This week we are moving to the fencing piste to learn how wheelchair fencing works. Contributor Ben talks with Paralympian Ellen Geddes about the ins and outs of the sport and how she got into it.
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For our Seoul 1988 history moment, our intern Annalee Deabel tells of yet another controversy in the boxing ring, this time about South Korean boxer Byeon Jeong-il, whose headbutts rankled the referee, leading to pure chaos–and then sadness–in the ring:
In news from TKFLASTAN, we have updates from:
In Paris 2024 news, we have updates on ticket sales, a follow-up on the cardboard beds, some angry booksellers who work along the Seine, and medal predictions from Gracenote. Also, if you need a new watch, Omega’s Paris 2024 limited edition looks pretty snazzy.
We have news from LA 2028 that couldn’t wait a day.
Milan-Cortina 2026 landed a sponsor that has Alison bubbling with excitement. Also, the Paralympics will feature a new medal event, and we’re inching a tiny bit closer to gender parity.
And the World Games has announced the official sports program for Chengdu 2025. We’ve got the new and returning sports.
Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Ellen Geddes.
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 Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.
Wheelchair Fencing with Paralympian Ellen Geddes (Ep 298)
[00:00:28] 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’m your host, Jill Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown.
Alison, hello, how are you?
[00:00:48] Alison: I am a little disappointed but not surprised.
[00:00:52] Jill: How so?
[00:00:53] Alison: You’ve kept me away. From people with weapons. Again,
[00:00:58] Jill: it’s not me, and I think it’s probably a good choice. Little foreshadowing to today’s interview, which we’ll get to in a moment. First, we wanted to mention thinking about the people of Beijing right now because they have had the heaviest rainfall in 140 years post typhoon, do sur.
And a lot of flooding going on within the city. The Yongding River has flooded over, which is very close to the big air venue. Hopefully everyone is doing all right and it will dry out soon.
Ellen Geddes Interview
[00:01:33] Jill: Well, today’s interview, we are excited to have Wheelchair fencer. Ellen Geddes on the show. Ellen competed at her first Paralympics in Tokyo and two weapons. She got seventh and Team epee eighth and Team Foil 10th and Individual Foil, and 11th and individual epee contributor. Ben, back on the show. Yay. He talked with Ellen to learn how the sport of wheelchair fencing works.
Take a listen.
[00:01:59] Ben Jackson: Ellen, you’re a [00:02:00] fencer. You’re wheelchair fencer. Can you talk about what that is and what the sport entails and what weapons you fence?
[00:02:08] Ellen Geddes: So, wheelchair fencing is a seated sport and it is very similar to able-bodied fencing other than the fact that there is no footwork involved and there’s no moving up and down the strip in the wheelchairs either.
The wheelchairs are set at a fixed distance. So the dynamics of the sport are almost faster and more intense than a lot of able-bodied fencing because there’s no exiting from distance. You’re always within distance to be able to hit your opponent or have your opponent hit you. So there’s a lot more blade work and there’s a lot more fast hand action.
There are three different weapons that are Competed in epee, foil and Sabre. I compete in epee and Foil. And, and they are different in that they have different target areas and rules, but it’s still all basically you hit another person with a sword.
[00:03:07] Ben Jackson: So let’s talk about that just for a second.
The difference between the three epee and foil are kind of similar right in, in one aspect.
[00:03:17] Ellen Geddes: So epi and foil are both point weapons. You have to hit your opponent with the tip of the blade for you to score a touch. Sabre, if you touch your opponent with any part of the blade, you get a touch.
And then epee and foil are different. Where in epee, as long as you hit your opponent, you get the touch. If you both hit each other at the same time, you both get the touch. Foil is a right of way weapon. So you have to have control of the action in order to receive credit for um, hitting your opponent.
And that involves either starting your attack first or hitting the opponent’s blade before you hit them. And then saber is like foil in that way. It is also a right of way weapon. So
[00:03:59] Ben Jackson: I [00:04:00] wanna come back to what you talked about before with the. Closeness of this sport. But first, I think, I wanna ask, how did you get into this?
Like what, what made you say, I really want to hit somebody with a sword?
[00:04:14] Ellen Geddes: So I, um, was at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for my spinal cord injury rehab. I broke my back in 2011. And then did, you know, spinal cord injury rehab for nearly eight months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta? One Saturday I was down in the gym actually.
My, my mom had gotten me to go down to the gym to do some extra out, and it never would’ve occurred to me to do that on my own. And I ran into the Shepherd Fencing team practicing and it looked like fun. And the team captain at the time Dennis asked me if I thought it would be fun to stab people, and I said yes.
And so, here we are. So it
[00:04:52] Ben Jackson: wasn’t out of deep seated anger then it was more of the idea you wanted. No. You thought it would be a good time?
[00:04:59] Ellen Geddes: Yeah. No, it seemed, it seemed entertaining. it’s a fun sport I experience. No I don’t, I don’t, I’m very competitive, but I don’t get any, like, people talk about it as being like, A, uh, release for their pent up frustrations, and that just, that’s not the energy I bring to it.
[00:05:18] Ben Jackson: So when you’re in the chairs to fence mm-hmm. You, you talked about how, the standard fencing strip is something like 14. How close are you to each other as you’re fencing?
[00:05:32] Ellen Geddes: So you measure the distance, so it’s different for every opponent, so it’s based on your height. Okay. So you measure the distance.
So you’re basically, they can touch either the tip of your elbow, with your arm kind of turned at a right angle to your body with, for an bay. And then for both Sabre and Foil, it’s to the inside of your elbow. So it’s about three inches shorter before either SARE or foil. And is that the, it’s very close.
It’s the [00:06:00] length of the weapon plus like the length of your bicep. So it’s the bicep length that varies. Right.
