Paralympic cyclists podcast episode

Inside Look At The Paralympic Games And Elite Athletes With Jim Lehman

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Topics covered in this episode:

  • The impressive feats Paralympic cyclists are accomplishing
  • Understanding the different Paralympic classifications
  • How we can grow the awareness around the Paralympic Games

Guest Bio – Jim Lehman:

Jim Lehman has been a CTS Coach since 2000 and served as a National Team Coach for the US Para-cycling team, including working as a coach for the 2004, 2008, 2016, and 2022 Paralympic Games.

Learn More:

Coach Jim Lehman: https://trainright.com/coaches/jim-lehman/

Paralympic Games Website: https://www.paralympic.org/

Men’s C1-2-3 1000m Time Trial | Rio 2016 Paralympic Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRIDUDAHOKI

 

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Thanks To This Week’s Sponsor:

Stages Cycling

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

 

Adam Pulford (00:00:06):

In the lead up to Tokyo, we did a series on the preparations athletes were making for the Olympic games. I interviewed the top physiologists at the Olympic Paralympic training center, as well as two other Olympic ball athletes in the sport of cycling. But what I didn’t talk about was the Paralympic games, which also took place in Tokyo later in August, like myself, you may have not watched the Paralympics as closely as the Olympics, or like most, you may not know enough about the athletes with disabilities who are competing at the world level that are just as impressive. If not more nondisabled athletes. My goal for this episode is to inform you about the history of the Paralympic games, show you how elite athletes these athletes really are, and perhaps create more curiosity about the games and the athletes competing. I’ve got the perfect guest lined up for that. He’s not only one of the most decorated Paralympic coaches today, but a ALO CTS coach and a great friend. Now let’s hear from him on the train right podcast, Jim layman. Welcome to the show.

Jim Lehman (00:01:11):

Hey, thanks for having me, Adam. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:01:13):

Well, thanks for taking the time to, uh, talk to us today about, uh, Paralympics, uh, your involvement with it. But before we do, can you tell our listeners bit more about who Jim layman is?

Jim Lehman (00:01:25):

Sure. Uh, you know, I’ve been involved in coaching for quite a while. I grew up playing soccer, uh, played soccer initially through high school in a couple years in college, and then I’ve been dabbling in bike racing at the time. And at that point decided to do a little bit more bike racing. I, I stopped playing in soccer in college and, and, uh, you know, like most people that are involved in coaching, I got to a point where my athletic ability sort of hit it ceiling, so to speak. And, uh, I really wanted to stay in the sport. So I tried to figure out a way where I could apply what I had learned in school. And then also through life experience in sport and ended up finishing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in exercise physiology. Um, not really realizing exactly what I could do with those, which turns out to be not a whole lot, but was able to get creative and where we are now in the world, timing was actually pretty good.

Jim Lehman (00:02:21):

Um, because those two degrees come together are quite well and in a coaching real. And, uh, I ended up taking a what, a position at USA cycling as a resident coach, uh, living in the dorms with a junior national team. Uh, that’s where I met Chris Carmichael. Uh, and then in shortly thereafter, he left USA cycling, uh, my position at, as a resident coach, a short term position and it ended, um, but he then started CTS shortly after that. Uh, so the timing was good from that standpoint. It allowed me to get involved in cycling, allowed me to stay involved in the coaching world. Um, and that’s taken me down, many roads we’ve been involved with, I’ve worked with motor sports athletes, NASCAR drivers, super bike riders, cyclists, of course. Um, and, and then in 2002, uh, one of our fellow CTS coaches, he happened to live next door to Joe Walsh, who was the, at that point, the director or, or one of the directors at, uh, us Paralympics, the cycling program had been run a little more loosely.

Jim Lehman (00:03:28):

They had, they were bringing people in for specific events for the world championships, uh, for the Paralympic games, but they really didn’t have a cohesive program. So pitched to Joe that we, the two of us would run that program and Joe loved the idea. So then we basically assumed through a contract basis, we became the, the coaches for the Paralympic program in 2002. So that ran us through, um, up until 2008 and then they changed and actually hired Craig full-time. Um, but that allowed me to learn and, and I just kind of hit the ground running. I, I didn’t really know much about para cycling. Um, I didn’t really know a whole lot about what the Paralympics were, so there was a huge learning curve for me. Um, but it opened my eyes into a whole nother world of what P people are capable of. And again, what the Paralympic games actually are and what para cycling is. Yeah. No. So it, it that’s been a journey that’s gone on now for, you know, going on 20 years. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:04:30):

Yeah. So you’ve been coaching well over 20 years in, in the Paralympic program for longer than that. I didn’t. So you I’m gonna learn a lot on this podcast too, cause I didn’t know that you actually started in 2002 with them. Right? Like that ironically, when I was an intern at CTS, one of my first projects actually was with you and Griffy over at the training center working with paras. I dunno if you remember this, I, I, I basically just set up trainers for everybody and I was like, right, man, these, these animals are beasts. Like, it was crazy. That was one of my, and that was like 2005 or six or something like that.

Jim Lehman (00:05:04):

Yeah. That would’ve been, yeah, that would’ve been right about the time. And at that point we were hitting our stride, you know, but we were, we had, cuz Craig was the same. We hadn’t really, he hadn’t really been exposed. I mean, at the end of the day they’re athletes. Yeah. So it was, it was easy once I had to sort of overcome my, um, know, I I’d known so few people over the years who were in wheelchairs, uh, and you know, growing up in Ohio, there was a guy who we used to race bikes with who had an above the knee amputation and he would race with us. Um, but it was, it was still more of a, I didn’t really know him that well and, and, but, and also didn’t really see him away from that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so I didn’t really, he the whole picture of what he, you know, what he is like as a person, what his daily life is, looks like, um, and really what he’s capable of. And a lot of times it was still that novelty of, oh, cool. Look at him, he’s riding his bike with one leg mm-hmm <affirmative>, but not fully appreciating what he was doing and, and how great of an athlete he was. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:06:02):

Yeah, exactly. And we’re gonna get into a lot more of that here in a bit, but, um, uh, your involvement with Paralympics, I mean, 20 plus years, uh, how many games have you been to now then?

