thinking about what we can do about, the USA fencing.
We’re not the ones making the decision or the ones delaying the process. That was the U. S. Center for Safe Sport. We can’t do anything about that. So let’s figure out how we just own. We have an issue in USA Fencing around abuse. We need to figure out that issue. We need to make sure that to the extent we can, people are protected in our sport.
To the extent we can. [00:12:00] Well, that isn’t even to the extent we can. We need to make sure people can come forward and report issues when they arise, and we’re ready to respond to them. And people have confidence in our ability to respond. So, you know, the Alan issue shouldn’t just be about Alan Hasdik. It should be about, okay, what can we learn from this issue, which clearly went wrong.
Both in the fact that Alan was able to do what he did, and also in the more, perhaps more importantly than that in the response to that. Why it took so many years, why it took so many years after the incident to even there to begin to be something to be done why the process in place, allowed Alan to continue to participate in the sport for as long as he did.
And I say that, by the way, with a recognition that there is still, , an arbitration process, underway in that particular case, but yeah, it wasn’t under my watch. But I’m still running the organization, which it affected in the community that it affected. And I think there’s two ways you can look at that.
You can either go, okay, this wasn’t any of my problem. Let’s move on with life. Or you can just go, this is part of what happened in fencing. It’s part of the culture of fencing. And that we need to face head on and go, we either have a problem. We don’t, and that’s just. Be honest and say, yes, we have an issue that we need to address when it comes to potential abuse in this sport.
And it’s not just Alan. There’s other cases as well. There were minority. There are very, very, very, very small minority, but we need to address it. So
[00:13:35] Alison: one of the issues with that was the Tokyo team did not feel hurt. And now you’re taking over. You’ve got these elite fencers. Who don’t feel heard by their community?
Do you literally sit down with them? I mean, how did you address this on a more personal level?
[00:13:54] Phil Andrews: I’m not gonna suggest I’ve spoken to every single member of the Tokyo team about the specific issue. I’ve spoken to [00:14:00] some of them, and certainly some of them who are front and center of the issue. And you, to your point, it is about hearing them.
What was their experience? And being, again, honest about where we can do something about an issue and where we can’t. , and this is not deflective, it’s just part of where the process is today. The process needs to be better. There’s not a lot that USA Fences specifically could do about a lot of the issues that happened specifically in Tokyo.
In part because, for those, I’d imagine most people listening understand this, but, to this particular podcast, but, basically, The Olympic Games itself , is pretty much the jurisdiction of the U. S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Whereas an FIA event, Federation International, their screen, those events are more our jurisdiction.
There’s still relationships in both cases, but if you like the senior body, deciding who gets to go and owning that delegation is different for those events, which is why I make that distinction. So there was a limited amount , that USA Fencing. Could potentially have done better in terms of our own relationship with elite athletes.
And I will say that some of the staff who are still here, that are actually valuable elite athletes, are interestingly enough our sports performance team. So who are the ones closest to the athletes? Again, I’m not suggesting USA Fencing got everything right. but what I am suggesting is… This is where we have to listen to those athletes and not just those athletes.
We also need to listen to our wider community, particularly those who have suffered in the face of abuse. And what can we do better in our reaction? How can we be more open to reports? How can we put more pressure into the right places who can do something, both in terms of the process, but also specific cases to drive Towards outcomes[00:16:00] , in a better, faster, more efficient way.
So that those people get justice. And on the other hand, not, you know, not specific to Alan, for those people who are held up in limbo, who are on the, if you like, responding party side too, they are also owed a reasonably efficient process that needs to happen. to your question though, really, all you can do is listen.
There is no way to turn back the hand of time. There’s no way to go back to what was already a very challenging games we, I went through that same experience with Tokyo, with all the challenges that are outside of this Alan Hasdik issue. And it was already a tough place to be. It was already a tough games.
It was already a games where most athletes had their experience ripped away from them through no fault of their own. And. Then you had this, but on top, yeah, that’s a rough experience to start with before you’ve not feel, before you feel like you’ve not been heard. And that’s a reasonable feeling.
[00:17:04] Alison: Okay.
Let’s go from one controversy to another. Sure. Why not? Let’s keep it tough here. Phil, the relationship between USA Fencing and FIE, you know, you came from weightlifting where the national federation and the international federation had some issues. Let’s put it quietly that way. What’s happening with FIE and USA Fencing?
[00:17:26] Phil Andrews: look, the FIE and USA Fencing have overall a very good relationship, interestingly enough where we have some somewhat differing views. Is the Russia Ukraine conflict. and that’s where you’ve seen USA fencing in partnership with a number of European bodies, of course, not least the Ukrainian Federation advocate for a retention on the ban on Russian participation in Belarusian participation in in FI events.
We maintain that’s where we’d like to be, but ultimately we as a group [00:18:00] lost the vote at the Congress. So the F. I. E. has now allowed Russian athletes and Belarusian athletes to qualify through the A. I. N. process, the neutral athlete process overall. My view is that’s been done relatively well. There is an American on the ex co of the FIE and COMEX it’s called in, in fencing.
And there’s the same American sits on the working group for that particular process. It’s fairly well known that. That there was a letter that we wrote to the FIE pointing out that there was a number of athletes who may not qualify under the recommended recommended requirements for being a Nutriathlete.
To be quite fair, I’ve seen that adhere to fairly well. Does that mean that we agree that they should be able to compete? No. We still maintain that Russia and Belarus should not be participating, but in the event that they have, the rules have been adhered to. I’ll give them that. And adhered to well. so overall it’s a decent relationship.
We are continuing to host FIE events. In the United States, we have the World Veteran Championship coming up in just less than a month, and then the Foil Grand Prix next month. And you’re about to tell me, yeah, but in weightlifting, you also hosted some world championships and you’re right. So it’s, and these relationships are always complex.
And what I’ve learned over the years is. First of all, you can disagree respectfully, number one. two, not every person is all good and not every person is all bad. I really learned that along the way. And three, these are very complex organizations with a lot of pressure put on them. I don’t know the last time I came on, whether it was during the sort of heat of everything with COVID and with, the IWF and whether I was inside the IWF at that [00:20:00] point, but that also gives me an additional perspective that I didn’t have in my days before that at weightlifting from the international side.
And so, I’m not necessarily defending the FIA on this, but I’m just trying to give a balance of. Yes, we disagreed with the general F. I. E. position of inclusion of Russia and Ukraine, and we still disagree. But I will say that they’ve kept their word when they said we will adjudicate this according to the rules set down by the IOC.
Teams are out. They are doing a decent job of looking at the military athletes. But do we think they should be competing, Russia and Belarus? Absolutely not. Have
[00:20:40] Jill: any of your athletes expressed intent or thought of boycotting matches?