[00:06:06] Ben Jackson: But would that have to be for the smaller fencer though, because obviously, yeah, so you measure
[00:06:10] Ellen Geddes: for the smaller fencer. So I am five 10. Was five, whatever. I’m still five 10 long, even if I don’t stand up anymore.
Right. Um, so I frequently they measure their distance to like the inside of the elbow and I’m frequently like nearly touching their body.
[00:06:28] Ben Jackson: Oh, okay. Okay. So from a strategy perspective, is that an advantage or disadvantage? Because I feel like you’ve got somebody who’s kind of inside of your reach the whole time, but.
They are, they’re kind of inside, right? Like, in other words, they could kind of get their point, your point past them and, but they’re in,
[00:06:52] Ellen Geddes: yeah. So shooting past people is a huge problem, right? Like if you’ve gotten past Target, you have to go a long ways to get back to them, right? And so making sure that I don’t overreach on, especially on people that are shorter than me is a, uh, big aspect of my training.
[00:07:08] Ben Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. So had you ever seen fencing before this though? Have you ever watched the Olympics or seen it any place else, or was it really just at the Shepherd Center?
[00:07:19] Ellen Geddes: Yeah. Fencing really wasn’t in my purview. I certainly knew it, it exists. I had some friends who did pentathlon, so I had a vague idea that fencing was a thing.
Right? Not that like one touch up a is. Particularly a good representation of fencing. But, you know, I at least knew it existed as a sport and kind of understood the, like, gear and all of that. But no, I’d never really interacted with fencing until I started doing it.
[00:07:46] Ben Jackson: Okay. And so you start fencing.
How soon was it before you started to think, gee, maybe I should be doing this internationally. Maybe I should be thinking about the Paralympics, that kind of thing. [00:08:00] So,
[00:08:01] Ellen Geddes: In the United States, there aren’t very many para fencers. And so as soon as I started fencing, because I am a woman and because I have a spinal cord injury, so the category I fit into for the Paralympics is a very small subset of people.
And there were no women who were in my category in the United States currently competing at all. Okay? And so as soon as I basically. Held a fencing weapon. I was encouraged to go and compete internationally and to like, think about the Paralympics. I do ultimately think that like that was, it made my road more difficult.
I, competed internationally for the first time, probably within my first year of fencing. It very much felt like being thrown to the wolves. I. Have certainly made very good positive forward progress in my fencing, but it’s been very interesting. Like pre Tokyo, before I went to my first games, everybody was like, oh, you know, your fencing has made such progress.
Like, what do you think? Like the big changes. And I was like, well, I broke my back. A year and a half before, the first time I went to an international fencing competition. I’ve learned how to exist in the chair now. Like I know how my body works in a wheelchair, and so that’s made a huge difference in my fencing.
[00:09:22] Ben Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. So talk about that. What does that mean when you say, you know, how your body works now in the chair?
[00:09:28] Ellen Geddes: Like what? So it’s like swimming, right? When you first learn how to swim,
Well, so it’s, I mean, it’s like swimming. So when you first learn how to swim, you’re basically learning how to not drown. You’re not learning how to be fast, right? Right. So there’s a lot of picking up the skill sets to exist. So like, knowing where my body is in the chair, like knowing where my bare various balance points are, like knowing how far I can reach before I’m gonna lose my balance.
Being confident in where I can put myself. In space, just like [00:10:00] in the chair has made me better at like moving my body back and forth in the chair for fencing.
[00:10:05] Ben Jackson: Okay. And you talked about so in various pair of sports there are sort of different classifications. Is that the same with fencing?
[00:10:14] Ellen Geddes: Yes. So in fencing internationally, there are three different classifications, a, B, and C. A is generally amputees or people with like a little bit of cerebral palsy or like mild spina bifida. Generally speaking, it’s people who walk. B is generally speaking people with spinal cord injuries. The main, the main Factor that everybody has is a lack of core muscles.
Okay. Um, and then C is someone who also has impairment to their upper limbs. So, you know, you get some like c-spine injuries that result in a lack of finger function or a lack of tricep
[00:10:50] Ben Jackson: function. Okay. Okay. And if there’s a small group of people who are fencing this in the United States, I mean the fencing community in the United States, in my.
Impression is smaller than it is around the world anyway. And now you’re talking about a smaller subset. How hard is it to find people to train with? How hard is it to practice?
[00:11:12] Ellen Geddes: Yeah, so, finding different people to practice with is extremely difficult. I do a lot of my practicing against able-bodied fencers who just come and sit down in the chair with me. And I do a lot of like just training with my coach who watches me compete and comes to all of my competitions and does a lot of like video replay watching my opponent.
- And then, kind of trying to emulate like what he sees as the, uh, prevailing, set of tactics.
And so we work kind of on all of that. Okay.
[00:11:44] Ben Jackson: And when you’re, so, when you’re fencing able-bodied, fencers mm-hmm. I’m guessing that they think and fence differently. Than the people that you probably face in the [00:12:00] wheelchair settings just because they’re not used to it.
[00:12:03] Ellen Geddes: Yes. So I don’t, I fence able eyed fencers, you know, on a fairly frequent basis, but it’s not the majority of the training I do, like the majority of the training I do is like with my coach, like working on like specific tactics because.
B fencers do move in the chair so differently than like able-bodied people do just because of the lack of core muscle. Mm-hmm. And I do have a few friends from different countries that I try to very purposefully like get in the chair with, before the competition starts. Anytime we’re out Just as like a little bit of a refresher and practice you know, before we get going.
So I’ve made some good friends from other countries that are happy to have the extra warmup time. And so
[00:12:50] Ben Jackson: you posted, I think today about a, an international camp. So some folks have come in, is that right?
[00:12:57] Ellen Geddes: Yeah, so I am in Vancouver, Washington right now. And I’ve been friends for quite a while with one of the referees from Canada, Suzanne.