Jim Lehman (00:06:15):

So I’ve been to four Paralympic games. Oh, so Athens was the first one I went to then Beijing in 2008, I didn’t go to London. Uh, and then I went to Rio in 2016 and then we just finished the Tokyo games, you know, technically Tokyo 20, 20, but really obviously 2021. Um, but so four PA Olympic games. Um, and that’s one of the amazing things too with this process is I’ve been, the Paralympics have taken me all over the world too. Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. North America, south America, Africa, Europe, Asia, you know, I’ve just Australia and Antarctica. Those are the only two places we, that I haven’t been yet. Yeah. With the Paralympics. So pretty, pretty amazing to, yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:06:58):

Yeah. And it, it has been amazing journey and it’s been decorated too. Um, how many, how many medals do you have, uh, from your athletes that have been competing at the games?

Jim Lehman (00:07:08):

Uh, my athletes that I’ve individually coached have won a total of eight medals at the Paralympic games. So two in Athens, two in Beijing, uh, two in London and then two in, uh,

Adam Pulford (00:07:22):

Rio. Wow. That’s impressive. And so, and that’s kind of all led to, I, I mean, I mean, I know you hate talking about yourself, but it’s kind of led to this, uh, latest honor that was just bestowed upon you in Tokyo called the order of eco. Am I saying that right? That is correct. Yeah, that is correct. Can, can you tell me and our listeners more about what that means and what that means to you?

Jim Lehman (00:07:45):

Absolutely. So after the 2000 or at the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic games, uh, the us O P C started what they called this order of ECOS medal. Uh, it was a way to honor the coaches. Um, oftentimes, you know, the athletes are decorated and, and that’s fine as coaches. We often work in the background and, and that’s okay. You know, I think many of us do this, not for the notoriety or the, the personal recognition. Um, but we wanna see our athletes. And for me internally, that’s where I gain the most satisfaction. Um, but the OS O P C I think, wanted to wanted a way to, to honor and recognize those coaches. So they created this order of ethos. Um, it’s effectively an honor role. Uh, ethos is the, is sort of the, he’s the first known coach, um, from the Olympic movement. So an ancient increase ethos was an athlete originally, and then each transition from his athletic role to a coach.

Jim Lehman (00:08:43):

So they used ECOS as the, sort of the, the face of this medal. Um, and any athlete that at the Paralympic games or the Olympic games who wins a medal, uh, they have the opportunity to then acknowledge a coach who has helped them, you know, and it’s interesting in cycling because we coach individual athletes. But then when I, as I go to the games with the, the athletes, or I go to the world championships, there’s athletes there that I coach there in the moment, but I don’t coach them individually. I don’t write their training programs. So, um, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with athletes. So I’ve, I’ve been bestowed six order of eco metals over the years. Um, the first five were from athletes I individually coached and actually this last games that in Tokyo, an athlete who I’ve known for years, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, um, Alicia, Dana, she’s a hand cyclist.

Jim Lehman (00:09:38):

I work with her quite a bit and we’ve, we’ve developed a rapport. She has her own individual coach, but when we work together at camps and, and at competitions, you know, we, we, we have a very good working relationship. So actually I would, this one probably was the most impactful because I wasn’t anticipating it. Right. I actually didn’t have any athletes at the games this year that I individually coached. So when I received the medal from her, um, it actually probably again, because it was unin unexpected, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it probably had the most impactful, it was most emotional one for me to receive. Um, I mean, they’re all important and they’re all exciting. And, and again, as a coach, it’s know, to feel that connection and to see athletes succeed, that’s really what we’re doing it for. But, you know, to have athletes recognize the impact, cuz sometimes you do, you work in the background and you don’t feel like sometimes you feel unappreciated, um, and athletes are there to compete. They’re not necessarily there to thank you all the time. So to be recognized and for an athlete to acknowledge the role they, you played in their success is it’s a pretty, it’s pretty cool experience. That

Adam Pulford (00:10:40):

Is super cool. Um, and especially at that level, I, I get it too, cuz I mean working various jobs in coaching too. It’s like when you’re one on one working with an athlete, um, over time, I mean you kind of share in the successes, but when you are, <laugh>, you know, there as the assistant of sort, I mean, uh, head coach at the Olympic games is different, but like, um, yeah. To have that unanticipated award come your way, that’s, that’s pretty special. So congrats. Uh, once again, I don’t thank you. I actually verbally told you that only on, only on Instagram, so

Jim Lehman (00:11:12):

Well, that’s really where the most important conversations happen.

Adam Pulford (00:11:15):

That’s anyway, that’s where it’s all happening. Um, so you know, you have a rich history in the Paralympic games. Can you tell our listeners a bit more about like the history of the Paralympic games? Like when, when did all of this start, was it all the way back in ECOS or was it something during modernity? So

Jim Lehman (00:11:33):

Right. Could could question, you know, the, the Paralympic games, you know, it’s a relatively young, uh, athletic competition. Um, it originally started, so there was a, a rehab hospital in, in England. Um, they started putting on competitions only for people in wheelchairs. Um, and they called him the stoke Manville Manville games. Um, I think the first one was probably, I think it was in 1948. Um, and they only, they were only for athletes that were in wheelchairs and I think they only started with archery. Oh. Um, so that, that was the stoke Manville games. And then that kind of evolved into it kept growing and in 1960, which would be the ninth Manville game, stoke Manville games. Um, they actually took place in Rome right after the Olympic games. So they’re, they’re kind of considered the, the first Paralympic games. Um, from that standpoint, all the athletes still in wheelchairs, um, they had 400 athletes, uh, representing 23 nations and they, and I’m just gonna read it off the list cuz I can’t remember, but they competed in eight sports. So wheelchair basketball, swimming table, tennis, archery, snooker archery, which is pretty interesting. I didn’t know this until I did a little, but a homework. It’s a combination of darts and arch. Um, and then wheelchair fencing,

Adam Pulford (00:12:57):

Um, I’d become a Darris for sure. <laugh> right.