[00:20:46] Phil Andrews: It’s been discussed. I believe we have had AIN opponents. I may be incorrect in saying that, but I believe we faced at least one at Worlds.
I’d have to . Double check that fact as you know, there was obviously Ukraine neutral athlete matchup. And I’d be surprised if that wasn’t on your list to talk about because that has, that’s a separate issue to what we addressed first. And there has been discussion about that.
Certainly we’ve had some discussions about. What insignia might be appropriate to show support for the Ukrainian athletes. Both myself, one of our athletes, Kat Holmes, and a couple more, Kat was the one behind this. We donated to the Ukrainian Fund on a per touch basis. Kat did that through her participation in the Grand Prix and World Cups.
I did something called Fence with Philip, one of our NACs, and matched the donation both to the USA Fencing Foundation, but also to the Ukrainian effort. Their, uh, foil team wore some insignia right after the decision was made, and that was appreciated by the Ukrainian athletes. There are some athletes who have discussed boycotts.[00:22:00]
Here’s the challenge. If you boycott a match, or a bout, you then essentially forfeit that bout, and theoretically could be given a ban or suspension for that. Which affects directly your ability and potentially Team USA’s ability to qualify for Paris. So I think on the whole, there is a general thought that the, it’s not, no easy way of saying, worth boycotting and protesting in that way.
There might be better and more efficient ways to, to protest that the discussions I have of a couple of athletes on that talked about the only way that that might really make a splash and makes fundamental change. Is if very significant amounts of athletes, not just Americans, all boycotted together and you’re seeing athlete based change happening, perhaps in the most extreme example and a very different subject matter in Spain.
If you look at the protests and very reasonable protests in my eyes. Of the Spanish national team, the Spanish women’s national team, which essentially caused their head coach to be fired and then the resignation of the president of the federation woefully too late in my opinion, but at least it happened.
It was really because the athlete said, look, we’re not playing as long as this guy’s there and in order for. They’re truly to be an athlete based movement on changing that rule. It would probably need that volume of a significant amount of athletes from multiple countries to say, we just don’t agree with this decision.
And there might be some who don’t feel that way too. say, yeah, okay, this decision, I’ll fence whoever I need to fence. Thank you very much. I’m not so interested in this decision. I think the average athlete that I spoke to, though, cares deeply. And very much feels that the Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be competing in FIA events [00:24:00] right now, you know, several months now removed from that decision.
I think there’s at this point, getting on for close to 6 months, I believe, since that decision was taken and through a while championships, I think there’s a general thought process that. We are where we are with that decision. It’s being made. It’s a closed issue, and we need to just fence and get our best.
Whoever comes up against us, we’ll take him down. And it’s
[00:24:27] Alison: so complex because both Russia and Ukraine are powerhouses in the sport. Correct. These are not just… There’s a couple athletes here and there. I mean, these are your, your gold medal favorites coming into these competitions.
[00:24:40] Phil Andrews: It’s Bill and Belarus as well, but Belarus is not a superpower in this sport, but Ukraine and Russia very much. And of course, the. The presidents of both Olympic committees actually fenced on the same team together in 92 as part of the unified team, plus the president of the IOC is a fencer. So there’s a lot of politics involved here and a lot of sensitivity.
Plus, you know, ultimately, if you think about where an individual athletes, but athletes with a passport that says either Russian Federation or Belarus. come up against each other. We’re the, we’re one of the very few sports based upon effectively a weapon that’s used in, in a combat situation.
You know, the ARS archery rifle is where you’re gonna see that. So there’s a lot of sensitivities in a lot of different ways that are attached to fencing. Specifically when it comes to the Russia Ukrainian conflict, and a lot of very sensitive issues at the very highest echelons.
What about terminology, sport politics? Plus of course Alisher Usmanov was the president of the FIE until this conflict and has set aside as a result of the conflict in order that because of the sanctions held against him, along with most, Russian IF presidents, about a Russian IF was any, but [00:26:00] if there was, I’m sure the same would have applied with the exception of Kremlin boxing.
I think he’s the only one who didn’t. step aside, but again, I’m, I’m not gonna open another can of worms and, you know, spill it everywhere. So, cause that’s a whole different kettle of fish, but It is. You’re right. It’s a sensitive subject in our sport. They are large people. And I think as well on a personal level, I’ve not been involved in fencing for long enough.
This is necessary to affect me. But athletes have. Athletes have often been competing for, 5, 10, 15, sometimes 20 years. athletes and so coaches certainly have been there and that they’ve competed against the same people. They’ve been on teams in some cases with the same people who might be Russian coaches who have come to different countries, including the United States, Ukrainian coaches who’ve come to different countries, including the United States, and they are now facing challenging.
internal decisions in a way, because how do you feel about
[00:27:00] Phil Andrews: when you know the people personally and you may not have a problem with them personally? But you fundamentally have a problem with Russian and Belarusian participation, or you may not, depending on the person. So that’s very, very challenging for some of these athletes, and some of the coaches, and indeed the administrators around the world, because you’ve got to separate issue from person.
[00:27:25] Alison: let’s go to happier things.
[00:27:27] Phil Andrews: Thank you.
[00:27:29] Alison: I wasn’t going to keep you there forever. I mean, it’s kind of
[00:27:32] Phil Andrews: where I mean, you’re right. I kind of hung out in a sport which had a lot of problems and then was like, let’s go to this one where there’s this Russia Ukraine thing going on. And what is the most sensitive sport to that?
Oh, fencing. I’ll show up there.
[00:27:50] Jill: Maybe next you should go to
[00:27:51] Phil Andrews: gymnastics. You know, I would have absolutely loved to have been at gymnastics. That was actually when everything happened with [00:28:00] gymnastics, obviously, I wish that hadn’t happened, but it was actually my dream job because what a place you could go and impact people’s lives and impact the way that sport is done the way that that that sport is taught across the country with the way it’s delivered to young girls and boys in gymnastics gyms around around the nation.
I actually think Lili’s done a reasonably good job in very challenging circumstances. And she’s had a very, very tough job to get there. And I know not everyone agrees with that perspective. But I think if it was me, no one, not everyone would agree. I would have done a great job either.
So that was actually my dream job at the time. I, I hope no national governing body finds themselves in the state the USA Gymnastics was, but if there is, that’s the sort of challenge I’d like to take on. Okay.
[00:28:46] Jill: So since we’re still there, I tried for you, Phil. I know you tried. I want to go back to the abuse thing a little bit and how.
When you’re dealing with a sport that a lot of kids start out in yeah, and you’re at how do you create? change in the culture are you working on creating change in the culture to prevent this in the future or really tamp down or make it safe for children to be able to speak out?
[00:29:18] Phil Andrews: Yeah, and I think the short answer to that question is yes.