And I was able to see her and she helped with the camp and helped with some like right of way type questions. And then an athlete from Italy was in the area. He was actually getting set up to go to like commercial pilot school or I’m not sure. And so he came and he fenced, So that was exciting and like a very good opportunity to get to defense some other people.
So I was very glad to be able to be, you know, up here at Orion with myself and like one of my other U s A teammates and we got defense Mateo for a day. And so it was a good, a good bonus.
[00:13:43] Ben Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. So I wanna ask about this, because you mentioned this before, and it’s something that I was thinking about as I was preparing for this interview, which is that idea of an able-bodied fencer.
Which I fence, I [00:14:00] can always run away. You know, I can kind of, yeah. Uh, retreat and move on the strip, and I feel like it requires a different kind of mindset when you are at that fixed distance .How intense does it feel to be like right there across from somebody?
[00:14:18] Ellen Geddes: You certainly don’t have any like, options to take a step, step back and reset and start over.
I never fenced on my feet, so like, I don’t know any different. But I’ve certainly noticed, especially like if I got someone who’s an epic fencer to sit down with me, they’re used to kind of being able to like, take a breath, take some space, take some time, and that’s just like not really an option.
[00:14:40] Ben Jackson: how intensely then are you cross-training just for that kind of, it, it feels like it would be a huge energy expenditure that you are right there and you are kind of fighting it out each point.
[00:14:54] Ellen Geddes: Honestly, it feels more like mental energy than physical energy to me. Like the bouts don’t really take that long.
It is rare for me to feel. Particularly tired and about like I have some various injuries like in my elbow or my wrist that are problematic. And so like my joints start to feel a little iffy sometimes. Like the tendons that have had problems feel problematic. But I. Like overall, like body tired and overall fatigue, like within and about, just like really isn’t a thing.
Mental fatigue on like focus and staying on and like not getting distracted, you know, losing focus and then losing touches is a bigger factor for me. So then you’re, I’ve done kind of a lot of psych,
Sports psych work. So I wanted to ask
[00:15:42] Ben Jackson: about sports psychology. Yes. Yeah. Oh, so, so what does that work entail?
Like what are you, is it, what is that like? Is it visualization? Is it, is it sort of like, talk therapy? What is, how does it work when you’re doing that kind of work with the [00:16:00] sports psychologist?
[00:16:01] Ellen Geddes: I mean, sports psych is, you know, there’s an aspect of talk therapy involved. I have a lot of I had a lot of issues with anxiety.
And so that was like my main main point of focus was like getting anxious and then not being able to like find like focused and center to be able to, go do the job. Right. And so there’s a lot of visualization. There’s visualization of like, Doing things correctly. And then there’s also a visualization of like, oh, well these are all the catastrophic things that could happen and see how they’re not so bad.
[00:16:34] Ben Jackson: I, I don’t know. I think that would scare me even more, but I, I sort of get it. Well,
[00:16:39] Ellen Geddes: yeah, no, I’ve had, I’ve had some great conversations with the various people who, you know,
You don’t have to like force the bad thoughts out of the way though, right? Like, that was a little bit of my problem. Like, oh, I can’t possibly think about that. Like, that’s bad. But you can let the bad thoughts like pass through you and move past them and move,
[00:16:57] Ben Jackson: move through. Uh, that’s, that seems like a better way to do it.
It’s a lot harder to stop yourself right from thinking of something and you are. Now the last I read, so this may have changed since I saw it, but you are, do I have this right that you are third in the world in both foil
[00:17:14] Ellen Geddes: and epee? Yes. That’s after the last competition, so nothing’s changed yet. Okay,
[00:17:19] Ben Jackson: so you’re training at a very high level.
You’re doing two weapons at once. What is a typical training day like for you then?
[00:17:28] Ellen Geddes: So I try very hard to not do both weapons in the same day. Sometimes, I am having an day and some foil fencers want to like sit down and practice some foil with me and I’m like, yeah, sure, I’ll get dressed. No worries.
But generally speaking, like I don’t do both weapons in the same day. But usually if I am with another, like. One of my, uh, national teammates, or if I’m with like an able-bodied fencer, sit down and do some drills first thing in the morning for a couple hours. Get a lesson, take a break, and [00:18:00] then afternoon, do another lesson and do some bowing.
Okay. Through the evening.
[00:18:04] Ben Jackson: And are you doing cross training as well?
[00:18:07] Ellen Geddes: So I do a lot of work with like resistance bands on trying to like work basically the small muscles in like my shoulder, get all of my rotator cuff, get, you know, all of the like supporting muscles like through my scapula, like what I have left, ’cause I’m missing, most of my back muscles.
So like that’s the majority of my like focused training work. I also do some like core stuff for the bit of abs that I have left. And then, Not a ton of cardio, but a little bit of cardio.
[00:18:37] Ben Jackson: Okay. And then I wanna talk about the strategy of these bouts in that when you’re looking at your opponents, what do you think about when you say, okay, this is who I’m up against next.
Or do you not think about it? And do you just say, you know, my strategy is try and hit them in the right time? Yeah,
[00:18:57] Ellen Geddes: no. So, Next to go, oh well this person like specific fences this way. Like as I’m about to go fence them. That’s something that like I will have known historically from like watching bouts and having fenced them before, but I’m not actively thinking about it, is that I’m getting on strip, like as I’m getting on drip, I’m just focused on staying like relaxed and staying in the moment and Fencing my game.
’cause a little bit like, I find it easy to get bought into someone else’s like strategy and that’s never a good way to be successful. Right. So you want to like, Be committed to like your concept and the things that like, you know, that you can be successful at. Mm-hmm. So I try to remember, even if it’s not like against them, even if it’s against like somebody else that I’ve fenced recently, oh, these were the things I was successful at.
These were the touches I did that like worked really well for me. Remember, you can do this. That’s what I’m thinking about before I go fun. And
[00:19:54] Ben Jackson: that idea you said you’ve seen a lot of your opponents before. Have you ever seen [00:20:00] opponents and then you find that they’ve come up with a whole new way of their approach to about, like, do people kind of learn new skills or change the way they fence?