Jim Lehman (00:13:00):

Yeah, exactly. Um,

Adam Pulford (00:13:02):

What is, what is snicker though? I, I don’t know what snicker

Jim Lehman (00:13:05):

Snicker is. Some form of billiards. I it’s it’s, I think it’s, it’s a British again. I, I I’ve played, you know, we probably all played pool really, you know, typical pool, but snicker, I takes place on a pool table, but with no pockets and it’s a matter of hitting the balls in, in a series of combinations and um, anyway,

Adam Pulford (00:13:24):

Forget, forget Dodge ball, next training camp, Jim we’re playing sneaker archery. Okay. Um,

Jim Lehman (00:13:29):

Anyway, so that’s 1960. Yep. Um, 1964 would be technically the, the first official Paralympic games. So this was not stoke Manville games anymore. This is at, in Tokyo, um, 21 countries, 375 athletes participated. And this is right after the Olympic games took place. So this is when the two kind of aligned in a more, you know, systematic, um, where they were taking place, you know, they were acknowledged as the Paralympic games.

Adam Pulford (00:14:01):

Yeah. And ironically in Tokyo,

Jim Lehman (00:14:04):

In Tokyo. Right, right.

Adam Pulford (00:14:06):

Yeah. Um, so was Harris cycling always kind of part of that or when did Paris cycling enter the Paralympic program? Right. So I gain traction, I should say.

Jim Lehman (00:14:18):

Right. And, and for a lot of those first years, um, it was only for athletes who were in wheelchairs, the events that they had mm-hmm <affirmative> so it wasn’t until 1984 that they added cycling. Um, and at that point, you know, again, the, the, the, the Paralympic movement is still, and, and I think the whole recognition of what or who a Paralympic athlete could be. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and, and that sort of outside of the idea of, well, we only have people, people in wheelchairs that’s our that’s what a Paralympic athlete is. So it took a while for that, that piece to evolve a little bit. So 1984, they added a time trial for riders with cerebral palsy. Um, and then it progressed a little bit and they kind of bounced back and forth a little bit. Sometimes there would be events for women. Sometimes there’d be events for men.

Jim Lehman (00:15:06):

Um, but it was strictly on the, on the road mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, until 1996 at, in Atlanta, then they added track cycling. Um, and then it wasn’t until nine until 2004 and Athens that they added hand cycling, but only hand cycling for men. Um, but part of it is you and I had a conversation earlier, part of that issue becomes within the Paralympic and Olympic movement. Each game starts with a finite number of medals. Yeah. This is interesting. Yeah, it, it is. And I didn’t understand this either. Right. So in order for an event to be added, something needs to be removed. Hmm. So if say they have 200 medals, if we want to add, um, hand cycling, something else had to go. Um, so they is IOC the IOC and the I P C okay. The international Paralympic committee. So they, each, they each govern their games.

Jim Lehman (00:16:02):

Um, so for example, in 2004, um, for the, the cyclist mm-hmm <affirmative>, so for on the road, they normally would have one medal for the timer, one medal for the road race. Um, but as they added hand cycling, they basically turned the road event into an omnium mm-hmm <affirmative>. So it was one medal combined on your road results and your time trial results. Hmm. So that allowed them to add hand cycling metal. So, and it evolved and, and I, I don’t know all the particulars about how that works. Right, right. Um, but that’s the general idea and it happens at the Olympic games too. Yeah. For example, when they added freestyle BMX. Um, so in the, in the past years there was, uh, an individual pursuit in the Olympic games. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, there’s no longer an individual pursuit part of that. They got around, they added an omnium.

Jim Lehman (00:16:53):

So again, they took four or five events, put ’em into an omnium for one, one medal. Um, but something had to go yep. And, and to add freestyle BMX, you had to add, you had to take another medal away and it doesn’t always have to come from your sport. Right. It might come another sport. Right. Like in the Olympic games, baseball and softball were removed for several years. Hmm. Um, but they’ve since come back so hand cycling’s added in 2004, in 2008, and we’ll, we’ll probably talk a little, we can talk a little bit more detail about these classifications. Yeah, exactly. We will here a bit, um, in 2008, trikes were added, um, which is a fascinating bike. Um, technically a, I guess, but we can talk again a little bit more about that. And then in 2012, the another event was added actually the hand cycle relay, which is pretty cool event.

Jim Lehman (00:17:43):

It’s pretty exciting. They usually end the Paralympic program, the cycling program with this hand cycle relay. Um, so that was kind of cool too, because hand cycling doesn’t compete on the, the hand cyclists don’t compete on the track mm-hmm <affirmative> so it was a way to give the hand cyclists another opportunity. Um, and I think anytime relays, I think we watch the relays relays, track and field relays. Yes. Swimming relays they’re they tend to be draw the crowds and the biggest excitement, because there’s so much yeah. That can happen within those, within those relays. Yeah,

Adam Pulford (00:18:14):

No, a absolutely. And I, and I think that, you know, there there’s, as I said in my intro, not a whole lot of people follow this sport, whether it’s the Paralympics or Paris cycling specifically, and there’s, there’s multi the reasons behind that. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s young in terms of its its history. Therefore, you know, it has this evolutionary track that is still evolving quite rapidly, um, to, for various reasons. Um, but you, you know, the, the marketing, it isn’t as great. The, the media isn’t as, as, um, robust, as other sports education and awareness and equality. I mean, what other, uh, I, I guess Paralympics is gaining a lot of traction, but why is it not as popular in your opinion?