The longer answer is it’s very complex. It’s not one single thing that will solve culture change, that will solve abuse, or that will solve the long standing trust that goes into individual sports like gymnastics, fencing, and others, which can, but does not always, Foster a potential abusive situation. And what I mean by that is in general, trusting your coach is not a bad thing.
Coaches are inherently not bad people. Most coaches going to sport to make a difference. It’s something that either truly passionate [00:30:00] about and will teach others or in some cases, and especially you see this perhaps most in high school sport or youth club sport where you have people and. Coaching multiple things.
They just want to make a difference. That’s it. That’s all they went in to do. Those coaches are not the problem. They should be fostered. They should be celebrated. And I think that’s, that’s one thing that’s got lost a little bit in this whole issue is it’s become black and white, like coaches, bad athletes, good.
Well, okay. First of all, there’s athlete and athlete abuse. That’s a problem that’ll solve too. And it’s a serious problem that’ll solve. Second of all, 99 percent of coaches, really fantastic. 1 percent of coaches, bad. And that’s the bit that we need to change. And there is culture about it. There is also a weeding out those coaches issue.
so a few things here. Number one, most importantly. Make reporting a priority. Make responding to those reports a priority. That’s probably the most single most important thing you do. Two reasons. One, people start trusting the ability to make a report. That’s fundamental. But two, the moment you seem to be actually doing something about it.
People are going to think twice before they commit abusive acts when they’re doing it as a deliberate act. And what I mean by that is it’s not something they learn to do in the way that they, that they are, the way they coach. And more you’re talking about the emotional side at that point. If you’re doing a deliberative act, mostly in the, in the sexual abuse side, you’ve got to think twice.
If you know that it’s really easy to report there, for example, for us. You can write a email. You can write, fill out a form. You can do that with your name. You can do that anonymously. You can send a text message. You can do that anonymously. We can text you back without even knowing who you are because of the little system that does that.
You can find somebody at an event. You can report to a regional safe sport court. There’s a. There’s a ton of ways that you can get your message to someone who will do something about it. And so that is, it’s called in, um, I learned this back in 12. It’s called the theater of [00:32:00] security. So in other words, putting up layers beyond which people have to think about the actions that they’re taking.
So that’s probably the one of the things you can do relatively quickly and relatively effectively. Culture change takes much longer. Culture change takes time. It takes education. It takes dealing with. Challenging issues. It takes honest conversations. It takes making feel people feel comfortable. It takes education of the coaches, the education of parents and athletes and what they should expect from their coaches and from also the other people around them.
Athletes and athletes to team camaraderie. So I feel like I’ve given you a wishy washy answer here, Jill. That wasn’t my intent, but basically. You have to keep paying attention to it and drawing the attention of your community to it, of this is an issue that we need to address. We need to act to the sport we want to be, not the sport we have been, perhaps is the best way of phrasing it.
And I think that’s what you’re seeing in some of these individual sports where the culture is moving along and changing into one of. More as a supportive culture and I’ve spoken about this before, I’ve said, look, if you compare to some of the famous stories around the world, I find that in motivating athletes, two ways of working are effective in producing results.
One is the, hairdryer treatment, extreme pushing end of things. It’s effective. It gets results. Should you do it? I’m not saying you should. I’m saying gets results. The other end of that is the extreme support model, and that also gets results. Somewhere in the middle doesn’t necessarily get results, but the extreme stick and the extreme carrots do.
And my example I always give is in soccer. If you look at, Louis Van Howe, or you look at Sir Alex Ferguson, incredibly successful managers who are known for their Aggressive management of their teams. And then you look at Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool Football [00:34:00] Club, known for his team camaraderie, his positive, uplifting way, supportive way that he manages his team, also known for being super successful Guardiola, same way.
So, two examples over here. That work. Two examples over here that work both incredibly successful. I know which one I prefer.
[00:34:19] Jill: Better than that. We’re smarter than that. Alison? No, you have to. No, it was perfect.
I’m teasing myself ’cause I’m like, I know what he means, but I just dunno who these people are. I, I
[00:34:31] Phil Andrews: can give you a gymnastics related one.
I mean, Val, I, I will say though, and I partly, I’ll give you the good gymnastics one at least. Val Coach Val, I’ve had her speak on this very subject, and I think she’s a fantastic reference point for, you know, an uplifting, positive culture in sports.
And her credit, this is something she speaks about very openly and one person. I think that we as American sports and American coaches can hold up as a shining example of what a coach should be.
[00:34:58] Alison: So let’s talk about success because the U. S. team had a very good world championships. We
[00:35:04] Phil Andrews: did. Fantastic.
[00:35:05] Alison: Yeah, so was it… Expected? Was it a surprise? Where did it fall for you? Of course, you’re going to say, of course, we knew we would do well, but
[00:35:12] Phil Andrews: yeah, we knew exactly what was going to happen.
[00:35:14] Alison: But was that a bit of a surprise?
[00:35:16] Phil Andrews: well you did? It was, it was, you know, let me be first be clear. Well done Eli Dershowitz. Let’s start there. Eli did phenomenally well. He is the world champion. He’s the second man from the United States ever to win a world championships. That is absolutely awesome. Did we necessarily expect that waking up that morning?
I don’t know about Eli Dershowitz, but I didn’t. And perhaps I should have done. Clearly I should have done. Um, but he was determined. The look on his face that day, it was all mental game. And, there was no stopping him. And he didn’t do it the easy way either. He went through the world number one, the world number two, I think it was the world number four.
he traveled the hard journey to get to [00:36:00] that final, and then subsequently win it. It was a wonderful, wonderful spectacle to watch. She happens to be my favorite weapon to watch, so. the additional late evening that, that called for was was great. I was there in person to watch it and it just, it was quite the performance and that’s in well done to his coaches.
Obviously everyone’s supporting him, but wow, Eli Dershowitz, that’s. Period. Wow. Men’s Sabre, generally, actually did really well. Women’s Sabre did rather well. Ironically, we were knocked out in Women’s Sabre’s team competition Karlin led Ukrainian team. Which, I applaud it, but at the same time, was found an interesting factoid.
Foil. You can’t take a thing away from Lee Kiefer. we obviously picked up another medal for Nick Itkin. Uh, so overall, really good words. We are, we’re now in a place where we weren’t 10 years ago, where. especially in foil as an expectation upon U. S. fencing. in Sabre, that’s now perhaps starting to be the case.
Perhaps not so much as men’s foil as it is in women’s foil, because of course, Marielle Zagunas. But, you know, our young women’s foil team led by Magda is really quite promising. They could do damage in 24. I think they’re really a team that we should be looking for in 28.
[00:37:29] Phil Andrews: and men’s sabre, you know, again, they’ve had some really good results recently.
