We love hearing what the Games used to be like for pioneers of sport, so we’re excited to have on Paralympian Lo Nigrosh, who was on the first U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team. They competed at Athens 2004 and to many people’s surprise, brought home the bronze. Lo tells us what the early days of the team were like and about her time in Athens.
Today Lo is a lactation consultant, childbirth educator and birth doula at Quabbin Birth Services, and she’s host of the podcast The Milk Making Minutes (look for Alison to be a guest there in the coming weeks). You can follow Lo on Insta, Facebook, and TikTok.
In our Seoul history moment, Jill looks at the sitting and standing volleyball competitions at those Paralympics. Here’s an interesting video recap of Iran’s experience. If you want to learn more about the history of para standing volleyball and how it faded from competition, check out this site.
In news from TKFLASTAN, we have updates from:
- Sailors Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea
- Race walker Evan Dunfee
- Pole vaulter Katie Moon
- Heptathlete and decathlete Jordan Gray
- Beach volleyball player Kelly Cheng
- Para powerlifter Louise Sugden – catch her competition here
- Announcer Geoff Wightman
- Commentator Olly Hogben
- Bobsledder Josh Williamson
- NGB leader Phil Andrews
- Paralympian John Register
- Author Warren Perrin
In Paris 2024 news, there have been a number of test events, with swimming in the Seine still being a dubious proposition. We also have an update on organizing the surfing competition in Tahiti (and how much more investment is needed).
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Lo Nigrosh
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 Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.
When Sitting Volleyball Was New with Lo Nigrosh (Ep 301)
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?
[00:00:47] Alison: I have been having fun on Instagram. Oh yes. So, you know, it’s the World Athletic Championship this week, and we have interviewed some people who are competing there. So I like to post a reel or a story or a post with a little good luck message or a congratulations message, but now I’ve started adding music to it.
[00:01:10] Jill: no. Oh boy.
[00:01:12] Alison: Do you wanna know what Evan Dunphy
[00:01:14] Jill: got? yeah. ’cause I can’t guess. Walk this way. Oh my gosh. Katie
[00:01:20] Alison: Moon
jump around. House of Queen.
I know you, you can only imagine Deanna Price once coming for you.
[00:01:29] Jill: Oh, nice. Awesome. Well, I guess we could check that out at Flame Alive Pod. On Insta.
[00:01:39] Alison: Well, this gets me excited because we’re one year to go for Paralympics. The things I can do with this. Check AO Aoki, roll with
[00:01:49] Jill: it.
[00:01:52] Alison: I’m thinking of so many songs for our people.
[00:01:57] Jill: Oh boy. We’re in trouble [00:02:00] or we’re
[00:02:00] Alison: in good trouble. I promise I won’t sing in the stands maybe.
Lo Nigrosh Interview
[00:02:04] Jill: Well, it is just about one year to go until the Paralympics. That one year anniversary is August 28th. So we are getting the party started a few days early by talking with Paralympian Lo niosh, low competed at the first women’s sitting volleyball Paralympic tournament at Athens 2004, and we talked with her.
What about what it was like to be on that very first team? Take a listen.
[00:02:32] Alison: Hello Nigro. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re so excited to talk to
[00:02:37] Lo Nigrosh: you. I’m so happy to be here.
Thank you. You
[00:02:39] Alison: were a member of the first women’s sitting volleyball team for the Paralympics back in 2004. So let’s start with going back that way. You were not a sitting volleyball player before this.
[00:02:53] Lo Nigrosh: I was not. No, I was not. So what were you doing? I was in college.
I had been an athlete not a college level athlete or anything like that. I grew up in a very athletic family. I was born with my disability, so I had had it my whole life. I was born without my left foot and never identified as disabled. Until actually I joined the Paralympic team.
Never used that word to describe myself. And so I played sports, I played able-bodied sports all growing up. And in high school I played basketball was my primary sport. I did some cross country, some track, but I was never good at those things. I just did them to kind of stay in shape and for something to do.
And my prosthetist, I always have to say that word slowly because people think I’m saying prostitute my prosthetist. I was in for a visit and he had one other patient on the team who he, he knew of and he knew that they were recruiting [00:04:00] new players. And I was in for a visit one day and he told me that I should try out and I was.
Not interested at all, and I did not understand the Paralympics. I did not understand what they were, and I said, I don’t need to do disabled sports. I can play able-bodied sports. I did not understand what I was turning down. And so a couple of visits later, he said, you don’t understand what you’re turning down.
This is a humongous opportunity. And he made me call the coach right then and he said, go to one tryout. If you don’t like it, then I won’t bug you anymore, but you’re missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime if you don’t at least call. And I did. And he was so right and I’m so glad that he didn’t give it up because it truly was a life-changing experience.
What year was that? That was 2003.
[00:05:05] Alison: So it’s only one year. Oh, wow. Mm-hmm. Prior to the Paralympics. Yeah. Yeah. When you were playing able-bodied sport, you were playing it with a prosthetic? Yes. Mm-hmm. Okay. So you arrive at the first tryout. Mm-hmm.
[00:05:19] Lo Nigrosh: Tell us the story. Story. Yeah, so it was, I wanna say the first tryout was at the Olympic Training Center in upstate New York.
What is that one? Lake Placid? Yes. It was in Lake Placid, I believe. And so I thought it was cool. First I was like, oh, it’s at an Olympic training center. You know, like I did not understand that the Paralympics were associated with the Olympics in any way. And I mean, remember back then, The Paralympics were not on television.
[00:06:00] You did not see Paralympic athletes on cereal boxes. You did not see them on billboards. You, there were not Barbies with prosthetic legs. So my experience growing up as a disabled person was really just to pretend I wasn’t disabled and I did not have very many exp experience. The only experience I had interacting with other disabled people was I went to a children’s hospital called Scottish, right?
Growing up for my prosthetic care and from the time I was 14, through the time I was 18, once a year, they took me on a ski trip and I went to Winter Park, Colorado where the National Disabled Ski Center was. And I got to go skiing for a week. But I didn’t use adaptive equipment and. I kind of considered my, I loved interacting with other amputees, and when I left I always felt super depressed.