Jim Lehman (00:19:03):

It’s a great question. I, I, I, I don’t know the answer. Um, well, I, I have a couple ideas, but you know, and when we’re in Europe or at the games, you turn on the TV effectively, their version of NBC, whatever, whatever network is covering the games and it’s full coverage as if you were watching, you were here in the us watching the Olympic games on TV. I wanna watch swimming. I wanna watch basketball. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, you just, you know, find the NBC network or, or affiliate that’s covering it. And when you’re on, when yeah. When you’re in the local community, you do the same thing. I wanna watch wheelchair basketball. I wanna watch wheelchair rugby. I wanna watch, um, track and field events. I wanna watch fencing it’s on and it’s all covered. And, you know, in the us typically, and I, I think a lot of it it’s money driven, right?

Jim Lehman (00:19:57):

Yeah. So if sponsors aren’t behind it, if sponsors aren’t, but a lot of it’s sponsors, I don’t think they knew. Right. And I think the one thing we’ve seen change this last Paralympic cycle is companies like visa, uh, Toyota. And, uh, so Toyota was offering effectively stipends. And I forget what they called them, but to every Paralympic athlete wow. This year, I, I don’t think they did it for Olympic athletes. So there, there are companies now that are, that are getting on board. Um, and there’s a few athletes, um, OK. On mass who competes as a para cycling athlete, she’s a, in a hand cycle, uh, she also competes in Nordic ski and she’s one of the most decorated athletes, Paralympic athletes in the us. Um, she is a Toyota sponsored athlete. She is a visa sponsored athlete, and she’s also sponsored by many companies, but in secret. So those three companies used her in advertising, even during the Olympic games, you’d see a visa commercial and there is Oxana. Um, and that’s pretty cool. And that’s part of that awareness and education when

Adam Pulford (00:21:05):

We’re talking about a Oxana, um, having multiple sponsors in, in how that, I mean, that’s super cool. And I think it’s bringing a lot of awareness and education, you know, to kind of the more mainstream, right?

Jim Lehman (00:21:20):

Correct. It, it’s bringing sort of the, the American public and, and I think beyond just hardcore fans. Yeah. Yep. Uh, I think people who love sport have figured out a way, and they’re aware of Paralympics and they’re LA Paralympic movement. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, but I think the, you know, most people even watch the Olympics. It’s, it’s a, you know, they do this every, mostly I’d say four years because the winter games aren’t followed quite as closely, but every two years they tune in mm-hmm <affirmative> and they have their favorite athletes. They follow along. Uh, they’re excited, you know, there’s a lot of national pride that comes with that and cheering for their athletes. But I think most of them, they also identify with a few athletes, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps mm-hmm <affirmative>, but there aren’t the same type of name recognition or there haven’t been, but I think there’s a few now with Oxana masters, Tatiana McFadden, who competes on the track and field side, um, the people are starting to have these athletes that they can associate with.

Jim Lehman (00:22:19):

They can create some kind of connection, some kind of relationship with, um, and I think this year for the first time, and again, I was in Tokyo, so I didn’t really have a chance to watch the NBC kind 1200 hours of coverage. Yeah. Which compared to the Olympic games is probably pretty small still for sure. But compared to, compared to a one hour recap at the end of the games. Yeah. I was impressed, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re quite a, we made quite a huge leap from Rio to Tokyo. So I think that piece is really, and again, I think the stories, not that Olympic athletes don’t have amazing stories of how they got to where they are and, and what they’ve overcome, but I think almost well, I would say every Paralympic athlete has an amazing story as to how they, how their journey brought to the Paralympic games.

Jim Lehman (00:23:11):

Yeah. Um, whether it was something that they were as condition or that they were born with or something that impacted their lives that put them in the situation they’re in, but the story of them overcoming those odds and, you know, moving forward and, and, you know, I’ll use kind of air quotes, but leading what I would say is a normal life. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, they’re, they’re just, Hey, this is just who I am. I, I’m not asking for any kind of, uh, special consideration, I, this is what I wanna do. And I’m using sport to move forward and bring enjoyment and fulfillment to my life. And, and it basically chased my athletic dreams. Yeah. So it may look a little bit different, but at the end of the day, that’s what, that’s what they’re doing.

Adam Pulford (00:23:57):

Yeah. And we’re kind of, kind of on this topic right now. So probably like spin to it here briefly, but what’s interesting. And kind of curious is you mentioned two high profile, Paralympic athletes, and they’re both women, however, you know, the, throughout the history of sport and, and, um, cycling specifically men and women have not had the equal opportunity to compete at this high level. Would you say that, that the Paralympic games in para cycling has done not a better job, but like a faster job of getting more equality to men and women athletes? Or are we still kinda, uh, working to, to solve that problem?