And I don’t want to necessarily up the pressure dial on them more than it already has by their own fantastic results. Perhaps with the exception of Eli, I mean, you can’t grumble about someone winning a world championship, right, coming into an Olympic Games. Was it a surprise? Yeah. Uh, and did I think it was particularly good on a partisan Italian soil?
Which will be just as intense next year in France, where France is one of the world’s leading [00:38:00] nations in this sport. And we’re gonna go right up against, likely, a very largely French crowd. Who will want the French to win and expect the French to win Italy was the same way. So if Eli can do it there, I’m not suggesting that we should make him the gold medal favorite, but if he wakes up with the same mentality he did in Milan, then he’s going to do a lot of damage in Paris as well.
[00:38:25] Jill: So how as an organization do you balance momentum and
[00:38:28] Phil Andrews: pressure? I think
if I’m still learning that. No, I look back and we had that momentum that came in and we had these amazing results coming outta Kate Nye and Maddie Rogers and Jordan Dela Cruz, and I was sure, absolutely sure that Jordan Della Cruz would be the first medal for team u s A in Tokyo, period. Not just for weightlifting, but for for Team U, SS a and Jordan Delacruz to that day had had exactly zero bomb outs.
And on that day, she bummed out and, I think I made a mistake in, and we as an organization made a mistake, but ultimately I let that organization in shouting a little too loudly about our chances in Tokyo, and that put too much pressure on our athletes. It came from a place of good intent, but it was not the right move.
And so, you know, it’s a little bit why I’m a little less bullish about. Eli’s phenomenal achievements that I think we have to keep in context. Yes, we have double world number ones in foil. That’s really awesome. And we have the current reigning world champion in Saber. But, you know, let’s go into Paris and see what happens.
it’s not an easy thing to balance those two things. I mean, the best example perhaps is, is Simone Biles. The literal greatest of all time. And she ran [00:40:00] into challenges in Tokyo. And those challenges were, it was, yes, it was the twisties, but it was also associated with pressure. And to a degree that’s a lot of factors around an athlete that contribute or don’t contribute to pressure.
I think I’ll say this though, and, and one of the things that, that when I talk to our athletes and being a slightly larger organization, I’m less involved day to day with our athletes here than I was in in weightlifting. I think one of the key messages is, it doesn’t matter what happens in Paris.
Twelve years ago, taking London, or, or 08, we’d have been absolutely thrilled with the amount of athletes we qualify to the Games, and equally as thrilled with one medal. There’s countries out there who would be thrilled with one medal. Entire countries. And so, for us, what happens, happens. And like I say, I don’t have a good answer for you on that, because I’m not sure I’ve learned what that good answer is, because on one hand, I absolutely want to recognize how phenomenal some of these athletes are, and what they’re doing week in, week out at World Cups and Grands Prixes.
But at the same time, I don’t want that pressure to build to the point where if I don’t come home with an Olympic medal, I’m a failure.
[00:41:18] Jill: I have a question related to that and I can’t figure out how to say it. But in the sense of, USA Fencing has instituted some mental health opportunities for the athletes. Do you find that that helps them? Balance some of this pressure or, you know, it’s, it’s hard. I still trying to find out what I want to say, because it’s an interesting to see you try to change your approach to like the excitement about the Olympics, which is the pinnacle sport for a lot of sporting, but also understanding the immense amount of pressure in event that big brings to athletes and, [00:42:00] and yeah, trying to make it fun.
And exciting versus like, Oh, you better get a medal or, yeah.
[00:42:06] Phil Andrews: And some of those things were almost opposing Jill in nature. Right. And, and, you know, it’s, and I think building culture of support around people is, is really important, but also making sure that support isn’t over balancing into almost cheerleading.
And sometimes that’s appropriate. Sometimes people need that. Sometimes they want a little bit of pressure, but it’s. Balancing all of those things in the melting pot is really not easy. And, you know, we, I’ve always been of the viewpoint of extreme support versus extreme pressure, or extreme stick.
We talked about that already. It’s the right way to go. And I think you’ve heard that from me before, and hopefully you’ve seen it. But, you know, in balancing those things out, Yes, the mental health offerings are important, but it’s more important to get the whole atmosphere right. And frankly, and, you know, to Alison’s point earlier, the atmosphere in Tokyo wasn’t right.
It wasn’t conducive to performance because you’ve got to worry about this issue that’s happening over here. It certainly takes away from the pressure on you to perform because ultimately everyone’s distracted by that issue, but it’s not the ideal. Scenario for an athlete by any stretch of the imagination from a mental space perspective or frankly from a physical perspective either.
So, yes, mental health is an important part of that, a big part of that, but it’s also it’s not just the mental health offerings of here’s someone you can talk to. It’s the mental health care in terms of I care about you as a human being, as opposed to I care about the metal you bring or do not bring home.
And by the way. The worst place in the world is not fourth place at the Olympic Games in most sports. it’s also the one who doesn’t make it because they were next to the team and those people actually get forgotten more often
and I need outreach. They need support. honestly, people need to [00:44:00] know that they cared about and they cared about either way.
[00:44:03] Jill: You mentioned Mariel Zagunis.
It’s been 10, almost 10 years since she won gold. Are you starting to see a legacy in like growth in women’s fencing due to her?
[00:44:18] Phil Andrews: Yes. Women’s fencing is growing. Yes. Women’s fencing in Sabre perhaps particularly is growing, though I don’t necessarily know. Because a lot of the weapon of choice is partly based upon, well, what clubs are near me and what do they teach?
So, there’s certainly a legacy in, in Oregon. Uh, if you look at Magda, for example Magda is basically from Oregon. She’s lived in Colorado as well where her dad, Adam, her coach, Adam has lived. But Magda is also from Oregon. That’s not coincidental. And there’s certainly a legacy of people coming behind Marielle, inspired by Marielle.
Marielle still does quite a lot in the behind the scenes, want better technology to spread women’s fencing. She’s still an ambassador award for service to growing women’s fencing is named in her honor. We created that award last year as part of encouragement to grow women’s fencing, but I’ll be honest.
We still don’t have enough women’s fences. We’re nowhere close to 50 50. We’re nowhere close to parody. It’s not good enough. It needs to be more and needs to be more effort placed upon bringing more women into the sport at all levels, athletes, coaches, referees, and so forth. That’s not to take a thing away from the efforts that have been made successfully or from Mariel, but it needs work.
It needs more people, more. Effort placed on it, more funding as well placed behind it and it’s something that we need to focus on is bringing more women into the sport of fencing. That’s again, we have some phenomenal human beings. We have Mariel Zagunis, now we have Leigh Kiefer, who’s making an impact today, yes, there has been an impact.
Yes, there has been an uptick. Is it directly related to Mariel? [00:46:00] It’s got to be in part, right? There’s no way that someone of that level of success who, you know, At very least this she set a culture of winning. That’s really, really important. When you change the trajectory of performance in the Olympic Games of a federation, you need to do that back.