[00:20:10] Ellen Geddes: Uh, a couple times I’ve sat down across from people and they have swapped from fencing with a pistol grip to a French grip, and it’s been an entirely new experience for me. People generally stay the same. At least some version of the same, they get better, but their essence, core, whatever is the same.
[00:20:31] Ben Jackson: Yeah.
Yeah. And I wanna talk about, so you were in Tokyo in 2021, I guess. Yeah. What was that like? Competing in, I mean, that was the Covid Olympics, right? How did that go? What was it like getting there? What was it like kind of in the competitions?
[00:20:53] Ellen Geddes: So it was my first games, so to me it was normal. Right? We flew over on essentially empty airplanes.
There were probably 14 people on the plane. I went to Tokyo on. I had a whole road of my, myself, went to sleep. It was great. We were not allowed to go watch other competitions, which I found a little bit frustrating. Like I couldn’t go like watch goalball or watch wheelchair rugby. Right. Which I would’ve enjoyed being able to do.
We still got to participate in opening ceremonies. We just had to covid test every single day, which I mean annoying, but fine. Right. And then the competition itself, other than like having to wear masks and then I guess not having spectators, so like getting to go to Paris and having to experience like the spectator aspect of a Paralympics is going to be vastly different for me.
Right. It just kind of felt like a World cup. Just, I mean, we don’t, we don’t really have spectators at our, uh, wheelchair world cups either. Right. It’s not a hugely popular sport, generally speaking. But yeah, no, it just like kind of felt like another competition, so I knew [00:22:00] everybody there uhhuh.
[00:22:03] Ben Jackson: So then what does the road to Paris look like for you from
[00:22:07] Ellen Geddes: here? So we have.
Four more world cups, a world championship, and a zonal, and then qualification will be over. I am, hoping to like knock down a couple more medals this cycle before we go to Paris. And, just keeping on track and like not, not losing focus.
[00:22:27] Ben Jackson: Okay. And I mean, you’re confident that you will be in Paris.
There’s not a concern about qualification or anything else at this point. I
[00:22:37] Ellen Geddes: mean, you could always screw something up. I did like very much break my right femur in April before I was supposed to go to Tokyo, when I was like very much already qualified to go to Tokyo. And there was a chance I wouldn’t get to go to Tokyo because I broke my leg.
So there is always a chance that like, I don’t get to go. So it didn’t happen till it happens, but it’s certainly looking highly likely at this point in time.
[00:23:02] Ben Jackson: I mean, I, and I’m not trying to cast any kind of doubt, but it’s just more of that No, no, it’s fine. Like the
[00:23:07] Ellen Geddes: process, the process, they take your best zal results. I’ve already done one zonal within the quad. There is another zonal available. I did win two gold medals at the previous zone. I will probably go to the other one as well, because you know, I like winning. and I like, I can’t do better.
I can’t get better points, but I can, you know, potentially block someone else from also getting gold medal points. Right. Which, you know, there is, there are girls in our zone that are not like, drastically far behind me. So there is always like a chance that someone passes me, you know? And stuff happens, but it should, it should all be fine.
[00:23:49] Ben Jackson: So come back then, because that makes me think about what you said earlier about mindset and about how your mindset is, I’m not taking out my frustrations, I’m just here to [00:24:00] compete. Right. Can you expand on that a little bit about how you sort of see the sport and the competition and how you view the opponents and what you think without giving anything away?
Right. I don’t want you to give away your, I mean,
[00:24:14] Ellen Geddes: to me it’s all just, it’s all kind of a game. Like we’re playing a game, right? Yeah. So, foil makes a lot of sense to me because it’s a game with like very specific rules and I, I like the rules and I like the fact that like, When I touch your blade, that means something.
And so the rules of foil make a bit more sense to me than like the rules of that Bay I at Bay makes me more nervous than foil does. Having to just defend myself with my point instead of getting the option to like defend myself with a Perry, defend is kind of the wrong word but, you know, successfully achieve points by pairing before you hit them, right.
But yeah, no, I like it’s a game. It’s. I, it fits combat sport and everybody like, takes it very seriously as a combat sport. Right. And I’ve heard people talk about how, one or the other of the weapons like, doesn’t make sense to them because like, why would you let yourself get hit?
I’m like, because it’s a game. I don’t understand the question.
[00:25:06] Ben Jackson: Yeah, that makes sense. Makes sense. Right. So you’re getting ready for Paris. How does the training change between now and then? Or does it, I mean, are there things that you kind, do you kind of like athletes talk about?
Cycles or periodization or that kind of thing. Are you doing that kind of thing where it’s like it gets real intense before the zonals and then you take some time off? Or is it, there’s always kind of a steady level of trying to maintain skill and that kind of preparation?
[00:25:39] Ellen Geddes: So I feel like I personally get rusty really fast, so I like always having a bit of training on the plate.
Like I, I feel like I get rest really quickly. Which isn’t the case for everyone. I think that’s just like me personally, right. And so I don’t think that, like my training program is like correct for everyone. But for me I feel like I get rusty [00:26:00] pretty fast. So I think doing something every day is kind of like the best way for me to keep moving forward.
[00:26:06] Ben Jackson: right. So do you have any advice for other fencers about how to get better? And I may just be asking for me, but do you have any advice for other fencers about how to get better?
[00:26:18] Ellen Geddes: You, you just have to keep doing it. And don’t be afraid to lose, like you’re gonna lose a lot before you start not losing.
And you just have to keep going at it. And you have to like be willing to like back up and get back up and get back up and keep doing it.
[00:26:34] Ben Jackson: , is there anything else that you think the listeners should know about the sport and, and anything you think, why should they be watching it? When it comes to watching Paris 2024?