Jim Lehman (00:24:42):

Well, I, I think there certainly working to towards it, you know, the Paralympic movement initially started at least with para cycling, you know, typically adding men first mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, we had a woman on the team, you know, was on the team for several games, Barbara buckin. She actually competed, uh, she interesting story. She was, um, an Olympic level cyclist first. Hmm. Um, oh, wow. And she was competing in, uh, you know, I might get some of the facts wrong. So Barbara, if you’re listening, I apologize. <laugh> um, she was competing, I believe it was in 1982 maybe. And it was a world’s trials. It was pre hard shell helmets. And she was involved in the, at a very bad crowd Ash, um, which, you know, she unfortunately suffered a traumatic brain injury, spent several weeks, months in a coma. Um, but she, you know, part of what came out of that is like we, our, our more of an attention towards safety. So that accident led to the need or the development of heart shell helmets. Um, but anyway, so yeah, Barbara came back as an athlete, um, and in se in, or excuse me, no Barcelona in 1992, uh, you know, here’s a former elite level athlete, but in 1992, there were no cycling events for women. So she actually competed in, on, in track and field events, um, until they had events for her to compete as a cyclist. Wow.

Adam Pulford (00:26:11):

I did not know

Jim Lehman (00:26:12):

That. Yeah. So fascinating. I mean, she just, again, she’s an elite athlete she wanted to compete, so she decided, okay, well, I’ll compete on track and field events, um, until there’s something for me as a cyclist. So I think that, I mean the whole Paralympic movement is about inclusion and, and equity and sport. Um, but I don’t think it’s completely immune to, you know, or hasn’t been immune to the idea that, and partly it’s just where, where the athletes are. Yeah. They, they kind of look at a sample of, of where the athletes are available and it, it probably wouldn’t make sense to add a women’s event if they couldn’t identify enough women to participate in that event. So I’m sure some of that went into the thought process of, okay, well, we need to have a pool of athletes who can compete, you know, can train, can qualify and then compete at this level. Um, so some of it took a while for that to happen. Um,

Adam Pulford (00:27:05):

Yeah. Yeah. Because as we’re kind of talking here too, and, and as it was kind of laying out this, um, these talking points, I was like, man, there there’s like so much more involved, obviously that I have no idea of when it comes to identifying not only a metal count, but you know, what actual, you know, uh, uh, sport is gonna be in the games and, and that kinda stuff. But we’re, we’re talking about these like stories and examples of athletes coming to the sport and that one, I, I had no idea of, and that’s, that’s really interesting to hear. Um, but I am curious, like, I mean, that, that probably is a unique, uh, situation where an elite level athlete had has an injury that makes them become a disabled athlete. Could you share a, a bit more stories of like, whether of how someone becomes a Paralympian and does that mean that they are born with a, say a biological, um, uh, injury that, uh, brings to the sport? Or is it something later on in life? And then from that kind of standpoint, what’s what are the availability, uh, to the like introduction of sport for some of these athletes who are disabled? Because I, I don’t know, and it’s gotta be not as available as non-disabled athletes. Right,

Jim Lehman (00:28:22):

Right. It, it is. It’s tricky. That sort of pipeline piece is probably the same. Right. So mm-hmm, <affirmative> USA cycling goes through the same process. They have an athlete pipeline, they do development camps. Um, but identifying those athletes and then those athletes being aware of the opportunities, that’s a, that’s a whole nother piece, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> as people, just, again, the awareness people even recognizing, and that there’s a Paralympic movement out there. And then each sport’s a little bit different. I think, um, you know, us skiing has done a great job. You go to almost any ski resort. Yeah. That’s true. And there is an adaptive ski program. Um, swimming’s pretty easy, low cost of entry. You know, you need a goggles in a suit and a cap, maybe mm-hmm <affirmative>. And when you’re in the water, you’re buoyant. So, you know, our sport is cycling and some of the other more, more equipment, heavy sports, um, can be a little restrictive that way.

Jim Lehman (00:29:18):

Um, because you can’t just go to a bike shop and buy a bike. Um, that’s gonna work for you depending on your impairment. Bikes need to be modified in terms of moving. Say, if you only have one arm, you have to move the shifters and then all to one side, and then you have one brake lever. So then they put in what they call a brake splitter. So then that one break activates to Flore and rear break. So there’s, there’s some, there’s some barriers of entry, um, for the sport of cycling. Um, but I think in general, you know, the people come to us, uh, into Paris sport, um, for many different backgrounds. We’ve had athletes over the years in, I, I think I will speak to just para sport in general. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because I it’s probably the same, although I don’t know the other sports as well.

Jim Lehman (00:30:07):

Um, we have athletes who are born with a condition mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, or born with, uh, either one limb or limb that didn’t fully develop. Um, you know, and we’ve had athletes who are involved in, in accident <affirmative>, um, whether they are on their, you know, sort of whether motorcycle accidents, car accidents, um, we have a number of, of men and women on our para cycling team who are former military, who are injured in service. Um, and, and, and for some, I mean, it, it it’s, especially if they were injured. I think for those, we had a woman on the team, Greg and Naus, who came to Athens as a, through a program in Chicago. And I can’t remember the name of the program. Uh, she came as a 16 year old mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, she was born with an arm that didn’t fully develop.

Jim Lehman (00:30:57):

Um, but so she, you know, since she was a little girl, that’s all she knew. Yeah. So there was no life change for her. That’s all she knew. And she played soccer and, but she was involved in this program. They brought her to Athens to learn about para sport, what it looked like, what these different options were. And she went to a number of events, uh, different sports. And one of ’em was, she went to the VE room in Athens and witness track cycling and, and, you know, she talks about it in that moment. She’s like, this is what I’m gonna do. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, that’s cool. As a 16 year old, this is what I want to do. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and this was in 2004 and, you know, so, you know, she got involved, she had to make, you know, they make some adaptations for her bike.

Jim Lehman (00:31:42):

Um, so her prostate limb could connect with the handlebar. So then she had two points of hand contact on the handlebar. Um, she came through a number of development camps. She rode her way onto the national team and then rode her way to, she went to the next Paralympic games in Beijing, um, four years later, which is pretty exciting. Yeah. Um, um, so they come in in different ways and it’s interesting because sometimes people, um, we’ve done a number of things over the years in conjunction with, um, the military where we’ve done these sort of Paralympic military summits, where similar will have cycling will be there, there may be para sale lane, wheelchair basketball, mm-hmm, <affirmative> track and field. And it’s an opportunity for these men and women to come and, and, and learn about these different sports. Again, sometimes it’s a sport maybe they play before, before they were injured.