You guys talk to me. My weightlifting day is a fair bit. And so, you know, part of the reason we went to some lower down tournaments was to do that was to set that culture of winning and CJ Cummings made that impact In weightlifting and that fed through the entire program. I think Marielle’s win has done that in fencing because, to my point about Eli Dershowitz, Eli Dershowitz obviously isn’t a female fencer but he woke up that morning and was absolutely sure he could win the world championship.
I’d argue that as good as Eli is, his belief, his sheer unadulterated belief that he could win probably doesn’t exist without Marielle Zagunis. Because that culture of winning and culture of belief that, you can do it really came from her.
[00:47:02] Alison: So we had Ellen get us on. Wheelchair fencing is growing.
It is. But how do you help it grow?
[00:47:09] Phil Andrews: It’s wheelchair fencing or para fencing as we call it is a real challenge. And like women’s fence and we just talked about is somewhere that absolutely needs to grow. Fencing generally needs to go right. Sabre is the smallest weapon that needs to grow. Women’s fencing is well under 50%.
That needs to grow. Para fencing is in a Materially just different spot. There’s 40, 000 fences active in the U. S. And there’s less than 100 para fences. So, that tells you the challenge. And there’s a few reasons and a few issues. Ellen herself only really found fencing through the Shepherd Centre in Atlanta.
And very kindly, she actually fenced me in foil there. She was the first fencer I fenced in foil. and she took, two hours out of her day to teach me all about fencing and parafencing, and I was really appreciative of that. Ellen has obviously become arguably a world [00:48:00] class parafencer.
She’s a Paralympian, she’s right now in place to go again. And she’s picked up a few medals along the way over the last couple of years, and she’s doing really well. We need more of her, and we need more of her colleagues, men and women, across all of the different classifications APHC as well. So there’s a few challenges that exist and don’t exist in other sports.
One is… Cost of frames. So it costs about 5, 000 for a frame set. So not every fencing club in the country has a para fencing set up and some feasibly cannot set one up because they’re not accessible enough as a club. There’s a club. For example, I visited in Boston, which is at the top of a very old building.
It’s a wonderful club. Very nice club. But even if I paid for their power of fencing frames. There’ll be no point, because you can’t get to them. So, it’s, there’s some issues there. A second issue is, in para fencing, you typically fence two of three weapons. you sometimes throw three weapons. So, Ellen will usually compete in foil and epee, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to fence her in sabre either.
So, in that case, you need to have a club that knows how to coach somebody in more than one weapon. Okay, that’s overcomable and you need clubs who will focus on that outreach. So, I think one of the things we’ve got to do is accept that power fencing is just a different spot of its evolution than able bodied fencing.
Meaning that we need to put effort. primarily into bringing people into the front door, particularly ahead of Los Angeles, where we will have host country spots for not just athletes, but also for referees and for armorers and for classifiers. And all of those people need development between now and 28.
and we just talked about Mariel Zagunis and that’s probably, you know, a good analogy. Pre Mariel [00:50:00] Zagunis fencing is We’re still probably stronger than where Para is today, but Para needs a lot of help and work. To become the sort of powerhouse you’re seeing from from GB, for example, we can learn a lot from Great Britain.
So to a degree, Italian and French power fencing, Hungarian power fencing, all strong and additional strong powerhouses in the able bodied side of the sport to GB is a more interesting one for me because they’re not necessarily a powerhouse in the able bodied side of the sport, but I’m really well At producing para fences.
this year we, we took on our 1st, full time para fencing managers. They’re just to concentrate on how do I make para fencing better in this country, but we’ve got to put more again, more time and energy required in that area to bring it up to the same level that we’re seeing in labor bodied fencing.
And that starts with people being able to get into a chair in the 1st place. And be able to fence and knowing that’s an option to them, if they do want to explore. Power sport in general and in power sport, there is the opportunity to try a sport and perhaps move to another one. Rick Swarga, who’s one of our athletes on our national team, started, for example, in wheelchair basketball and swapped over to fencing because he liked it a little bit more.
That’s okay. You can do that.
[00:51:19] Alison: Can we just clone Bebe Vio and send her to every country? Just everyone gets their own of her? Well,
[00:51:26] Phil Andrews: yeah, there’s that possibility too.
I mean, that’s helpful, but, you know, interestingly, we talked about that. The program there was good as it was. The program there… Was helped in the same way we were helped by Marielle.
[00:51:43] Jill: What are you excited for for Paris? Besides the fact that fencing is just going to be an amazing location.
[00:51:49] Phil Andrews: Yeah, I was going to say, I mean, Paris, Paris for fencing is pretty cool. we have the best venue in the Olympic games.
We have the , perhaps best in terms of the, the home sport [00:52:00] advantage, if you like, where people are going to be like they were for karate and judo and another native Japanese sports in Tokyo before, of course, the spectators weren’t allowed like it was for cycling in, in London and rowing, it’s that special crown.
What are you going to see in Paris? And I’m going to say, I know you said besides, but sorry, that’s certainly one I think we should be excited about. And then, you know, I’m actually really excited about Women’s Sabre. Because I think, That’s a team that’s really interesting for the future, for what we’re gonna do in 28.
And maybe they’ll pull off a surprise in Paris that we can have a fun time celebrating just like we’re celebrating Men’s Sabres victories in Milan. But… yes, we have some great choices, chances in foil, but I’m really excited about that young up and coming women’s sabre team and seeing what they do between now in Paris, in Paris, and then what the future holds for them going into Los Angeles.
[00:52:59] Jill: Thank you so much. Been great talking with you as always.
[00:53:04] Phil Andrews: You guys too. I appreciate you having me on. It’s really been fun. And I listen, I won’t say I get every episode, but I listen to the majority and this is one of the best podcasts for the Olympics out there. So I try.
[00:53:16] Jill: Thank you.
Thank you so much, Phil. You can follow Phil on Instagram. He’s a. phil . And he is a good follow on LinkedIn as well. We will have links to both of those in the show notes. A reminder that this weekend we will be at the Olympian show at the Hotel MDR in Marina del Rey. That’s October 12th through the 15th, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
So if you are in the area, please come down and see us.
[00:53:43] Alison: We have fancy new pins to show people.
[00:53:46] Jill: It’s very exciting. We’ll have a whole bunch of stuff and we’ll have a lot of our pin friends around. It’s going to be a great event. So we would love to see you there. And we will have a Kickstarter coming up pretty soon.
It’s going to be in a [00:54:00] few weeks.
[00:54:00] Alison: Absolutely. The weather gets colder and the Kickstarter gets hotter.
[00:54:04] Jill: Right. we will be having a Kickstarter to help cover some of the costs for Paris 2024 as I spent. A chunk of this morning, wiring money somewhere. I hope it went to the right bank.