[00:26:50] Ellen Geddes: I certainly think that wheelchair hunting is a lot of fun to watch, even if it seems like the rules are kind of complicated. It is certainly an entertaining sport. you can see whose lights light up if you’re watching Uppe and figure it out from there. The referees do explain what happens in both foil and Sabre.
It’s fast, it’s dynamic. It’s a lot of fun. Even if you don’t know the rules, you can still watch.
[00:27:13] Jill: Thank you so much Ellen. You can follow Ellen on Instagram at Ellen Wheelchair Fencing and we will have a link to that in the show notes.
[00:27:22] Alison: And I hope for Paris, people in the United States will actually get to see wheelchair fencing.
[00:27:29] Jill: I know, Alexis Schafer talked about that with us about How not every sport got onto the O B S feeds and why some sports, like wheelchair fencing didn’t get on. But you know who will be there to report even if you can’t see it. We will. That’s right. Well, we will make sure that coverage happens if not all sports get covered for Paris.
I’m excited about getting to go to the Paralympics.
[00:27:56] Alison: I know because there’s so much we haven’t gotten to see yet. [00:28:00] And how pathetic am I gonna be at wheelchair rugby?
[00:28:02] Jill: Well, I’m worried about being able to take you outta the venue.
[00:28:07] Alison: I may just go to wheelchair rugby every day. Well, the good is with wheelchair rugby is that there is a game pretty much every day.
So I go see something else, and then I go to my wheelchair rugby game.
[00:28:19] Jill: Well, we would like to give a special thank you to our patrons who keep our flame alive every month. Hey, a special deleted scene episode dropped this week and more. New patron only content is coming soon. If you would like to get in on that, check out Flame Alive pod.com/support for more info if supporting.
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Seoul 1988 History Moment
[00:28:45] Jill: Now is the time of the show where we check out our history moment all year long. We are talking about Seoul 1988 as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. We have a story from our summer intern, Annalee Deabel. Annalee what do you got for us?
[00:29:11] Annalee Deabel: So today we’re talking about the Yang Gen I Con controversy.
The South Koreans were hyped about the boxing tournament and seeing Korean athletes representing their country made them have a sense of pride in being Korean. But these feelings of pride would be turned into shame after an incident and the match between B Gen I and Alexander her stuff that would be forever etched into boxing history.
Also, just a quick side note, if I mention these names wrong, don’t. I’m so sorry.
[00:29:41] Jill: Well, you would just be, you know, par for the course.
[00:29:45] Alison: You should hear me when we get to the Eastern European names. It’s embarrassing.
[00:29:51] Annalee Deabel: the. On September 22nd, 1988 and this was bef, this happened before the Roy Jones Jr.
Controversy Seth [00:30:00] Korean Boxer Bja Ill went up against Bulgarian Boxer Alexander Soff in the second round of the Bantam Weight Competition. And during the first two rounds, BJA Ill was not once, but twice by the New Zealand referee, Keith Walker for headbutting. Did he listen? Of course he didn’t.
Because why would he after the after L did a third and fourth illegal headbut, this cost him two points, which ultimately cost him the match. And this loss was a heavy blow to the Korean officials and spectators because B Gen L was a Seth Korean favorite. He went against John Mark Augustine in a five to zero ban in the first round of the competition.
I mean, can you imagine it? He gave the Korean people hope that the country would be able to sweep the whole competition entirely. Now they’re here lost their match because of quote unquote, two maly points. Wouldn’t you be devastated if a boxer was important to your country? Lose I.
This was not the first time in the boxing tournament that referee Keith Walker was part of the controversy involving South Korea. Early on, he was accused by Irish officials for not giving penalties to South Korean and Walter wait song kung sub for headbutting in a boxing match. And that’s not all Korean team trainers got upset at Walker and the light flyweight competition for caning US Foxer, Michael Caral.
Is the winner over South Korean, oh, ksu, and then Walker’s reputation in the ring. Just spiral from there. So as you can see, everyone, we’re off to a wonderful start, but if you think this was bad, think again. This was just the beginning. Anyway, after the bong, hi stuff. Match B Young’s. Coach Li hung Sue was so furious after hearing of the two points being deducted that he ran into the boxing ring and hit Walker in the back.
Li hung Sue hit to the ref cause many other Seth Koreans to join the coach in the ring and go after Walker. [00:32:00] Walker said he had liquid phone in. Thrown in. His face was punched and kicked, and his hair was yanked by the South Korean officials. Walker almost lost an ear in the scuffle. The attacks on Walker were so bad that other referees had to step in and try and defend Walker.
[00:32:14] Alison: I mean, boxing is usually bad, but this is, this is a whole other level. My goodness. It sounds like the coaches did a better job of fighting than the boxers.
[00:32:28] Annalee Deabel: I feel bad for the man ’cause I was like, he was just trying to
rush and then he just suddenly gets moed.
[00:32:35] Jill: Right? It’s pretty incredible. Just that. And this is before Roy Jones Jr too. so then what happened?
[00:32:43] Annalee Deabel: When Security Guard participated in the attack on Walker and tried to TaeKwonDo kick Walker’s head as Walker tried to make his way out of the boxing ring, and unfortunately, Walker couldn’t make it out of the ring without being rescued by what Sports Illustrated described as slow moving police officers
[00:33:00] Jill: We’ll get there. It’s gonna take a second.
[00:33:03] Alison: And TaeKwonDo was only a demonstration sport, so that was not allowed.
[00:33:08] Annalee Deabel: As Walker was being escorted by police out of the ring walls. Math Matthews, one of the N B C boxing commentators tried to get him on the air to comment about the incident and Walker said, no, I’m going back to New Zealand. He did, he got his luggage and went straight to the airport. Only problem was that he didn’t have enough cash and his credit card was declined.
So one of the people who brought him to the airport paid for his ticket. So on top of the mopping incident, he
couldn’t even get outta the country to go home.