Jim Lehman (00:32:36):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, maybe they played basketball, um, and wheelchair basketball is an easy transition, but sometimes it’s, Hey, I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as wheelchair rugby. Yeah. Or, you know, archery or, or Paris sailing. So it gives them an opportunity to do something, you know, especially if they were athletes before, or sometimes they weren’t necessarily athletic, but now they have an opportunity to sort of move forward with their lives. And it gives them an outlet. Um, particularly those who are injured because they go through, you know, there’s a process of rehabbing. And then, you know, they have to deal with, you know, all the other sort of emotional things that come with that, um, and their lives have been changed, but, um, those who are, were able to kind of process that piece, um, and then use sport as an, a outlet, oftentimes come out with it and they’re, they realize like, Hey, my life is different, but my life is, it can still be a full, enjoyable, fulfilling life. Now it just looks a little bit different yeah. Than it

Adam Pulford (00:33:36):

Did before. Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s amazing. I think sport does that in general, um, pair of sport as well. And you mentioned Greta. I remember, I remember Greta, um, she, she had moved to Colorado Springs. Yeah. Yeah. And she’s part of the Olympic, but she would come out on the group rides with us, Colorado Springs. She would, which is, I mean, you could have anything from Joe Schmo to young coach to Olympic gold medalist in Paris, but like she was flying she’s fast.

Jim Lehman (00:34:04):

She was. Yeah. Yeah. In fact, probably one of the last years she lived in, in the Springs mm-hmm <affirmative> um, she, you and I went on a ride with her out, into black forest. Mm-hmm <affirmative>

Adam Pulford (00:34:15):

Kick my butt. Yeah. <laugh>

Jim Lehman (00:34:16):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, so that’s the amazing part. And I think, you know, I think that’s an important piece to recognize, you know, I think sometimes people see, again, it’s not a, it’s not a fault of their own. And a lot of it’s just falls on, you know, the education piece of this is they see people riding, you know, whether it’s a hand bike or a tri or, or, and they just think, oh, that’s so amazing. Yeah. And, and for an elite athlete, it’s like, well, I’m not, I’m not amazing because I’m riding my bike. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I’m amazing because I’m kicking. Yeah. Right. I’m amazing because I’m riding really quickly. And I think that’s a piece that the general public doesn’t quite fully understand. Um, and some of it is a little bit of a confusion of what the Paralympic games are.

Jim Lehman (00:35:02):

Um, you know, cuz periodically I I’ll have people ask me like, you know, oh, that’s so cool. You’re involved with the special Olympics. How is that? Um, and it, and again, it’s not in an insult and it’s not a, you know, it part, a lot of it comes from just a, not fully understanding what those two, you know, the, the special Olympics and the para Olympics are just different, different, different competitions. Yeah. Right. The, the, the Paralympics is about elite level competition, athletes train. They go through a qualification process and they compete against the Beth best athletes in the world. Yeah. The special Olympics is a little bit more about participation and about inclusion and getting people involved in sport, but it’s not necessarily, you know, it’s not about elite level competition. So both, both of them are amazing and both of them, but they have very different roles. Right. So associating that. Um, you know, and, and I think that’s the difference when you think of Paralympic athletes, it, it’s focusing more on what they’ve accomplished as athletes mm-hmm <affirmative> and the amount of training, the sacrifice and, you know, not everybody gets to go to the Paralympic games. Right. Right. Every, every four years we have amazing athletes within our program who unfortunately have to sit out. Yeah, yeah. Um, just like at the Olympics, right. You don’t, you can’t send

Adam Pulford (00:36:23):

Everybody. I was gonna say, it’s just like any other, uh, Olympic or world championship game. Not everybody not everybody’s there. Right. Um, so let, let’s bring some context to how fast, how elite some of these athletes are. You gave an exam and, and we’ll talk about classification and categories coming up here, um, to bring more, um, understanding to what those are, but for one category of, of racer, like a men’s C five, four caper suit, you’ve got, you’ve got an example here. So first, um, uh, let me just walk you through this real quick and then we’ll get into category. So it’s a category of C five, which is not as disabled. We’ll talk about what more of that means, but specifically this athlete that has this world record, um, Jim, for that C five, I mean, what kind of, uh, disabled is that?

Jim Lehman (00:37:15):

So a C five would be, they have the categories for cyclists. C would be cyclists, and then they go five through one, five being sort of the, the least impaired. Yep. So they may have, um, and, and it’s tricky because there’s a, a spectrum of across these, it’s not as easy as men and women, um, there’s different levels. So it basically would be effectively it’s one limb would be impaired and it could be that they are missing their hand or they could be missing their entire arm, um, or portion of their arm. Or they could have a leg that’s impaired in some way. Um, but typically they’re, you know, sometimes especially if you saw them, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily think, oh, well, I don’t understand why that person’s out there. They, they look, you know, they don’t look like they’re a Paralympic athlete, um,

Adam Pulford (00:38:09):

For a class five

Jim Lehman (00:38:11):

For, for a C five. Exactly. Yep. Um, but they tend to be, so again, the least impaired, the most high functioning athletes, you know, within cycling and each sport has their own classification system. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and they don’t all follow the, you know, C five through one, some are much more elaborate swimming in particular has a, an incredible number of classifications that I don’t fully understand. Um, but within the sport, it makes sense for them. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So at the games in Tokyo, you know, just a couple months ago, the was it’s indicative of the level of competition within the sport of para cycling. Um, and it’s also, it was a, it was I think, a, a relatively fast track. Um, <affirmative> the men C five and, and it happened in several categories where one rider would go break the world record and you’d think, oh, awesome.