[00:54:18] Alison: Somewhere in France, someone has your money.
[00:54:21] Jill: Right. The bills are coming due and the costs are real and we are working on getting there and we will need your support to make it happen. Also, thank you a supporter.
That’s flame live pod. com slash support patrons. We’ll be getting a new bonus episode coming up soon. We’ve been doing rule changes that you can look forward to in Paris 2024. So we’ll have another one of those episodes ready to go soon. And if you aren’t able to give money. Right now, that’s fine. We need support in other ways, too.
One of the big ones is Signing up for and reading our weekly newsletter, which is an excellent read I think because it gives another take on the theme for each week. You can sign up at flamealivepod.
com Just scroll to the bottom and look for the newsletter signup
Seoul 1988 History Moment
[00:55:11] Jill: That sound means it is time for our history moment. All year long, we’ve been looking at Seoul 1988 as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. Allison, it is your turn for story. What do you’ve got?
[00:55:27] Alison: I’m going to talk a little bit about fencing. No surprise here. It was an interesting competition, but not in the usual way.
That we talk about some of these competitions at the time, fencers were looking for new ways to cheat. Oh, really? Absolutely. So in 1976, modern pentathlete, Boris Anishenko had souped up his epa to be able to fool the electronic scoring system. I do remember this, right? So that it would score a touch when he hadn’t touched, [00:56:00] but that was specifically in the weapon itself.
By the 80s, a system was devised where it wasn’t in the weapon. It was, say, in the hands of the coach. It was away from the actual fencer so that they could touch two wires together and it would score a point. Wow. Accusations were made at the 84 Olympics that this was happening, but thankfully did not make an appearance in 88.
It was a very short lived controversy in fencing.
[00:56:35] Jill: Thank goodness. I don’t know if I could deal with another controversy coming out of Seoul. Poor Seoul.
[00:56:42] Alison: I know. Much more common than touching two wires together was something called bout dumping. And we had come across this in table tennis in later Olympics, where fencers were purposely losing matches to gain a better spot.
In the pool rounds. Well, the 80s, it became a group effort and fencers, even from different countries were being accused of ganging up. Less popular fencers or Eastern Bloc countries would gang up on Western Europe or for political purposes. Okay.
[00:57:24] Jill: Okay. So how did this play out for the competition?
[00:57:27] Alison: Yes.
So Americans and Canadians both claimed that this was happening in Seoul, that the Eastern Bloc countries were ganging up on the North American fencers. Nothing was ever proven. The Americans and Canadians backed down. Showed it, and the, the issue went away. And it seems to have just disappeared from the sport, at least in terms of how people talked about it.
So whether bout dumping will be an issue we see in the future, who knows?[00:58:00]
[00:58:00] Jill: Hmm. So, lots of accusations at Seoul. But nothing
[00:58:06] Alison: untoward. Exactly. There were some happy things in, happening in Seoul. In their last appearance at the Summer Olympics, West Germany won the most gold medals and the most total medals in all of the fencing disciplines with a total sweep of women’s foil.
Oh, wow. Yeah. Sweden’s Kirsten Palm competed in the last of her seven Olympics in individual foil
Pavel Kolobov was part of the bronze winning Soviet EPE team. He would have been forgotten as a fencer, but he later became Russia’s representative to the Anti Doping Agency. And his last meeting with WADA? It was November 2015 when WADA declared Russia non compliant.
[00:58:55] Jill: Wow. Wow.
[00:58:59] Alison: How the sword is extended throughout the sport.
[00:59:02] Alison: Welcome to Shookflist
[00:59:10] Jill: on. It is the time of the show where we check in with our team, keep the flame alive. These are past guests of the show, as well as listeners who make up our citizenship of our very own country, Shookflist on. Welcome. Welcome. Lots of sports in action.
[00:59:24] Alison: Lots of sports. So Luuka Jones finished fifth at the canoe slalom test event, but she won her first world cup title in the kayak
[00:59:35] Jill: cross.
Yeah. , both Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint with their respective partners finished on top of their pools at the beach volleyball world championships in Mexico. Semifinals and finals continue this
[00:59:47] Alison: weekend. Ellen Geddes finished ninth in foil at the wheelchair fencing world championships in
[00:59:55] Jill: Archivist Terri Hedgepeth has left her role at the Archives of Madison [01:00:00] Square Garden and will be the new Archives Program Manager for Boston Children’s Hospital.
[01:00:05] Alison: I know where she’ll be. That’s a great part of town. Don McLeod’s documentary Conviction, The Steve Jentner Story, has been named a Phoenix Short Film Festival for
[01:00:17] Jill: October. And we have several Shukla Stanis representing Team USA at the Pan American Games. That includes breaker Sonny Choi, Karate Ka, Tom Scott, speed, this will be inline skating for Erin Jackson.
Sailors Stephanie Robel and Maggie Shea, shooter Tim Sherry, Taekwondo competitor. Madeline Gorman, sure. Jordan Gray, who will be competing in the heptathlon, not the decathlon, and then hammer thrower Deanna Price. And Pan Am Sports is going to have more than 1900 hours of coverage at panamsportschannel.
org. Apparently, this is all going to be free to watch. So I know what we’re going to be doing. Test event
[01:00:58] Alison: for us. Getting 20 pound backpack as you watch.
Paris 2024 News
[01:01:04] Jill: Yes, Paralympic tickets are officially on sale. This past weekend was Paralympic Day. It sounded like a big event again with thousands and thousands of people down in downtown Paris, looking at Paralympic sport, trying it out. Our very own Matt Stutzman was there to give demonstrations and meet people.
Thank you. Hopefully tickets sell well have not seen
[01:01:35] Alison: yet. Yeah, I haven’t seen any results yet. They haven’t published any. Sales numbers as of this week, but we’ll see
[01:01:43] Jill: hopefully, and then the, it has been decided that the flame for the torch and the torch relay will be lit in Stoke Mandeville from now on.
Apparently they’ve just generated a flame. I, I. couldn’t remember what Tokyo was, but they did [01:02:00] not have the same process that the Olympics have where the flame is lit in Greece. But now they will always light it from Stoke Mandeville where that is the birthplace of the Paralympic
[01:02:11] Alison: movement. I mean, it makes sense with what the point of the flame is.
The idea is you light it in Greece for the Olympics because that was the birthplace. Mhm. Lit the fire. And then Stroke Mandeville being for the Paralympics. It seems so obvious. Like why haven’t they been doing this all along? It’s great. Wonderful.
[01:02:29] Jill: It’s been a while since we heard that one.
[01:02:34] Alison: And this one makes me really mad.