[00:33:40] Jill: And, you know, he had a lot, I bet even back then they had tons of Olympic swag to bring back to the airport with them.
[00:33:47] Alison: Well, I wonder if he would even bring it.
that’s, I mean, even for boxing, and we’ve told a lot of boxing stories over the years, but that is, that is a whole other level of [00:34:00] unhinged. Cray cray.
[00:34:01] Annalee Deabel: I wonder if he was still injured, did he just go, because I didn’t find any information on this, but I wonder, like if he was still injured, did he just immediately just go home or did he just go to a hospital Because I have no idea what, happened.
[00:34:16] Alison: Did he just show up at the airport with blood gushing from his head? No. ’cause you said he his ear was severely injured. Yeah. He got kicked in the head and,
[00:34:25] Annalee Deabel: well, and I, well, and I would think, wouldn’t one of the airport officials be like, Hey, you know, don’t you need to get that
[00:34:32] Alison: checked or something?
[00:34:35] Annalee Deabel: Because I mean, if he’s just bleeding everywhere, wouldn’t someone just be like, Hmm.
[00:34:42] Alison: I don’t think we want that on our flight home. Wow. But man, that is, I mean, anytime you go after any kind of referee or official, that’s problematic, but that’s really frightening that he was so badly injured and nobody was protecting him.
[00:34:59] Annalee Deabel: Well, I, what I thought was funny is the other refs were the ones who were standing in and, I mean, the police eventually came, but you would think, you know, once they called, they’d be, I don’t know, rush, rushing down there immediately for how severe the injuries were.
[00:35:17] Jill: Ref’s gotta take care of their own man.
So then, but this is not it is there? No.
[00:35:25] Annalee Deabel: And then it got worse from there.
Pat Putnam from the Sports Illustrated reported Korean team trainer Li Hung. Sue said when the referee was asked why he called so many fouls on O, he said, shut up. We’ll get the Korean again next time. This is the say referee. And the problem was this.
Another security guard took concerted the score sheets from a man named Emile Zef, who was president of the Referee Committee of the International Amateur Boxing Association at the A I B A and happened to be a Bulgarian. One Korean official even went so far as to use a pinging pong [00:36:00] ball container that was used for selecting officials at random for each match, and tried to hit zk Kev on the head with it, but American Boxing Judge Stan Hamilton, protected zko and in doing so, received a severely cut hand.
One Korean official went into the ring and waved his arm, supposedly trying to get spectators to join the attack. Supports Illustrated said Korean fans were sad about the South Korean officials display of violence. One Korean spectator who was crying as he watched Keith Walker being attacked by the South Korean officials, said, I feel dirty.
After the fight, BNG Gen El made his own protest at the score by sitting inside the ring for a whopping 67 minutes. Bung originally sat on the floor in front of the N B C cameras, but moved to a chair that had been put in the corner of the ring. The last two fights of the night were postponed due to him sitting in the ring, and he refused to get up.
He stayed for so long that the officials turned off the lights and left him to sit in the dark alone.
[00:36:54] Alison: That’s it. We’ve had enough of this. You’re gonna sit there in the naughty corner until you think about what you did.
[00:37:01] Annalee Deabel: that’s kind of what it,
[00:37:03] Jill: wow.
[00:37:05] Annalee Deabel: It turns out that no arrest of any individuals were made, even though Central Police headquarters ordered police subordinates to identify and arrest the people responsible for the attack on Walker. Six Koreans, including beyond, and Lee were suspended by the A, b
[00:37:18] Alison: A.
I will tell he may be still in hiding from the South Korean officials.
God, they went after the Silver Ferns man. And that is not okay.
[00:37:28] Annalee Deabel: If I do find any more, um, information on what happened after the incident with Keith Walker, I will try to update you guys with it and on the
[00:37:35] Alison: situation.
[00:37:36] Alison: Welcome to Stan.
[00:37:44] Jill: Now is the time of the show where we check in with our team, keep the flame Alive. These are past guests to the show and listeners who make up our citizenship of Shuk Stan, our very own country. Uh, We’re getting in that summer slow news time, I would think we’d have more
[00:37:59] Alison: [00:38:00] results, and yet
[00:38:00] Jill: we don’t.
So I, I wonder if that’s, there’s people on hold waiting for more championships to come down the pike in August and September. But we do have some news from Montreal, Montreal 76 the little Olympic City that could, because they really are The Big O, the stadium needs a new roof and C T V reports that engineers have found.
There are major structural changes that have to happen first, namely the replacement of a 450 meter concrete ring along the roof line of the stadium, so the roof replacement’s been put on hold, and the Olympic park development and upkeep societies working with a construction company to solve the problem and rework the budget.
It’s expected to be expensive and Montreal
[00:38:47] Alison: just paid
[00:38:47] Jill: off their debt. No, I know, I feel like they can never get this roof right either. That’s the other thing. They keep messing with the roof and because obviously you stadium in Montreal needs a roof over it because of the winters, but, oh man, hopefully that will be something that’s doable.
[00:39:07] Alison: And Andrew Marus is launching a new non-fiction chapter book series called Beyond the Games, which is about athletes who have stepped up beyond sports to make a difference in the world. it will be illustrated by Deandra Hodge, and the series will be available starting March 5th, 2024.
Paris 2024 News
[00:39:24] Jill: So we’ve got some news from Paris 2024. There was a ticket drop, as we had like, Stages of ticket sales for the beginning of the year. Now it seems like the ticket platform’s just gonna be open and you can see what’s there at any given time. There will be ticket drops occasionally does not sound like they will be announced, so you just kind of have to keep looking for it.
I know in the past there have been bots that [00:40:00] different. Super fans have created to scrape the ATRs, the authorized ticket resellers from games past to find out when there are ticket drops. I don’t know if they have been working on that now or if it’s possible to do so, but it just check if from time to time if you’re still looking for tickets.