Jim Lehman (00:39:02):

In fact, we had this in one of our, for our men C one category, one of our athletes, um, Aaron, Keith rode first in the, in the process in the qualification process, broke the world record and you think, oh, awesome. Aaron’s flying the next three riders proceeded to break the world record that he just set geez into succession. So it’s just indicative of the fact that the sport is continuing to evolve the, the level of competition, the sophistication of training. Again, it reflecting that it’s not about participation. This is about the fact that you have four riders in a row who break the world record creating a new world record. Each time is incredible. Um, so in the men C five, um, and again, sorry, I can’t remember who actually did this now off the top of my head. I believe it was an athlete from Australia, but I could, could fact check this later.

Jim Lehman (00:39:55):

Yeah. Um, he rode a 4 18, 2 74, which broke the world record, um, for the 4k pursuit for the 4k pursuit. So a four kilometer ride on the track, um, for context, you know, just, I think about a month ago at the track world championships, the UCI track world championships, uh, Ashton Lamby from the United States. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, he broke the world record and wrote a 3 59 93. So not that long ago, the world record on the track was probably pretty close to four 18. Yeah. Yeah. You know, was, uh, was over four minutes, Ashton, I think was the first to go under four minutes. It was for a 4k. So that’s, I think the, and that’s hard because people, when you, until you fully under grasp that piece of it and understand how fast these athletes are going. Um, and you know, you said it when you ride with you’ve ridden with Greta and we’ve had other athletes or, or people who have come to training camps with us with a Paralympic athletes and they get back and they’re like, holy cow, I thought this was, you know, this was supposed to be a recovery ride and, you know, well, it was a recovery ride for them.

Jim Lehman (00:41:07):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>, it might not have been for you. Right. But these are, you know, again, these are elite level athletes. Yeah. They’re so I think, I think that piece zone are zone three buddy. Right? Exactly. Exactly. So to get people to fully understand that, and I think that’s going back to an earlier point right. Of how do we get people to fully appreciate, right. Yeah. The, the, what Paralympics is and what the Paralympic movement is, that’s part of it is really looking at like, what are they actually doing? Um, and, and we’re fortunate because in sports with a stopwatch like that, um, it’s easier because you can quantify it, right? Like you can look at swimming times and you can look at times on the track. Um, you can look at times or, and, or speeds to a certain degree and cycling and go, wow, that’s fast.

Jim Lehman (00:41:53):

That guy just did a time trial on average 27 miles an hour for 45 minutes. Right. That’s quick. Yeah. So that, that’s the piece I think will, will really help. Um, and I hope, you know, we continue to have this, this movement and this growth within the us of awareness and companies, again, like Toyota, like visa and, and secret to start recognizing that these are athletes and, and these are athletes that can bring value and recognition. And this idea that, um, and we’re starting to do this more as a society, right. Of this inclusion and, and equity of making sure that everybody is represented. And particularly for kids, you know, rep this idea that representation matters as a kid to look and see like, oh, that person looks like me. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> that person, you know, whether it’s the color of their skin or they’re, they have a prosthetic limb just like mine. Yep. They’re doing something really cool. They’re skateboarding, they’re snowboarding, they’re riding by, um, I could do that. Yep. But without that, you know, idea of representation, it makes it really challenging for a kid or even for an adult who maybe has never been, you know, maybe is recently injured, um, to recognize that, Hey, these are things I could do. Yep. Someone else is doing that. Yep. This is really cool.

Adam Pulford (00:43:13):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s true. Relatability and, and opportunity. Right. It’s just like, wow. They, they can do that. I can do that. There’s an opportunity for me to do that. Yeah. It’s, it’s pretty impactful, right? Yeah.

Jim Lehman (00:43:25):

Yeah. And going back to Greta’s story, right. And she’s at the Vero and sees

Adam Pulford (00:43:29):

Exactly. Wow. Yeah.

Jim Lehman (00:43:31):

There’s someone just like me. Yep. Because she grew up, you know, just <affirmative> playing soccer and doing things with other kids that, you know, again, she’s just, well, this is all I know. So I’m just gonna go about my way, you know, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I’m just gonna, if this is what it takes, I’ll just, I’m gonna do it. And her parents were great and her parents didn’t hold her back and her parents didn’t say, well, you know, because your, you know, because of the way you are, you’re not able to do these things. Mm-hmm <affirmative> they made sure that she was able to do everything. She could, everything she wanted at least try it. Yeah. Um, and to have those opportunities and that’s pretty amazing. That’s

Adam Pulford (00:44:07):

So cool. That’s so cool for listeners, speaking of awareness and, uh, education and whatnot for listeners, walk us through just real briefly what some of these categories are when we’re talking, you know, all these acronyms and numbers and things like this, um, to help understand at least from the Paris cycling side of things in the Paralympics, what the categories of

Jim Lehman (00:44:31):

Competition are. Sure, sure. So there’s 13 different classifications. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, usually there’s an acronym, it’ll start with either M or F so male or female mm-hmm <affirmative> and then it’ll go through C would be for cycling. H would be for hand cycling T is for, and then B or sometimes BVI would be for blind and visually impaired athletes. Um, and then with each one, there’s one is the people who have the most severe impairments. Uh, and that’s the case for both, for all hand cycling, Tris and cyclists. So they use the same scale. Um, so for a hand or for a cyclist who would be a, so say a MC one would be a male cyclist in, in the classification of one, and those are people who have had, they typically have, um, impairments two more than one, um, sometimes three. Um, and, and it’s interesting cuz you’ll watch that competition.