Like it was this feeling of like, I’m surrounded by all these people who understand my experience, yet I didn’t ever translate that to think, oh, I should probably find a support group or find other people who have had this experience or check out adaptive sports in some other way. so yeah, I just didn’t, there was just not a lot of exposure to paralympic sports or disabled sports in my life.
And so I get to Lake Placid and I play the first couple of times I was not a volleyball player. I had no volleyball skills, but I was athletic and our coach at the time, His name was Mike and he pulled me aside after the first maybe couple of training sessions. Usually we would train for like two hours at a time.
And typically our training schedules would be three, two hour training sessions in a day. And so maybe it [00:08:00] was after like the second day or so he pulled me aside and we were kind of standing there watching the court and he said, you are not a volleyball player, but you are an athlete and it’s your job to be an athlete and it’s my job to make you a volleyball player.
And from then on I was on the team.
[00:08:21] Jill: When you were growing up, were people surprised to find out you had a disability if you were doing all these able-bodied sports type things?
[00:08:29] Lo Nigrosh: Yeah, so if I’m doing sports, typically I was wearing shorts so they could see my prosthetic. I like, I don’t like to see video of myself walking because in my mind I walk completely normally, but it always surprises me. When people, other people don’t know that I’m disabled because it, I, when I see video of myself, it’s very obvious to me that I walk differently than people who don’t wear prosthetics.
But yes, so if somebody did not know me, had never seen me in shorts, they are always surprised. In fact, I, this might be a little bit of a tangent, but I am a, an I B C L C now an internationally board certified lactation consultant, and I have a private practice, but two days a month I work in a hospital and I had this very interesting situation recently where somebody else who works in the hospital, I think she works to clean rooms or something, she approached me and said, oh, what’s wrong with your leg?
Which is normally what people say they see the prosthetic and because I have a long residual limb. My prosthetic often just looks like a brace to people. It doesn’t look like what you see on the Cheerio box, you know, it, just looks like a brace to a lot of people.
And so she asked and I said, oh, I wear a prosthetic leg. I’ve had it my whole life. And then I had this very awkward situation where [00:10:00] she starts crying. I’m having to comfort her because I’m a disabled person and I’m trying to tell her, no, it’s fine. You know? And so I have these situations kind of frequently where somebody asks, and I’m very happy to tell them about my disability and to educate them.
And when kids ask, I love that because they’re just Really curious and they don’t have a lot of shame associated with asking. And I’ll take off my leg, I’ll ask them if they wanna see it, and I’ll take off my leg for them so they can see. Or I’ll take off my shoes so they can touch the prosthetic. But I ended up spending 10 minutes on my busy day on the shift, comforting somebody else because I was disabled.
[00:10:44] Jill: Since we are on prosthetic talk, As a kid growing up, did your parents go, oh, every growth spurt we have to get a new leg or adjust the prosthetic? . As you grow, I would imagine that the foot has to grow to balance, the weight and the different
[00:10:57] Lo Nigrosh: height a little bit better.
Yeah. I went through a lot of prosthetics. In fact, I never once, you know how in school you get the perfect attendance awards and I never got them because all of my appointments had to be during the school week, during the day, so I never got a perfect attendance award, but I went to that children’s hospital, Scottish.
Right. It’s much like a Shriners hospital, if you’re familiar with it. I grew up in the Dallas, Texas area, so this hospital was in Dallas, and I got free prosthetic care. I loved all of my prosthetists and really enjoyed going and everybody there was so friendly and loving and kind. And they took me skiing every year, like I said, when I was a teenager.
So, it wasn’t a financial burden to my parents to get new prosthetics, it was just a burden of time. So I don’t think it was that big of a deal for them when I was growing out of them. And now I must say, my husband, we met, we’ve been together, I [00:12:00] don’t know, 14 years or something total. And after I met him, he wanted to make a career change and I thought he would be really good at prosthetics.
And he went back to school and now he is my prosthetist, so I don’t have to go anywhere for prosthetic care. He brings his stuff to me. Nicely done. I know, right?
[00:12:18] Alison: Nicely done. Low. Yes.
So I just have one more question about prosthetics. We talked to Laura Webster who was your teammate. Yes. And she talked about when she first went to training camp, everybody taking off their prosthetics and com and playing, ’cause she also always played able-bodied sports and that was kind of uncomfortable for her playing without her leg.
So how was that for you with that change?
[00:12:47] Lo Nigrosh: Actually, if you go back and look at footage, you will notice that I think I am the only lower limb. Disability athlete with an amputation that wore my prosthetic during play, and I think that still stands to this day. I don’t know of any other Paralympic athletes who played sitting volleyball who kept their prosthetic on, and I did not do that because I did not like taking it off in front of people.
I did that because I am actually more mobile on the floor with my prosthetic than I am without it. So I did initially start out taking off my prosthetic like everybody else. And many people who have had an amputation are less comfortable taking off their prosthetics in front of other people than I was, but because I had grown up with it my whole entire life.
And to now I swim with my prosthetic on, but growing up I didn’t. And so if I [00:14:00] went to the waterpark, if I went to the beach, if I was at a swimming pool, I would have it off and be walking around in front of people from the time I was itty bitty. And I can walk without mine because my residual limb, there’s just like a three inch difference.
And so I do have a limp, but I am mobile without it. And so it was, it didn’t bother me to take it off, but what I discovered was because of that three inch difference and because I can put a lot of pressure on the bottom of my residual limb, I actually could move better with my prosthetic on. I was faster.
And so it didn’t get in the way like many other people’s prosthetics do.
[00:14:41] Alison: So you start playing sitting volleyball. Nobody is a veteran because it’s a brand new team. Mm-hmm. How does that develop? How does that come together?
[00:14:51] Lo Nigrosh: So I was definitely on the team before we had any competitions or tournaments. But, so I, I wanna say I wasn’t on the very beginning, there were people who were on the team before me, but I got to be in the first international competition.