There’s still 30 tickets per account. Maximum. We do have some information on the cardboard beds. And we talked about this last week. Annalee did some research for us finding out what happened after Tokyo. A website called dine.com said many of the beds went to national organizations for reuse.
Some were recycled into paper products and some mattress parts were recycled into new plastic items. So they did have some new life and some recycled life. It sounds like the ones from Paris might just be being recycled, but we will keep our ears to the ground on what’s gonna happen with those. They may be
[00:40:54] Alison: recycled into books
[00:40:55] Jill: perhaps to be sold along the sun.
Oh no. Have you seen this
[00:41:01] Alison: controversy? I have. And I see the controversy like I see why this is
[00:41:06] Jill: a problem. booksellers along the sen, which is a big deal, there are about 900 book stalls lined up along the river, and that is a touch point in the city and I. Timeout reports along with many other outlets.
But timeout says about 570 of them are being asked to move temporarily to a bookseller’s village in the Bastille during the games because the stalls are obstructing the river view. Surprisingly or not, surprisingly, the booksellers re are refusing to do so. And they say like, look, some of these stalls are a hundred years old and they’re gonna fall apart if you move them.
And again, we had this idea to have an opening ceremony along the sun. Did not think about the details of what’s gonna happen around and what’s gonna make that happen. And
[00:41:56] Alison: also let’s not lose the irony of their being [00:42:00] asked to move to the Bastille. Isn’t there a little holiday in France, Bastille Day where we rushed and freed all the political prisoners from the prison?
But more importantly, with all these stalls, I’m sure there’s a concern about security. There’s a concern about crowd control. Once again, great idea, not totally thought through.
[00:42:27] Jill: Right, And I’m guessing they also thought it will be easy to just, we’ll just move the booksellers. That’s fine. Not realizing that the booksellers are French and that they would be argumentative about it.
[00:42:40] Music: We are not moving our
[00:42:41] Jill: books. We are
[00:42:43] Alison: staying right here.
[00:42:46] Jill: Nielsen Company Grace Note, has released its first virtual metal table forecast. For those of you who are interested in what the predictions are for which countries will. Do well at the games. Grace Note has been doing this for many editions of the games, but For this one, they analyzed results from the big competition since Tokyo 2020.
They predicted gold, silver, and bronze medal counts for participating countries and athletes. They did not include Russia and Belarus in these calculations. So in their predictions they have u S A on top winning 128 medals compared to one 13 in Tokyo, China would be second. With 68 medals compared to 89 for Tokyo and France, host Nation Bump would be a third with 63 medals, and they only got 33 in Tokyo.
[00:43:40] Alison: I’m shocked at the China drop that they’re saying China’s going to win significantly fewer medals this time around because they just seem to be getting. As an Olympic team, stronger and stronger and stronger in many more sports,
[00:43:54] Jill: right? I don’t know, but we’ve got these down so we can compare them rounding out the [00:44:00] top 10 would be Great. Britain at four. Than Japan, Italy, Australia, which really surprised me, especially with the World Swimming Championship
[00:44:09] Alison: results. Uh, they, Australia’s been absolutely cleaning up in the pool. And beating a lot of American favorites. So yeah.
This shocks me. Mm-hmm. They’re with the Netherlands. Come
[00:44:21] Jill: on. Yeah, just ahead of the Netherlands, then Germany, then South Korea, and then for most gold medals by a country, grace note is predicting. The US will have 43, France will have 32, and China will have 26.
[00:44:35] Alison: I’m calling BSS on these. I do not like these.
[00:44:39] Jill: You know, I have a feeling we said that last time, maybe not for Tokyo, but I think for Pyeongchang we had some issues too. So this is always, I love these things because it’s always fun to see what they got wrong.
[00:44:49] Alison: Are they trying to goose these numbers so that more Americans will watch the Olympics?
’cause you know, Americans only watch if Americans win.
[00:44:58] Jill: Oh, right, right. We shall see. and we will have a link to the full predictions in the show notes so you can take a look for yourself. And Omega has released its Pair’s 2024 limited edition watch. Did you check this out?
[00:45:12] Alison: My birthday’s coming up.
[00:45:14] Jill: Talk to your husband.
The watches is the Sea Master Diver 300 Meter Paris 2024 edition. It’s got a gold bezel and a white ceramic face, and then the second hand has a flame on it. So you will always have the fire going around the watch face. The reverse side will have the Paris 2024 logo, and there will be a possibility to add a Paris 2024 themed strap to it cost.
$10,100 or 9,200 euros. So
[00:45:48] Alison: if I had seen this ahead of time, I would’ve included in it in our newsletter. So in our newsletter this week, I did a story about what if you had endless amounts of money to [00:46:00] spend on the Olympics? So clearly this would have been the souvenir. That you would’ve bought.
[00:46:05] Jill: Exactly. Well, you know, there are follow ups, check, you’ll have to subscribe to our newsletter to uh, find out if this makes it and see what it looks like. And then we had a nice note from listener, Kurt. I just wanted to include that. Who said last week? We are one year away from the Paris Olympics.
We can make it, it’s not that hard. It’s only 52 weeks away, but we will make it. And then when July 26th comes again in 2024, the world will come together in the city of Paris, France. I call that hope. I wish it was a haiku.
[00:46:37] Alison: it was very sweet of Kurt to send this into us and I, when I first started reading it, I started counting syllables.
I’m like, did we get a haiku? So please flame a firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me your haikus.
[00:46:53] Jill: That would be good for the newsletter. I will say that.
[00:46:57] Alison: I’ll do a whole haiku compilation, which would’ve been better for Tokyo.
[00:47:01] Jill: True. But yeah. if there was a French form of poetry, a French construction is there. Oh, there
[00:47:09] Alison: has to be. I’ve really never studied true French, but I’ll find out. I’m gonna look that up.