[01:02:37] Jill: I know why, because the athlete in question had no choice in the matter. China has been dropped from the Paris 2024 eventing competition after a horse tested positive at the Olympic qualifier in Ireland in June. The horse’s name is Chico.
is written by Alex Huatiang and they tested positive for altrinigest, which suppresses or synchronizes estrus in the horses. That is unfortunate. China, I believe came in second, but in Japan is going to replace China at Paris. And we didn’t mention this last week because there was really no news to report, but they did have the cast did have the hearing for Camellia Valleva.
And guess what? Russia wasn’t ready. We’re
[01:03:23] Alison: putting it off because we’d like to just have this thing going on for 475
[01:03:29] Jill: years. Right. So apparently they didn’t have enough time to put their case together or whatever together. They requested a delay and it’s been put off again until November sometime. See, now the
[01:03:40] Alison: horse had no choice.
The horse is innocent in this situation. Camilla Valjeva, putting things in her own body. She’s not responsible.
LA 2028 News
[01:03:51] Jill: This was exciting news from LA 2028, the new sports at LA 2028 that would like to [01:04:00] add to the Olympic program has been announced.
[01:04:03] Alison: This is big. These are a
[01:04:05] Jill: surprise. Right? As always, many, many sports are clamoring to get on the Olympic program.
So LA would like to choose flag football, baseball, softball, lacrosse, squash, and cricket. And that would be a 2020 format of cricket, which is a much shorter game. Out will be breakin. They did not get included again, so this is going to be like karate, Paris will be one and done unless Brisbane decides to pick them up again.
[01:04:39] Alison: I am not a fan of this one and done thing with these, the host gets to choose the five sports and then you’ve got these sports like breakin, like softball was in and now it’s out and now it’s back in. Where How can a sport really build its grassroots, if at any moment it’s in or out?
[01:05:01] Jill: I thought that as well, in a way, because with demonstration sports, you had the, well, we’re going to hope that it gets in the games.
You knew where you stood. Yeah, this is a hope we are applying or this is our, our test for you, please accept us in. And then this now the host city gets to choose the sports really does mean. Are we in, are we out? It’s almost world games in a way when they, when they drop sports and add sports and you don’t know where you stand, that makes it very difficult for federations and for athletes to know what, because you would think that dance sport would hope more people would get involved with dance sport or break in because they’re seeing it in the Olympics and maybe they will get a bump because people will see it and want to do it.
But the idea that they could become an Olympian is now going to be out of the question again until 2032, maybe, and
[01:05:57] Alison: I saw an interesting article [01:06:00] talking about this, and I’m sorry, I don’t have the reference, but saying that these host city choices have become a way to build participation in the sport instead of in the old days, With demonstration sports, you had to prove that the sport was widely played to get in.
So it’s kind of reversing. The sport is growing organically, and then you get into the Olympics, whereas this is saying, let’s put it in as this host city choice, and that will make it grow. Because honestly, flag football?
[01:06:36] Jill: I know. And I mean, I watched it during the World Games, did not love it. Except for the Italian quarterback who had the playbook and his back by his waistband that I enjoyed and then the women’s, the Mexican women’s team who were so fast and they were really fun to watch, but the play was lopsided.
There weren’t that many countries involved. to get more teams involved, but that’s not a whole
[01:07:04] Alison: lot, not much other thing that I saw pointed out. These are all team sports.
What’s happening with the athlete total quota.
[01:07:12] Jill: That’s a big one. And squash would be the odd man out for individual sports, but yeah, what are we doing with this athlete quota? And. Again, I’ve read this as well. One little point, and I don’t have the reference. Would they be able to define athlete quota as the number of the athletes in the village at any given time?
So, be in the village, get out of the village.
[01:07:36] Alison: See, but that takes away the whole point of the Olympics being this unifying thing, because one of the things that we’ve talked about with so many athletes was going to the opening, going to the closing, staying in the village beyond your competition, meeting all these people from different sports, going and watching, and being a team all together, cheering for Team [01:08:00] USA, for example, in any sport.
And yet we’re taking this away for this, but softball’s there,
[01:08:10] Jill: I knew you would be happy with that. I love the fact that softball is in, it’ll be interesting to see what baseball comes up with. Because again, we don’t have major league players unless something magical happens, which I doubt. But that’s, baseball is one of those where.
You don’t have a ton of and softball too. There’s not a whole lot of country representation. It feels like I would say that if we went to the world rankings, we’d be pleasantly surprised at how many countries are participating in baseball and softball at the level. We
[01:08:43] Alison: don’t know. Well, the one thing that’s really good about softball that we’re seeing actually in gymnastics this past week, the gymnastics world championships, you’re seeing a lot of new countries.
Being represented at the high level of gymnastics because they’re competing at American universities. And because the style of gymnastics has changed, the age is getting older. We’re seeing a lot of more college gymnasts going back and forth between elite gymnastics and college gymnastics. So you have, I believe she’s from the university of Nebraska.
Who’s going to be representing Algeria. Oh, right, right. So you have a lot of that cross pollination happening and softball is very much that. So you have Canadian players, you have Puerto Rican players, you have Mexican players all coming to American universities and playing softball. So I know that’s regional, that’s only right there, but I’m sure that happens with a lot of other countries, especially in South America.
Those players come to United States universities and softball is a big university sport.
[01:09:50] Jill: it’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is at the session. So, what’s coming up is the IOC session, which is going to be this [01:10:00] coming week in Mumbai, Cricket getting announced at Mumbai.
I’m sure that will be a big deal, but I don’t know if this is just going to be a rubber stamp. Or if there’s going to be some discussion about really, can we add five sports, four of which are team sports, because even if you take out modern pentathlon and you take out weightlifting, which you may not because weightlifting is getting some praise for the overall it has given itself.
Well, they’ve already said that boxing is not going to be out inside the games had a big article about boxing and TBAC talking about that because the international boxing association is the first ever federation to get kicked out of the Olympic movement. So they don’t have a whole lot of experience saying, doing that, but they did say that boxing should be safe for.
LA 2028, they didn’t want to hurt the athletes, but they also have said that we cannot continue to run this at the Olympics. That’s not a long term solution. They’ve also said that world boxing, which is a splinter association is nowhere near ready to be recognized. And that’s, it’s this very tiny, there’s not that many countries in it.
You need a lot more global representation in order to be recognized as the Federation for the Olympics.
And yeah, we don’t know about modern pentathlon. Those will be some of the decisions I think at the session. Will we see these sports that are on the bubble and weren’t officially announced in the program? Will they be in? Will they be out?
[01:11:35] Alison: A modern pentathlon and weightlifting nowhere near account for the kind of numbers that all these team sports would cover.
Even weightlifting where there’s lots of classes and there’s lots of different forms there, but still. It. Hmm. No. Yeah. But softballs are there.