And it was exciting. We felt this excitement of starting a new thing and I. It was exciting to get to travel so frequently. It was exciting to get to train at the Olympic Training Centers, but what we mostly did was we would travel to volleyball tournaments and we would set up a court at the volleyball tournaments and we would train in the middle of these big volleyball tournaments.
In the beginning that’s what we would do was What was the
[00:15:38] Alison: thinking?
[00:15:39] Jill: No. Oh, I, you have thinking. I have. What was the reaction?
[00:15:43] Lo Nigrosh: if I were to guess what the thinking was, I think it was exposure. And I think our coach at that time, Mike, he was really involved in the U S A volleyball world.
He coached some club teams and [00:16:00] so maybe he liked being in that environment. I. I think it gave, so we would give people the opportunity to come sit on the floor and play against us, and that would be part of our training. now I don’t think that’s a great way to train, because as Laura explained on her podcast episode, even though the skills are the same, passing is the same, setting is the same, hitting is essentially the same.
The movement is so different that a standing player coming and sitting on the court and trying to move to get to the ball doesn’t really translate. So we were, we just thought we were amazing because every team that we played, we just kicked butt because we could just put the ball where they couldn’t get to it.
And , we just killed it. And we just thought we’re ready. We are ready for the Paralympics.
[00:16:56] Alison: So speaking about being ready, you go to your first international competition. How far ahead of the Paralympics was that?
[00:17:03] Lo Nigrosh: So we had to qualify for the Paralympics and we did that in it was in December of 2003 and it was the Para Pan-American Games in Argentina and we played Brazil and we beat them easily.
We only played one team in the Pan-American zone. Remember, it’s new women’s sport. So the Pan-American zone didn’t put together that many women’s teams. And so again, we win this tournament and we think, oh my gosh, we’re gonna go home with gold from the Paralympics. We are just gonna kill it. We’re so good.
[00:17:48] Alison: How much support were you getting from Team U Ss a in the run up to
[00:17:52] Lo Nigrosh: Athens? You know, this is a hard question to answer because
at the [00:18:00] time it felt like a lot of support. But when you compare it to how much support Olympic athletes were getting or when you compare it to how much support Paralympic teams get now, it probably wasn’t very much. But, all of our travel expenses were covered and we didn’t have to pay any expenses to be on the team, but there was a group of like older.
Older players who already had careers. And there was only one mom on the team that was Gina McWilliams, who was the other patient of my prosthetist. And so she was a mom and it, look now that I’m a mom, I just think about all the sacrifices she made to start this Paralympic team.
She was the captain in 2004 when we went to the Paralympics. And then there were a couple of teachers and other people had careers and so they were missing a lot of work to travel and were not getting compensated for that by team U s A or by u s a volleyball. but then like we thought it was so cool to have all of these jerseys, all of our training jerseys and all of our gear and every time you went to a new tournament, you got new gear and , so in some ways it felt like we were supported a lot.
But in looking back, all of the sacrifices you make to be on a team, it isn’t really a lot of support.
[00:19:29] Alison: What were people around you reacting? Did they understand what you were doing?
[00:19:34] Lo Nigrosh: To some degree they did, but I think those of us and I’m sure as you go further and further back into the Paralympics this is even more and more true, but I would say we had a lot of education to do for people around us. So I. No disrespect to the Special Olympics at all. it’s a great event that is super [00:20:00] important to a lot of people, but we had to do a lot of explaining to a lot of people that what we were doing was not the Special Olympics.
That it was totally separate, that it was funded differently, that there was a different process to qualifying for the Paralympics and the Special Olympics. I don’t know if that distinction really matters so much because the Special Olympics is the highest level of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.
So does it really matter if people think I was in the Special Olympics? I don’t know. But for me, it mattered at the time and I felt like I had to educate people a lot on what the Paralympics themselves were. But those people who were really close to me and who saw how much I was training and how much I was traveling, I think they got it a little more because they saw, whoa, like this is a lot.
[00:20:53] Alison: Was there any kind of selection process other than that one tryout?
[00:20:58] Lo Nigrosh: No. People would come and go, so, sports like track or sports, like wheelchair basketball, there is a robust system from the ground up where there are college level teams and there are club teams and there are kids level teams.
And so there is a really strong funnel. To the top to be at the Paralympics. But with sitting volleyball, there is nothing. There are just the national teams. There are no club teams. There aren’t there. There’s no funnel to the top. And so the way that athletes are still recruited 20 years later is by word of mouth, by someone seeing a volleyball player who has a disability and saying, have you ever considered being on the Paralympic team?
The way it works is somebody catches word about the team. They go to a [00:22:00] tryout. They might go to a series of tryouts, but There are always more people going to practices than can make the team. So there is, and I can’t remember how many more there were in 2004, but there is, and I think for sure now there’s like a final roster that comes out and then after you’ve been training for so long, it gets determined whether or not you are competing in world championships or Pan-American games or the Paralympic games, whatever international tournament. It’s Okay.
[00:22:38] Alison: So let’s get to the experience in Athens. Mm-hmm. You get on the plane, you land what’s going on?
[00:22:45] Lo Nigrosh: Yeah. So it, getting on the plane was even cool because it was a chartered plane with all Paralympic athletes, which I.
In and of itself was just really beautiful. Everybody wearing their team u ss a gear and imagine an entire plane with disabled athletes, many of whom had wheelchairs. So then they had to be brought on by the flight attendant. And imagine going through security. Oh, this is kind of funny too.
Every time we traveled, if we traveled as a group going through security with 12 disabled athletes, and each one of us is setting off the alarm, and that was before, when every airport had metal detectors, you know, before we have more advanced. Detection systems. , and so then it was like hundreds of Paralympic athletes showing up at, around the same time going through security.
So just imagine all the looks we were getting going through the airport. So yeah, just getting on the plane, it was just excitement. And I have a memory of the flight attendant welcoming [00:24:00] the special athletes, but when she said the word special, all I could tell there was like tension in the air.
