LANE THREE: At Team USA Media Summit, U.S. fans are “catching up” to women’s hoops; diver Boudia overcame fear of heights; validating skateboarding

Weightlifting history for Mattie Rogers (left, silver) and Katie Nye (gold) of the U.S. at the 2019 IWF 71 kg Worlds, with North Korea's Hyo-Sim Kim (bronze) and Emily Godley (GBR, fourth). (Photo: IWF)

(For part one of our Team USA Media Summit review: click here;
for part two: click here)

Last of a three-part review of last week’s online Team USA Media Summit, with some of the most noteworthy highlights (these are from the closed-caption transcripts, with errors corrected as identified).

These are U.S. Olympians-to-be (already qualified), or leading U.S. contenders; what they had to say was pretty interesting:

BASKETBALL/Sue Bird, 2004-08-12-16 Olympic gold medalist:

● “I think simply put, I think the world, America, our country, is catching up to us. We’ve already been here. We’ve already been doing the basketball thing. We’ve already had that product. It’s already been what it is, which is great. I think from just the thing we stand for in terms of social justice. We’ve always been doing this. I think that’s what I mean when I say the country is just seeing it now.

“And when it comes to Draymond [Green‘s comments], to be honest, he does have a platform and I think he has every chance to get in the nuance of this conversation because a lot of these conversations around the sport lives in the nuance. They’re nuanced topics and there’s reasons why. The investment is belated. The media coverage is belated. It’s not as simple as, oh, they don’t have revenue. That’s the easy way out. It’s unfortunate with all of the resources he does have, he didn’t have those conversations with the people he can. He could have hit me, he could have hit all of us up. It’s unfortunate he didn’t have the conversations to understand the nuance.

“Because again his platform now allows people to just jump on that, quote/unquote ‘necessity that’ quote/unquote ‘they don’t have the revenue train’ and that’s not what it is. And I see his point, his point is, why is company X going to be able to capitalize on talking about women during Women’s History Month, but not put their money where their mouth is and support women sport, WNBA, whatever the case may be. To his point, he tagged people; he should be tagging companies, having conversations with the companies that maybe endorsed him. That’s really my take on it.”

BASKETBALL/Nneka Ogwumike, 2014-18 FIBA Women’s World Cup gold medalist:

● “There’s been a lot of eyes on women’s sports especially in the last year. I think when it comes for us, the inside looking out, I think most of us on this call can say, like, we always knew how cool we are and it’s fun to see people on the outside really taking note. And not just in how we are able to lead our communities, but also in our game, you know. I think at the end of the day there’s no platform without what we do. and for us to be able to be highlighted in ways that extend to college, professional ranks, and now we’re here talking about us continuing on a record-breaking performance with team USA, I think now more than ever that we’re experiencing a pivot and a true appreciation for women in sports.”

BASKETBALL/Dawn Staley, 1996-2000-04 Olympic gold medalist, 2020 U.S. coach:

● “It’s why we play, it’s why we sacrifice, it’s why we’ve come to put that pressure on ourselves to win. We like winning. It is every time we step on the floor we like that pressure. we also like the fact that we can say we’re competing for our 7th, right, our 7th consecutive gold medal. I mean, it has an incredible ring to it. It is why we get our players to commit during the down times in their off season or sometimes during the season. It’s what our commitment is in and, you know, when you’ve experienced any type of USA Basketball team or competition you’ll understand how everybody is, you know, everybody’s coming at you with their very best and it’s the norm for us. We want to beat every team, every opponent that we face, including in the upcoming Olympic Games.”

DIVING/David Boudia, 2012 Olympic 10 m Champion; 2016 silver:

● “I’m actually in quarantine now … I was positive about six days ago, and it’s just another road block. … Where did it come from? Obviously it can happen to anyone, anywhere.

“We couldn’t figure it out but it doesn’t matter, my wife and daughter are negative. We’ve been testing them once every two days to see if they are, to make sure that we, just, know.

“Where do I start, I was supposed to leave for Tokyo on Sunday and they cancelled the [18-23 April FINA World Cup] event because of precautions and just not everything under control. I had just gotten in maybe three minutes ago, that they’re now scheduling it for May 1st. So again, I just go back to, just adversity and athletes, that is your best friend. If you can train through this, then the Olympics should be a breeze. You block out the cameras and media and everything that comes, and you just do your job there.