[01:11:57] Jill: [01:12:00] The Guardian has an interesting article about the negotiations for the sports that got put on the final shortlist because, as you remember, they were supposed to be announced like a month ago and apparently there was a lot of. Heated discussion, it sounds like. Discussion seems like a very diplomatic word, but it sounds like it was very tense on the back and forth between the organizing committee of LA 2028 and the IOC to come up with this final
[01:12:30] Alison: list.
And there’s always the tension between United States and the USOPC and the IOC. Yes. You know, Americans, we want to do it our way. And the IOC says, no, we’re the grown up in the room. You have to do it our way. So there’s, that piece to it.
[01:12:48] Jill: Apparently the IOC really wants cricket on the program. And LA 2028 really wanted flag football and baseball softball on the program. Neither side cared what the other one wanted.
[01:13:03] Alison: No surprise.
[01:13:04] Jill: And there, as The Guardian says, and this is a really interesting article by Sean Ingle, Neither side had much interest in the other’s preferences. There were bitter arguments over money and numbers too, and relations became so strained that a decision was pushed back by nearly a month. Yet in the end, an uneasy peace was brokered. And We, this is why that decision, that sport decision was supposed to come out last month way before the session in Mumbai.
And apparently this is how it happened.
[01:13:35] Alison: And we hate when it’s so laid bare to us that the decisions are being made because of money. And this article is saying the sports that get in and don’t get in, it’s purely a money. So Tomas Bach said, I want cricket because the Olympics as a brand doesn’t have a foothold in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the [01:14:00] epicenter of cricket.
So let’s get it on the Olympic program and that’ll build the Olympic brand in these countries. I don’t think so, to be honest. You don’t think so. Here’s why I don’t think so. Because I think people in those countries will tune in for cricket. And that is all, it’ll just be another big cricket tournament, but that the Olympic brand, I don’t think that that will translate into watching a whole bunch of other sports or all of a sudden becoming fans of the Olympics just because of cricket, they will become fans of Olympic cricket and those players like in basketball that, that go, and it may build cricket as a sport.
I can see why cricket wants in, it’s going to build their sport internationally. But I don’t see that translating backwards.
[01:14:47] Jill: Interesting. Because then, with that argument, I wonder what the viewers of Rugby 7s are like. Did they get a bump in viewership from rugby fans who did not watch the rest of Rugby 7s?
the Olympics and same with basketball. When you put it, I mean, basketball has been in for a long time, but when you took out the amateur element and had the dream teams, does that make a difference to who watches
[01:15:14] Alison: Olympic basketball? Well, I think it makes a difference as to who watches Olympic basketball.
I don’t think it makes a difference as if you get people who only watch basketball to watch other Olympic
[01:15:27] Jill: sports. I wonder if it is a, way you package it and you slide other sports into cricket coverage or you put cricket coverage heavy on your evening wrap up. I guess that would be how would they televise these sports?
In those countries and I mean, India is interesting because a giant audience, of course they are field hockey mad, but India hasn’t done as well as it used to do back around when [01:16:00] India got its independence from Great Britain. You think the amount of fuss that was made over Abhinav Bindra when he won his gold medal, and the amount of fuss made over Niraj Chopra when he won the javelin gold at Tokyo 2020.
There is interest in the Olympics. I wonder if it’s a chicken and egg thing where broadcasters in the country are going, well, we don’t get a whole lot of medals, so we don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on Television rights or broadcasting rights versus there’s probably interest there and there’s no way for them to see it because when you do have these gold medalists, the outpouring is huge.
[01:16:42] Alison: heroes and one of the things that that article from the Guardian who. heavily quotes from our friend Michael Payne talked about is now the IOC can charge a fortune for Indian television rights, whereas before they were trying to give them away. They couldn’t get much for them.
[01:17:02] Jill: Yeah. So that’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out for LA.
We’ll have to keep an eye on that because It’s interesting. And
[01:17:10] Alison: follow the money and that makes me mad, I’m not so naive, but I just, I want to keep my five colored glasses on sometimes and say, we’re putting these sports in because the sports are growing.
[01:17:25] Jill: Right. and flag football, also interesting where Michael Payne’s.
Saying, really, why are you putting this in the games, except for the fact that you’ve got the NFL in America, the National Football League, putting a ton of money, trying to make flag football a thing, and who is going to do your promotion for you? The National Football League, they will spend their money helping you promote this at the Olympics.
So you’re getting some free promotion, hopefully out of
[01:17:55] Alison: this deal. And then vice versa, where the NFL [01:18:00] will NBC, the American broadcaster can then advertise its NFL coverage during the Olympics during those flag football games. Right.
[01:18:09] Jill: Because that will be just ahead of football season in America.
[01:18:14] Alison: strange bedfellows.
[01:18:15] Jill: Right. the other interesting part in this article are the tensions about how the IOC was really pushing urban sports for Paris. And no breakdancing, which is probably the most urban, urban sport
[01:18:30] Alison: of them all. I mean, when we talked to Sunny Choi, it was, you need a piece of cardboard.
Maybe. You don’t, there’s no equipment. There’s no place you need. There’s no studio. You can literally just go outside in your sneakers and start breakdancing. Or not even outside. I mean, you need like a five by five.
[01:18:50] Jill: So, it’ll be interesting to see if you’re also talking about geographic holes, squash fills a geographic hole because Egypt is very big in squash. So you fill in a section of Africa and with the sport that They are currently excelling in and maybe you draw that part of the world into lacrosse is something that’s been trying to get back in.
You can see the ties to America in that, that makes sense. And you see the ties with baseball, softball,
[01:19:19] Alison: but the only one that’s so obvious to me because it’s such, wasn’t something like 80 percent of the, I’m making the statistic up, but there was some ridiculously high statistic of the connection between the American softball team in Tokyo and California.
Either they were from California. They went to California universities. They had trained in California. Like there was a really strong connection between California and the American softball team. Like it’s the center of American softball. So I look for that. We’ll look for that. Laura Berg, you have to clear that up for us.[01:20:00]
So what will this be for Laura if she gets to coach again, like Olympics 423?
[01:20:05] Jill: Perhaps, perhaps. So it’ll be interesting to see how this goes down at the IOC session in Mumbai, and if it just gets a blanket ratification, or if there’s going to be some discussion over these events. And it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the athlete quota for sure. Well, that is a happy note to end on, and we will call it a week. let us know what you think of Sports Federation Organization. You
[01:20:32] Alison: can contact us on X and Instagram at flamealivepod, email us at flamealivepod at gmail. com. Call or text us at 2 0 8 That’s 2 0 8 flame it. Be sure to join the keep the flame alive podcast group on Facebook.
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[01:21:02] Jill: Next week, we will be talking with Dr. Michelle Donnelly about gender equity for Paris 2024 and what that really means. And we will also have news and, uh, from the IOC session in Mumbai, we’ll be looking out for what is really interesting coming out of that session. So thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.