Like is she about to say the Special Olympics? But she did not, she just said these special athletes . Yeah, we were just excited and we were ready to go. But I do wanna mention, before we went to the Paralympics, we were invited to a friendly international tournament in the Netherlands. . So the Paralympics were in September, I believe that year. So we were invited to a friendly tournament. it was like mostly European teams, and we thought we were just gonna go kick ass like we had done, you know, with every other group of six we’d ever played.
And we lost every set of every match. We did not win a single set. We walked away from that tournament thinking, oh my God, we have a lot of work to do. And it was like four months before the Paralympics. And so heading into the Paralympics, the word on the street was Team U. Ss A is strong and they’re young and they’re athletic, and they will be the team to beat in 2008, but they’re not ready for this tournament.
[00:25:17] Alison: Yeah, it’s a little disheartening.
[00:25:19] Lo Nigrosh: Yeah, it was, but we were so glad to have the experience because when you’re such a new team, you just don’t know what’s out there. And in Europe there are clubs, sitting, volleyball teams, so it is possible to play sitting volleyball on competitive fields outside of these big international tournaments.
And we had just never had that opportunity.
[00:25:46] Alison: What is that conversation like between the players and then among themselves and then between the players and the coaches when that’s the scuttlebutt you’re hearing?
[00:25:55] Lo Nigrosh: Well, so we really took it and, [00:26:00] okay, so I should have said this at the beginning.
I always get nervous when I talk about my Paralympic experience because, , we were, I. 12 different people and two coaches, and each person who gives this interview might possibly have different memories or different feelings of the experience. So I just wanna name that, that this is only my experience and, you win and lose as a team, yet we each have our own individual experiences.
But, you know, I think, like in my memory, we took it and we were like, okay, let’s get to work. And we expanded our travel time. So we would spend a week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and then we would go home for a week and then we would come back and spend a week and we would go home for a week.
So we were training a lot after that. And our assistant coach Denise, she was the head coach at Bowling Green for a long time. And she was, I would say, really the one to get us prepared. She really helped us to hone in on our movement and our volleyball skills and to get us ready for that level of competition.
[00:27:24] Jill: you’re playing and getting crushed, for lack of a better word mm-hmm. in the moment, can you see like, oh, that’s a good move that they just did I need to put that in the memory bank and pull it out later? Or is that something like a coach really can focus on like, okay, what is the other team doing that we need to learn?
[00:27:47] Lo Nigrosh: Yeah, I definitely think the coaches could do that, and I definitely think some players can do that. I don’t have that type of memory. So I know after matches, there are a lot of players who can go play by play [00:28:00] and talk about where each person was on the court and talk about where each of us should have been.
I don’t have that type of memory, so I just play the match and then listen to the feedback from everybody else and try to readjust for the next time.
[00:28:15] Alison: So Athens was not the most prepared host when it came to the Olympics? Uhhuh, not everything was completed. We’ll just say that. How were the facilities and the situation for the Paralympics
[00:28:29] Lo Nigrosh: y? You know, in my memory it was, Fine. It was great. I don’t have a lot of memories of complaining or being upset by anything.
And we were so busy training for the Paralympics. I remember we were at the Olympic Training Center during the open opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. We watched them together as a team, but we were so busy training that we didn’t actually get to see a lot of the Olympic games. So I don’t think I even knew that they weren’t very well prepared.
Or if I did, I have forgotten since then.
[00:29:12] Alison: Okay, so let’s talk about the tournament itself.
We’re going to spoil the ending. Uhhuh the US ended up with a bronze medal. Yeah, we did. So you actually did quite well for a team that wasn’t expected to do very well.
Yes, we did. How did that feel as a team?
[00:29:29] Lo Nigrosh: Oh my god, it was in incredible. I’m just crying thinking about it. It was so long ago. you know, I’ve heard it said before that of course you want. The best medal you can get. But I’ve heard it said before that ending on a bronze often feels more triumphant than ending on a silver in a tournament style competition.
Because when you walk away with a silver,[00:30:00] you’re walking away with a loss. Your last match is a loss. But when you walk away with the bronze, it was between not getting anything and getting the bronze medal. And so it felt really, really triumphant. So after the, medal matches, which was between China and the Dutch for gold and silver, and then Slovenia and us for the bronze medal, you, it’s customary to wear your medals into the Olympic village when once you have won a medal.
And we did that proudly. We were so excited and the Dutch did not, they did not wear their silver medals into the Olympic Village. They were so devastated to have not gone home with the gold. So, to have gone from a team who everybody knew our potential, but did not think we could get it together in time for the fall for 2004 to walking away with a bronze medal was, you know, just to be able to prove everyone wrong just was amazing.
[00:31:15] Alison: So you yourself, in the course of a year went from never having played sitting volleyball to having this bronze medal. And how did that, I mean, you were a baby of course, so now you’re looking back at it mm-hmm. As a, as a grownup. Mm-hmm. What do you see of yourself from that time?
[00:31:33] Lo Nigrosh: I see the same person I am today actually. I saw somebody who committed to something, who jumped right in once I understood what it was and who gave it my all for as long as I could. And then who left after just a few years and sometimes I look back and think, uh, man, I [00:32:00] really wish I could have been like someone like Laura who is still playing.
She was 16, 15, or 16 when she was recruited. She was so young. I was a little older. I was like 22 or 23. yeah, I see somebody who really, really, really worked hard and then who was able to just drop it and move on when I felt like it was time, but. I treasure those years. It is something I, it’s just hard to describe to people who haven’t experienced it.
I, it just feels like a dream that I was able to do that. I feel so lucky.
[00:32:41] Alison: So you were one and one and done in terms of Paralympics? I
[00:32:45] Lo Nigrosh: did go to World Championships in 2006. In
[00:32:47] Alison: 2006. Mm-hmm. What went into that decision to go for a couple more years but not go for the full cycle?
[00:32:53] Lo Nigrosh: Our coach at the time, his name was Mike, and he died a couple years ago. And I, I posted something when he died, you know, it all kind of got around. We still have a, Facebook messenger chat between some of us who are on that original team, which is fun. It resurfaces a couple times a year.