“I think my symptoms, definitely Monday and Tuesday, I wasn’t a believer, I was like, I’m young, I probably won’t get it, or if I do get it, I probably won’t have anything. But I was out cold, Monday and Tuesday, slept. … It’s definitely not a joke, and right now I’m feeling good. It’s maybe day five since I’ve had my symptoms.”

● “I think [overcoming my] fear of heights, you just, you have a goal, you want to accomplish it and so that’s just a stumbling block. And when I first started [diving from] three stories in the air, 33 feet high, going head first at 35 miles an hour, I think anyone would be petrified of getting up there and jumping off. But for me, I wanted to go to the Olympics since I was seven years old.

“That was just something I had to get over, because my drive, my ambition and my tenacity to get through to the Olympics was more than my fear of heights, so I pushed through it. I worked with a sports psychologist who was phenomenal out of Indianapolis to just learn how to set goals … and eventually just trusted my coaches and my parents and decided, all right, this is just something i have to get over.”

SKATEBOARDING/Mariah Duran, USA Skateboarding national team member:

● “You can take it wherever you want and I feel like the core of skateboarding will always be there. It’s not the ideal sport everyone goes for, can’t really get scholarships or whatever like that, but I feel like now being in the Olympics, the conversation for people to start skating will be a little bit more easier. Like with the parents allowing their kids to do it because now it’s, like, okay, there’s a future. Take that as a possibility. But, yeah, I think it’s all up to the skateboarders themselves where’s they want to take it. I feel like that’s the main thing that the USA, like, promotes, kind of just, like, if you want to do these things, this is how you enter the contest and just do it, if you don’t, they’re not pushing it on anybody. Whoever wants it goes for it. So I think that’s really cool.”

SKATEBOARDING/Heimana Reynolds, 2019 World Skate Park Champion:

● “I’m a professional skateboarder and I’m really excited for skateboarding to finally be part of the Olympics. and really exciting for skateboarding to be kind of recognized as, like, a real sport, I guess, and have it, just be, get the respect at, like, for skateboarders can get the respect being known as a real athlete instead of just a little skateboarding hobby they do on the side or delinquent kids do when they want to trespass and vandalize stuff. Ha Ha. Yeah, I’m just excited to be part of it. …

“And I think that once it’s in the Olympics, it’s just gonna be an awesome way to kind of open the eyes of people who don’t really know much about skateboarding. So, yeah, that’s how I think that it’s gonna be an awesome way for skateboarding when it does.”

● “Coming from Hawaii, we don’t have the best skate parks and I’m really hoping maybe after the Olympics that the city will see that this is something that is a respectable sport and we will build more skate parks, we will build better parks and places for people to want to skateboard, you know.”

SURFING/Kolohe Andino, qualified for Tokyo 2020:

● “The surf culture in Japan is huge. It was really cool just to be at that event and surf in front of the fans, and they’re very passionate about being a fan but also very polite which is kind of a unique thing, for me at least. Sometimes fans can be very passionate but overly passionate. But Japanese culture was very, very polite. Just their gestures, they wanted to shake your hand instead of yell at you. Yeah, it was super cool, super respectful, polite culture. I was really glad to be part of it. also for me, it’s nice to go somewhere new, that’s really rad too. So I’m really excited on a lot of levels to compete over there again.”

SURFING/Carissa Moore, 4-time Women’s Championship Tour; qualified for Tokyo 2020:

● “A year delay actually hasn’t been all that bad to be completely honest. I mean, I’ve just kind of been surfing and training like I was for a normal event and I think some more time I had actually let me kind of go back to really look at my surfing to make improvements in this season, this year, so, yeah, it’s been a whole other year to train and build excitement, and yeah, get excited.”

● “I don’t know what to expect with surfing being in the Olympics. It will be broadcast to a bigger audience so more people will see it, hopefully more people will fall in love with it and actually tune in on a more regular basis. And maybe it will even inspire them to get out and try it. I have seen, like, a boom of new surfers in the ocean just during this pandemic. So I don’t know how many more people the lineups can hold. but it will be interesting to see what happens.”

WEIGHTLIFTING/Katie Nye, 2019 World 71 kg Champion:

● “I think all of us as lifters, especially for me, a country like ours we have a very comprehensive anti-doping program, and it’s hard to see the [International Weightlifting Federation] make mistake after mistake – well, it’s not really a mistake if they’re doing it on purpose, I guess – and seeing that representatives from our country, our [USA Weightlifting chief executive] and they are trying to make changes at the head of the International Federation and as a result, the International Olympic Committee is threatening the IWF. It’s really hard to see it happen. For Tokyo I’m not that worried, but I’m absolutely worried for Paris.”