LA 2028 News
[00:47:14] Alison: This is like when somebody proposes at your wedding,
[00:47:20] Jill: Y Oh, I, that’s the best analogy. The timing of some LA 2028 news could not have been worse because on the one year to go to Paris 2024 day, they decided to launch A custom Ralph Lauren, LA 2028 logo and apparel to go with it. Like you couldn’t wait till the day after Paris, like, let Paris have all of the excitement for its anniversary.
[00:47:49] Alison: And the item is totally a knockoff of the Team Canada’s denim jacket that they wore for Tokyo.
Oh geez. This was just [00:48:00] stolen all the way around. This was really. It’s disappointing to me and disappointing in the sense of share the love. Like why are you trying to take away, and I don’t know why it made me so angry because it’s just a little product announcement, but let Paris have its
[00:48:15] Jill: moment.
Right. It made me feel like, oh, the US is being American again. Yes. And this is why the Olympics don’t like the us. And you know, we talk about that and of course if we said, well, do you like the us? I would go, no, no. But they would also say the US is the US much in the way You say, like, that jerk is a jerk.
We can’t seem to get over ourselves and, step aside for other people, just one day you could have waited one day, two days and you’re not gonna sell that many of Ralph Lauren jackets and on the day to go right.
Are you? That makes it worthwhile to step all over Paris’s toes.
[00:48:55] Alison: Because Paris is so good and the French are so good about sharing
[00:48:58] Jill: things. Well, you know, I’m, I’m not gonna say what Francis, but I do. We’re being cranky. Stop.
So we’re officially at five years to go to LA 2028. It’s plenty of time to make your announcements.
Milan-Cortina 2026 News
[00:49:11] Alison: Prosecco is the official sparkling wine of Milan Cortina 2026, and I am not cranky about that.
[00:49:28] Jill: Oh, buckle up for some shows. Friends.
[00:49:31] Alison: I wonder if that means like, what does the official. Is it only gonna be in the lounges? Do you think they’ll, they are not gonna put any in the media rooms? No, because they know better than give it to the reporters. But maybe we’ll get like a little bottle in our hotel
[00:49:45] Jill: room.
Well, that would be lovely if that happened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a bar in the media dining hall. There was a bar in the dining hall at Beijing 2022. It was pretty much closed the whole time you were there. I will say that, but [00:50:00] that’s where we had a Robot bartender and people went there and they would drink in the evenings, so maybe there will be Prosecco at the media dining hall bar.
Now, I have
[00:50:10] Alison: said in relation to Paris, I am not a fan of wine, and this is true, but when you put bubbles in it and you make it Italian, that is a whole different thing.
[00:50:19] Jill: So you’re not looking forward to the possibility of Moe Champagne.
[00:50:23] Alison: I don’t really like champagne, but Prosecco is different and I love it.
[00:50:28] Jill: Again, look forward to some exciting coverage from Milan Cortina 2026.
also, the Paralympic program has been confirmed. There will be 79 metal events across six sports, which means there’s one new metal event and that is wheelchair curling mixed doubles. So good news for our sh stan, Steve, Mt. If he is sticking around for 2026 possibility for another medal that means we are getting closer to parity. We are not quite there yet. In the Paralympic side, there will be 39 medal events for men, 35 for women, and five mixed events. Para alpine skiing, para biathlon, para cross country will have gender parody in terms of the number of metal events.
But I think the, one of the big Areas where we’re just not gonna have parody is because sled hockey is predominantly men. There will be 20% more athletes quota places than Beijing, which is exciting. There’s 665 athlete quota places. 323 of the, those are for men. 176 are women and 107 166 are gender free.
[00:51:36] Alison: you know what that means? That means that there are spaces in sled hockey and wheelchair curling mm-hmm. Where it could be either male or female, where it’s not guaranteed as a female place. Like you have to have one person. Female on the wheelchair curling, but then there are spots where it could be either.
[00:51:54] Jill: Gotcha.
World Games News
[00:51:56] Jill: We do have some World Games news. The official sports [00:52:00] program has been announced for Chengdu 2025. They will have 35 sports on the program. New sports will include electrically powered power, boating, cheerleading, which will be the double palm.
Routine if you are a cheerleading fan para free diving, para jiujitsu and para dance sport there will be new disciplines participating for the first time in the world. Games that will include the power lifting, classic roller sports, freestyle, kickboxing point fighting beach, RF ball, and underwater sports free diving.
Sports that are returning from Birmingham. We have wheelchair, rugby, flag football, and duathlon Dragon boat will be on the program again. Last seen in 2009. cable wake board was last on in 2005. also, hoo Sanda is on the program. It was Invitational in 2013 and now is a full sport. The World Games organization was clear to state or they clearly stated that para sports are not a separate event.
They are integrated into the program just like other sports and. The number of participants is increasing. This will be athletes and technical officials from 4,200 to 5,000, so we’re getting to have a bigger and bigger world games. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I’m getting excited.
[00:53:25] Alison: There is so much happening over the next two years.
We say this every year, and yet somehow it just keeps getting bigger and more, and. Overwhelming, but in the best
[00:53:35] Jill: way. Exactly. Exactly. I think we have
Viewing to catch up on, to prepare. Would you like a Prosecco with that? I would love a Prosecco. With that, pop it open. Alright, that’s gonna do it for this week.
Let us know what you think of wheelchair fencing.
[00:53:51] Alison: You can connect with us on Twitter and Instagram at Flame Alive Pod. Email us at Flame Alive email@example.com. Call or [00:54:00] text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8 Layman. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast group on Facebook. And don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode.
You can sign up for firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:54:22] Jill: We would like to give a special thank you to our intern, Annalee Deabel. Thank you for your research help this week and for your great story. And we’d also like to thank our patrons who keep our flame alive. We’ve got some great interviews lined up for the next few weeks, so get excited about hearing some sports we haven’t talked about yet.
Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, keep the flame alive.