So we were all kind of talking about our experiences with Mike when he died. And he was really hard on all of us. And, he was in a precarious position because there were quite a few, there was like the older women on the team and then there was me, I was in the middle, I was 22. And then there were all these like young high school age girls.
So he was in this position as they were traveling internationally and nationally, making sure everybody stayed safe and didn’t get into any trouble. You know,
and there were also things like if you look at the stats from 2004, if they still exist, I was ranked the best serve receiver for the tournament for 2004 [00:34:00] and John Kessel, he. Was our representative from U S A volleyball who came with us at the time, we were sitting in the cafe at the Olympic Training Center, and he like wrote on a piece of, I still have it, he wrote on a napkin, a figure, I think it was like 10,000 maybe.
He just wrote it out with a pen and he slid it to me and said, this is how much you would make for that statistic if you were an Olympic athlete. And Mike just looked at me and said, that’s not what my stats show. And so there were a lot of things like that where, you would give your all, but you didn’t feel like it was enough.
And, um, I was the libero in 2004 and then I. Right. I graduated from college right after that, and then I moved the men’s coach. He set up a national training center in Edmund, Oklahoma, which wasn’t too far from where I had been going to college and where I grew up. And so I decided to move there and train full-time with him.
And there was one other men’s player who did that and Carrie Miller, one other women’s player who’s now Carrie Ortiz, and she played, she just retired. She announced for the 2000 for these past games in Tokyo, but she, that was her first tournament to not play. And so we moved there. We were training full-time, so that meant every day we trained with this men’s coach.
And I think it really bothered Mike that I was training under the men’s coach and I got my skills. Improved significantly. I got elected team captain. I was playing setter instead of lobero, which I, you know, I really liked setting. But when we went to the 2006 tournament, every time I stepped up to the service line, I just could not get the ball over the net.
And it was like I got in my own head [00:36:00] because I was trying to please Mike and I was afraid of failing because Mike just, he just didn’t think I could be good enough, you know? And so, finally I was just making a decision. I was trying to work out a deal with the Chinese team who dominated for years to go train with them.
I had studied linguistics in college and so I was working on a deal to go train with them for a year and live with them full time in exchange for teaching their players English and my only holdup was that I had a dog who just died two years ago. So, you know, I got her right after we won the bronze medal.
Her name was Hobo and she was 16 when she died. So, you know, she lived all over the world with me and I didn’t know what I was gonna do with her when I went to Shanghai. And then I just had. I just started to get in my, after the 2006 World Championships, I just thought, I just can’t please this guy. And I, I just felt so defeated by that tournament.
We didn’t even place in the top three, and I felt, I felt like it was my fault. I was team captain and, you know, I, I, my serv, my serving was so bad, I just decided to retire. And I went back to a couple of training camps after that thinking maybe this was the wrong decision. And then about maybe six months to a year after I retired, they actually replaced him with the men’s coach.
And I thought then, oh, maybe I should go back. But my life had already. I’d already started down a different path, and so I just thought it would be too hard to get back into that life and I didn’t return. Okay. I’m gonna be very careful
[00:37:54] Alison: with how I ask this question Coaches, not great coaches. Let me just put it that way.[00:38:00]
So not great coaches are not unique to para sports or to women’s sports, but do you think the length of his tenure was extended because the powers that be were not paying attention to a women’s
[00:38:15] Lo Nigrosh: parasport?
I don’t know, Mike. He’s a complicated person and I don’t know all the ins and outs of the politics that were happening. I think he did a lot for sitting volleyball. He founded a women’s team and I don’t know who appointed Denise as the assistant coach, but that was a fantastic move. So I don’t know.
And they got along really, really well. And he was happy to like during tournaments sit and, you know, take statistics on his computer and let her do the primary coaching during tournaments. So I’m not saying it was a bad move to have him coach, and again, I’m only talking about my experience, but it was enough.
It was troublesome enough that I felt like I couldn’t improve as a volleyball player. And in fact, my playing was getting worse. Under his coaching. And so, I just felt like, okay, and I’m kind of that kind of person anyway. Like I do things for a few years and then I move on. But I have always wondered if somebody else was coaching, if I would’ve made it to another games or two, but you know, then maybe I wouldn’t have met my husband and I wouldn’t have my kids and, you know, so you can’t ever, you don’t know what would happen in life.
[00:39:37] Alison: Okay. Happier point, you’ve got this Paralympic medal, you come home from Athens, you’re on a high. And are you getting any feedback on that? Like you were expecting or that you thought might happen?
[00:39:51] Lo Nigrosh: I don’t think I expected anything. It’s, you know, when you, I think. Lots of athletes experience this [00:40:00] because very few Olympic and Paralympic athletes are in the spotlight.
So if you are a sprinter and you’re famous, or if you’re a gymnast and you’re famous, or if you know, if you ice skate and everybody knows your name, that’s one thing. But people who run triathlons and people who are archers and people who are bobsleds, you know, nobody knows their name and you know, you’re not gonna walk down the streets and have people celebrating you because they saw that you’ve won a bronze medal.
So, I don’t know, I, it was thrilling and you’re so excited to get it. And you know, and I think even then, 20 years ago,
the Paralympics just wasn’t as known of an entity, so
I don’t know what I expected, but there, I, you know, it’s not like there were parades in my town or anything.
[00:40:56] Jill: in a whirlwind year of getting on the team and traveling the world, what packing tips did you learn? Oh, man. Because I bet you can pack really quickly,
[00:41:09] Lo Nigrosh: you think. And also, my dad is a pilot and he’s packing all the time, and I swear, You know, once his time is done and I have to like speak at his funeral service, I am going to mention that the one thing I remember him saying is walking around saying, oh my gosh, I have to pack because he still hates packing and he’s done it for so many years.
my teammates used to tease me because I never had anything. I was super minimalist, so I would just always not have anything yeah, I didn’t like brush my hair or have enough clothes or I would have like one sports bra, you know. So I’m not really the best person to ask about that.
Now that I have, now that I have kids, I think I overpack ’cause you feel like you need [00:42:00] everything for them. But at the time they would tease me because I never had enough. stuff to last for a week of training camp.