WEIGHTLIFTING/Mattie Rogers, two-time Worlds 69-71 kg silver medalist:

● “In weightlifting, we are lucky to need minimum requirements, so just a bar and weights you can train. I had to cut my carpet to make my garage level so I have a place to train, but I think, just in general [the pandemic has] made me a lot tougher as an athlete, mentally. I feel like I can train any time anywhere now, good for competition, you never know what is thrown at you. …

“Most normal garages they’re at a bit of a slope, and as a weightlifter you need a very level platform. I didn’t have basically the ground to do it on, so I had to make my garage a little bit more level. I couldn’t physically change anything because I rented at the time, so I cut up some carpet. I think I had cardboard boxes and did what I could to make the front a little bit higher so it’s kind of level and then tried various things to be able to drop the weight because noise was an issue as well. We weightlifters definitely got a little bit creative during this time.”

USOPC/Jessica Bartley, Director of Mental Health Services:

● “We historically had a program called ‘Pivot’ and we are completely revamping that and so we are prepared to do a post-Games transition program, so if athletes are looking to retire, looking to figure things out, we’re starting to plan a two-day workshop. I pitched Hawaii but that got turned down.

“But we’re looking for a fun location where athletes can come together with some experts in the field and talk about what does the post-Games blues look like for them, what is the next step, how do you make the decisions around sticking a sport or if you’re going to move on, are there losses of identity, grief and loss so there’s a lot of components that we’ve all started to talk about and how we can do that. At this point, we’re looking to do a two-day in-person workshop and a year-long virtual kind of group and so based on the interest that will break the athletes in different groups.

“One of the things I would also mention is we’re trying to focus on a post-Games blues model to start to normalize that and start to talk about what it could look like, what it might look like, what might be different. One of the newest support groups that we’ve opened up is actually for athletes who don’t qualify for the Games, so we’ve gotten that support group up and running and [with] quite a few athletes as they’re not qualifying.”

USOPC/Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, Chief Medical Officer:

● “Vaccinated individuals have to follow all of the same protocols unvaccinated individuals need to follow. While vaccinated individuals are certainly at lower risk of sustaining or acquiring a case of Covid-19, it’s not zero and if your community prevalence is relatively high and you have repetitive exposures, each time you get exposed you have an increased chance of developing a Covid-19 infection.

“So if you said vaccinated people do not have to actually follow any of the Covid mitigation protocols and there is a high community prevalence, you bring people from all over the world together, the chances that some vaccinated people will end up getting sick is relatively high, so it is appropriate to do screening tests, and to have Covid mitigation measures for people whether they’re vaccinated or whether they’ve had a prior infection, until the prevalence of Covid-19 has significantly decreased, therefore the exposure is much lower.”

● “If somebody tests positive, and they’re asymptomatic and they have no known exposure, they’re going to immediately receive two follow-up PCR tests. If either one of those follow-up PCR tests are positive, that individual is considered to have Covid-19 or be positive, then they will be subject to public health guidelines within Japan, which at this point [means] placing somebody into isolation for a specific period of time until they are no longer contagious. At this time, based on the information that we have available, these people will not be allowed to compete.”

● “We have a fantastic exercise physiology team who has put together an entire heat acclimatization plan for athletes [for Tokyo], working with them by team and on an individual basis to customize a program.

“Heat acclimatization takes time. If you’re not acclimatized, heat-related illness is a life-threatening condition, it is serious from a health-performance standpoint. We have a fantastic team in place led by Randy Wilbur, one of our exercise physiologists and I’m happy and excited to see the results of their work.”

USOPC/Lindsay Shaw, Senior Sport Psychophysiologist:

● “There are so many features of the sort of five-year quad into Tokyo which leads to a contrast three-year quad into Paris so I’ve had more athletes previously contemplating retirement saying oh, it’s only three years, I’m thinking seriously about Paris at this point. I think that will be a pretty novel quirk.

“I think every National Olympic Committee is preparing as ourselves for governing bodies, athletes, what will removal from play look like in Tokyo, something we don’t care to think about but we need to prepare carefully for.”

Just a small sample of the 500+ American athletes who are going, or trying to make the team for Tokyo this summer. Rest assured, you will hear many of their voices again, and likely much louder.

Rich Perelman
Editor

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