[00:42:09] Alison: Did you feel a little responsible when Team U s A finally won the gold medal in sitting volleyball?
I did. Did you
[00:42:17] Lo Nigrosh: feel? Yeah. Oh yeah, I did. I felt like it was my team, you know? Yeah.
[00:42:23] Alison: What do you think when you watch the Paralympics now?
[00:42:26] Lo Nigrosh: I feel so proud. Yeah. I feel like, and I’m sure people who came before me feel it even more, but I feel like I helped build something. Like I was a little part of something that and I was one of the stepping stones that made it that much bigger and better, you know, I.
So I’m not a sports person. I don’t watch sports really. But when the Paralympics aired this year, we made sure that we had everything we needed to be able to watch. I watched as much of them as I could because they were airing. And of course I watched as much sitting volleyball as I could, even at very odd hours.
And I guess they were showing at very odd hours. And when during the gold medal match my son who’s nine, he watched with me and my husband, and I think my son was stunned. He had never seen me become like a crazy sports fanatic. Like, We don’t yell at the TV during football season. You know, that’s not something that he sees us do, but it was such a good tournament, it was a good match and it was, You know, we, they won by the skin of their teeth and it was, we were on the edge of our seats and I was feeling the tension and I knew how hard they had worked for it.
And I knew several of the players. I knew the coach, you know, that the coach Bill was the coach who helped me become captain of, of the team and who I trained under. And so I felt [00:44:00] very invested that in that team and could not have been happier for them that they won. And it did feel like it was my team, even though it’s been 20 years.
[00:44:09] Alison: Is Laura Webster actually as. Lovely and amazing as she was when we talked to her actually.
[00:44:15] Lo Nigrosh: Yeah. She’s amazing. Yes. I’m
[00:44:19] Alison: like, please tell me she at least was annoying at 16 because otherwise I’m gonna have to be mad.
[00:44:29] Lo Nigrosh: Oh God. No, it’s, it’s like actually kind of annoying how amazing she is because she’s like beautiful.
She’s like this model. She’s like, like she could be a model and is an incredible sitting volleyball player. She has been from the time she sat on the court, she has carried that team for a long time and I know, I don’t know what’s going on now. I don’t know how much playtime she gets all these kids later, but I know.
That she carried. She helped carry our team in 2004 and she is such a critical part of that program. And she’s intense on the court and she is lovely off the court and she’s lovely on the court too. Like you’re never gonna feel any sense of guilt because you dropped a ball or because you had a collision or because you made a mistake.
Like she’s there to support people and to build them up. And she is an amazing
[00:45:40] Alison: person winning gold medals while you’re growing babies. Yeah, no problem.
[00:45:44] Lo Nigrosh: I know, I know.
[00:45:47] Jill: So speaking of babies, how did you get into your current career?
[00:45:52] Lo Nigrosh: Through my own intense struggle to feed my oldest baby. Yeah, I feel like [00:46:00] people become lactation consultants either because they had this like magical experience of feeling like a goddess while feeding their babies, and they want everybody else to experience that, or they had so much intense struggle, they never want another person to experience that.
And mine was definitely the second. I struggled a lot to feed him human milk, but it was really, really important to me. And so I kept with it. And yeah. And then I just knew that I wanted to make a career shift and that’s what I, that’s what I did.
[00:46:33] Alison: And you are in our podcasting family. Mm-hmm. Why start a podcast for that topic?
[00:46:40] Lo Nigrosh: Well, because first of all, I am a podcast junkie. I love podcasts. And I thought, what better way to try to help people who are in the position of feeding babies to understand that their. Struggles with baby feeding are actually not their fault. That it’s systemic medical and cultural barriers that make it so difficult than to have a podcast that explores those barriers through people telling their own stories and through educational episodes as well.
And so that’s basically what I do. It’s an exploration of the barriers that exist that make feeding human milk to human babies so difficult because we evolved to do that, yet it’s still so hard. And so that’s what my podcast is all about.
[00:47:33] Alison: lo nigra, thank you so much for joining us. We were happy to have you.
[00:47:36] Lo Nigrosh: This was so fun. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go back and think about. Those days when I was a Paralympian, it meant so much to me and I just love what you’re doing.
And I wanna say that I was so attracted to your show because you emphasize both the Olympics and the Paralympics equally, and [00:48:00] that is really meaningful to me. So thank you very much for doing that. Thank you.
[00:48:06] Jill: Thank you so much. Low. As part of her work as a lactation consultant, low also hosts the Milk Making Minutes podcast. Are you gonna be on that?
[00:48:15] Alison: I am gonna be on that. I did my interview already, so that’s probably gonna be the end of September. Awesome. Well, we can, and I will tease that there is a story that involves a priest, my dead great aunt and a hungry baby.
[00:48:30] Jill: Wow. Well, you can find out more about that on your podcast App of Choice. That’s the Milk Making Minutes podcast. And find out email@example.com. You can also follow Low on social. She is on Insta, Facebook, and TikTok. We will have links to all of those in the show notes. If you’d like to hear more about other life skills sports have taught women, check out our friend Elizabeth Emery’s podcast here, her Sports.
This show is not only for our sporty lies, but has conversations that hold gem’s applicable beyond sport. Her recent episode was Sailor Sarah Douglas, for example, is really about taking charge of a goal and going after it in an organized way. Sarah uses spreadsheets to keep. Track of everything and she coordinated a group of sailors to train with and a hoard of coaches to help her on her way to Olympic gold.
I do love listening to hear her sports. Elizabeth is lovely. She’s lovely to listen. It’s one of the rare shows I listen to on one X speed because I do listen to a lot of podcasts, so, and I gotta power through ’em somehow. But I listen to Elizabeth on one X because I wanna save her every conversation.
So search for it on your podcast app right now and add it to your queue. Or visit hear her sports.com for more. And you know who else uses spreadsheets to coordinate a lot of things.
[00:49:55] Alison: Not me. I’m a spreadsheet failure, which is why I got so [00:50:00] excited when I saw this in our
[00:50:00] Jill: Facebook group, right? Listener, Brittany has been tracking upcoming championships and how to watch them, and it’s just amazing the work she’s done to pull all of this together.
So go to our Facebook group that’s Keep The Flame Alive Podcast group for more, and we’ll see if we can get that pinned to the top for easy access.
Seoul 1988 History Moment
[00:50:20] Jill: It is time for our history moment. All year long we’ve been talking about Soul 1988 as it is the 35th anniversary of those games, and because we are. Looking at Paralympics today, I thought I would look at volleyball during the 1988 Paralympics. And as we know, women weren’t yet competing at the Paralympics, but there were actually two volleyball competitions there for men, one sitting and one standing.
Sitting volleyball was actually more popular as a sport, so it had a bigger competition with actual groups of play, and you had hard hitters, Netherlands and Norway in the same group. And as the nation that developed competitive sitting volleyball, it was likely not a surprise that the Netherlands was undefeated and Norway.
Only had one loss in the group play, and that was two Netherlands. In the other group Iran, who had shocked the pair of volleyball world by winning world Championships in 1985 and 86 also had just one loss, and that was to Hungary. And the second best team in this pool was Yugoslavia. And those four teams advanced to the semi-finals.
In the first semi-final, it was Netherlands versus Yugoslavia. Not a surprise that Netherlands won, but it was actually close. Three sets to two. Iran beat Norway. Three sets to one bronze was also a tight match. Norwegians eed out a victory over Yugoslavia. Three sets to two, but in the gold medal match, Iran stunned Netherlands.
Three sets to one.
[00:51:58] Alison: Well, Iran [00:52:00] continues with sitting volleyball. I mean, this is not a surprise if you were watching Tokyo,
[00:52:05] Jill: That is true. For the standing volleyball countries. It’s, what’s interesting is that none of the medalists in sitting volleyball had teams in the standing volleyball competition.
Huh, and this was a lot smaller tournament. There were only six teams competing as opposed to 10 for sitting. there wasn’t group play here because groups would be too small and play involved a points classification system, much like wheelchair rugby. So you could have up to 13 points on the court at any given time.
And players were given a point value According to their level of disability. So you’d have to mix and match to get enough people on the, court and have them be within the 13 point range. In this tournament, because it was so small, they went from preliminaries right to the gold medal or to the medal rounds.
West Germany dominated. The prelims went undefeated. They went straight to the gold medal match where they faced off against Israel, who had only lost to West Germany in the preliminaries, and they didn’t fare any better. Both of their matches were three sets to zero for West Germany. Host Nation. Korea went up for the bronze medal against Poland, but Poland beat Korea for the second time in the tournament and took home the bronze standing volleyball was in several more Paralympics until after Sydney 2000.
It was removed in part due to lack of prevalence around the world not enough, countries were playing it. The international competition is believed to have it ended after the 2011 World Cup in Cambodia. And since World p Volley has focused its efforts for standing volleyball players on the beach version of play.
[00:53:52] Alison: what I think is interesting is that you didn’t say United States, you didn’t say Canada, you know, both big [00:54:00] powerhouses in the sitting tournaments. Right. And you said, you know, Yugoslavia in West Germany, though Yugoslavia has a long history of volleyball in general. You know, we see Serbia and Bosnia and the pieces of Yugoslavia still being, it’s a very popular sport in that area of the world.
Isn’t it fun to say Yugoslavia again? I mean, not to dismiss what, what happened in the breakup of that country, but there’s, you know, my childhood heart going, oh yes, we’re back to the iron curtain.
[00:54:33] Jill: I know what this globe looks like. Right? And when I found a really interesting post, I’ll try to link to it in the show notes, a about the history of standing volleyball and Germany was the overall winner.
Points over the whole history of standing volleyball, how much they really dominated standing pair of volleyball. Very interesting.
You, you know, it is also time to vote for our next games that we will focus on for 2024. We are back to winter next year.
[00:55:07] Alison: I’m ready for winter after the heat. To be honest, but I’m gonna complain about it being cold again because all I have to do is look at the mole skin from Beijing and say, you never want it to be that cold
[00:55:18] Jill: again.
Right? So we have, uh, choices between three. Nope. So listeners, you will get to choose among three winter Olympics that have significant anniversaries. First up would be shaman 1924, which is the hundredth anniversary.
So the second choice we have would be Sarajevo 1984, because it is the 40th anniversary of those games. And then finally, we would have Lillehammer, 1994 is the 30th anniversary of those games. Next year, I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since Lillehammer, I voted. I know you voted.
[00:55:56] Alison: I’m not gonna say what I voted.
Oh wait. People can see what I voted for. [00:56:00] But yes, you can vote both on our main Facebook page and in the
[00:56:05] Jill: Facebook group. And I also threw up a poll on x I think they only have polls that last a week, so it won’t be up very much longer. But cast your votes over there as well. Very excited to see what comes of this.
The votes have been interesting so far. I will say that as have some of
[00:56:22] Alison: comments.
[00:56:25] Alison: Welcome to Shuk Stan.
[00:56:30] Jill: 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 and listeners who make up our citizenship of our very own country, Shuk Stan, first up, we’ve got results.
[00:56:43] Alison: I’m so excited about these first two. So, Stephanie Robel and Maggie Shea finished seventh at the 2023 Allion Sailing World Championships.
By doing so, they earned a spot for the US for Paris in 49 er
[00:56:57] Jill: fx. Yay. Team. Evan Dunphy finished fourth in the 20 kilometer race walk at the World Athletic Championships. He got a new Canadian record. That was awesome. And he was only 31 seconds behind the gold medalist. He qualified for Paris as well.
And this is a big deal because Evan’s really like a 50 K walker and they’ve taken the 50 K event out of Paris 2024 to make room for a mixed relay. And the fact that he’s been able to get to what is technically a sprint. In race walking the fact that he’s been able to prove that he’s able to do this is pretty awesome, so he’s also competing in the 35 k, which is going on sometime between our taping and posting on the show. So we will have results next show.
[00:57:45] Alison: So as of the taping. Hammer thrower, Deanna Price and Paul Vaulter, Katie Moon have both qualified for their finals.
Katie qualified in first place and Deanna qualified in second place, so this is really
[00:57:59] Jill: [00:58:00] exciting.
Beach volleyball player, Kelly Chang and her partner Sarah Hughes, competed in the Beach Pro Tour in Hamburg. They won the pool with three wins and no losses, but lost in the quarter finals and tied four fifth overall.
[00:58:12] Alison: Jordan Gray, finished third in the Heptathlon at the Thorpe Cup, her first competition in nearly two years.
[00:58:19] Jill: And pair Powerlifter Louise Sugden will be competing in the world pair of Powerlift championships on Friday, August 25th. We will have a link to the live stream in the show notes,
[00:58:30] Alison: and since we can’t get away from the World Athletics Championships, Jeff Whiteman is one of the in-house English announcers
[00:58:37] Jill: there.
And, you know, we covered rhythmic gymnastics last week. Ollie Hagman is over at the rhythmic gymnastics Championships now, , he’s just everywhere.
[00:58:48] Alison: Josh Williamson graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University earlier
[00:58:52] Jill: this month. And we are celebrating some wedding anniversaries. John Register and his wife Alice, celebrated 35 years together, and Warren Perrin and his wife Mary, celebrated their 54th.
The couple have also been inducted into the Acadian Memorial of St. Martinsville Order of Living Legends.
[00:59:11] Alison: And finally, we have. More population expansion in Stan, Phil Andrews and wife Jessica have announced they’re expecting a baby girl in December.
[00:59:22] Jill: Awesome.
Paris 2024 News
[00:59:23] Jill: Al. Oh, it will be fine. It will be fine. So many test events going on right now. the one that’s making the most headlines is the triathlon. They had to cancel some of the swim legs on some of the events. They did triathlon and both paratriathlon for this.
So there were four races. Two events got moved to a run bike run because of heavy rains in Paris. Had spilled some sewage into the sun. It [01:00:00] the levels of the pollution were untenable to hold races, so that’s why they switched the format. Per frank.com, according to Paris City Hall, the pollution in the sun.
A result of a valve malfunction in the sewage system, and there’s no question of a plan B, apparently the organizing committee in Para City Council are promising to continue work on the plan to Takeaways, some of the pollution in the sun, in particular, the basin for Oates that’s designed to ho hold up to 50,000 cubic meters of rain water to prevent runoff from going into the river in case of rain.
[01:00:42] Alison: in the last couple weeks, we did talk about there being a plan B, that they would use a different section of the sin if this section was too polluted. So I guess that’s
[01:00:53] Jill: off the table. You know, I don’t know because we’re also dealing with translated articles, so we’ll see how good this is. So maybe there is a plan B, maybe there’s not.
We shall see. Maybe they won’t even need a plan B. Let’s hope. At the same time as the triathlon test event, they were also archery and para archery test events going on in Valise. So it was a nice way for them to test holding multiple events at the same time. That’s, that one seemed to go pretty well.
And inside the games also noted that there were two operational test events, one for TaeKwonDo and para TaeKwonDo at the Grand Pal. But what they did there was they checked the accuracy of the timing and how the venue will transition from hosting fencing to hosting TaeKwonDo weightlifting. Had their operational test event at the South Paris Arena Hall, number six, and used French athletes in a couple of weight classes to test venue, transition, field of play, warmup area equipment, technical officials, volunteers, timing, scoring, and results.
Both of those tests also seemed to have gone well.
[01:01:57] Alison: Do you know what the French word for six is?[01:02:00] Si It’s six spelled the same. I like those words.
[01:02:08] Jill: The French government is also planning more investment in Tahiti according to inside the games. Well,
[01:02:15] Alison: didn’t the whole surfing venue get washed away by the floods?
[01:02:18] Jill: Oh, they had some issues with that. Yes. But the French government setting aside 600,000 euros plus for more funding for the surfing events. They have to build a new judge’s tower. Apparently. There’s a tower that. Looks like it sits in the water and judges are perched up there, and that’s how they watch and judge the competition.
Apparently. They, they need to build a new one. That must be bigger. ’cause I, it sounds like they need to hold more people in there. And it’s gonna be built out of aluminum. That’s already gone through 2.7 million euros to build this thing. I know. I know. So they’ve got to finish that project. I think we’ve mentioned this before, but the athletes were gonna be housed in a boat off the coast because there’s nowhere to put them.
And there was going to be construction on a hotel that had been abandoned, and then that construction just isn’t gonna get done. So that’s why we’re on a boat for the athletes village there. Well, you know, the surfers won’t get seasick. That’s true. Well, you hope they won’t.
I mean, if you’re, if you’re
[01:03:23] Alison: gonna put any athletes on a boat, rowers, canoeists, maybe swimmers, but certainly
[01:03:31] Jill: surfers. inside the games also reported that. There are going to be about 600 police and gen arms stationed for 10 days in Tahiti to bolster security there during the games.
[01:03:44] Alison: From who though?
Nobody’s allowed to go see it. Who are these? The gen arm
[01:03:50] Jill: protecting them against? Well, one of the things they said in this article was that they need to fight against malicious drones. Which could be a threat. [01:04:00] Oh yeah. I had not considered that either,
[01:04:02] Alison: but it won’t be my drone taxi. I am not a malicious drone.
[01:04:09] Jill: well that’s good to know. That’s good to know. And we will leave you with the thought of malicious drones for the week. That will do it for the show. Let us know what you’re looking forward to at the Paralympics next year.
[01:04:22] Alison: You can connect with us on X and Instagram at Flame Alive Pod. Email us at Flame Alive firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. 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 email@example.com.
[01:04:51] Jill: Next week is going to be Labor Day in the us. So we are marking the end of our summer movie season with a visit from Film Bran to discuss the Marvel. That is a promise kept. The Ana Bay story, we’ll put links out to the movie over social during this week because if you need a Quin Quintessential Made for TV movie, this one’s a must see.
Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.