Jim Lehman (00:45:39):

And sometimes again, and I’m not a, I’m not a classifier mm-hmm <affirmative> um, I, I can, because I’ve been around the sport and I understand the classification process. Um, and we can go into that a little bit more after this, but we’ll just get through the designations first. Right. Um, but there’s not always, there’s a there, when you look at each of these groupings, there’s, it’s all sort of along a spectrum because you can’t, you couldn’t differentiate well, this person is missing a third of their arm. So we have to put them all with people are missing a third of their arm. Again, going back to the athlete population size, there just wouldn’t be the up the competition at that point. Um, so one would be the athletes who are, are most severely impaired. They could be, it could be a neurological issue. It could be amputations, it could be, um, they could have cerebral palsy.

Jim Lehman (00:46:29):

Um, and then as you work your way through 2, 3, 4, 5, the, they become, their impairments are a little less severe. Um, got it. And again, some of them are visual and those, you know, it’s, it’s interesting. We always talk about like someone who has a, a, a very clear injury in amputation or a limb that, you know, doesn’t work at full function. Uh, it’s very easy for the, for the general population to look and go, oh, that makes sense. You’re missing your leg. I see why you’re there. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but some of these athletes, um, particularly as you get into the, see the fours and the fives, um, they’ve had traumatic brain injuries. So they have balance issues. They might have, um, Ms. And lesions, uh, spinal lesions or neural lesions because of the Ms. So visually you might look at them and say, well, I don’t, I don’t understand you.

Jim Lehman (00:47:20):

You look fine. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, um, all your pieces are there, you know, all your parts are there. I don’t understand why you’re involved in pair sport, and that’s where the classification process comes in. Um, but I also think it’s easier too, again, when we in, in life in general, right. We deal with people have neurological issues or, or, you know, maybe some mental health issues. We, as a society, don’t often give them the same attention or, or mm-hmm, <affirmative> accommodation as we, we should, because there’s there, the injuries are not visible or they’re, they’re, you know what, what’s, what’s impacting their lives. They’re not visible to us. Yeah. Um, and I think the same thing happens within the Paralympic movement. Um, so hand bikes would be the H category. They do go through the same process. Um, the H one S would be athletes who really, a lot of this would, it’s almost easier with the hand bikes because a lot of it is, is, and there’s obviously more in intricacies to this, that as a classifier would, would go through, but a lot of it is their level of injury.

Jim Lehman (00:48:24):

So depending on how high on their spinal cord, their injury is that impacts their, their, their movement, their trunk function, their even their arms and their hand function. So, uh, say a, an H one would be someone who has a and again, there is a typically a distinction of exactly where that injury is, um, say C one C seven. And, um, I’m not, I’m not as well versed in that, but the higher level, the injury is mm-hmm <affirmative> than the less function they typically have. So then that would put them as a, as a C1. And then as you, as the injury level, kind of goes down their spinal cord, they tend to have a little bit more trunk function, and then they would go into a different category. The C the H four is probably the, the kind of the trickiest one. It can also be, it can be a spinal cord injury or someone who has an injury that’s impacted, um, both of their legs.

Jim Lehman (00:49:22):

So maybe it’s an amputation on one leg. Um, we have a couple athletes on our team who have had injuries, um, where they have had amputation on one leg, but then that other knee is impacted. So they aren’t able to bear weight on that knee either. Um, so they compete in this C4 or H four category, excuse me. Um, and then the final one, the H five is, um, sometimes they’re people who have had a, a partial, um, S spinal cord injury, or, uh, partial, um, you know, they may have, they have quite a bit of trunk function. Um, other people are people who have had other people in the H five category or people who have had, um, either leg injuries and, or amputations, and they’re what we call knees. So they don’t sit in a, in their hand bike. They’re not in this Rick client position.

Jim Lehman (00:50:13):

Oh, they actually sit in the more of a, almost like a bucket, basically. It’s obviously a much, much fancier than a bucket. It’s we call it a bucket, I guess, but it’s, you know, typically a carbon fiber shell, um, they kneel, so they, they actually are kneeling and rolling forward like this with each stroke and they can, can do that because they have the trunk function. So they have more to, to lean forward and then be able to come back up. Yeah. Whereas someone with a higher level injury doesn’t have the trunk function, they don’t have the abdominal muscles. Um, so when they, they aren’t able to lean forward and come back up. So they’re in that more recline in position. So different advantages sometimes depending on the course, because the H four S are reclined, they’re much more aerodynamic. So on some courses, they actually can go faster than the H five S um, but the goal is to put people in groups and in categories that allow them to compete with athletes with similar impairments and that, that race at similar speed.

Jim Lehman (00:51:07):

So again, there’s, there’s now equity within those groups. Um, so they’re able to compete with athletes that are of, you know, similar speeds and similar abilities. Got it. Um, and then the Tris are an interesting, the trikes are typically people with have cerebral palsy or other neurological conditions that affect their balance, such that they’re no longer able to ride wheel bike. So, um, it’s a, it’s a, a, they take a nor, you know, a two regular sort of two wheel bike remove the rear wheel. And then there’s a, a, a dual wheeled axle that goes it’s onto the back effectively goes into the dropouts, like you put a wheel in there, but now it gives them it’s it’s kids have the ability it’s dual drive. Uh, it gives them the ability to have balance, um, the bikes. It’s, it’s an interesting bike, cuz they’re very stable on a flat surface and going in a straight line.

Jim Lehman (00:52:01):

Um, but one thing that I never fully appreciated is the fact that especially in the us, a lot of our roads are crowned for drainage. Right? Hmm <affirmative> um, when you riding a two wheel bike, you don’t really even notice that cuz you just shift your weight a little bit, uh, but on a three wheel bike, a hand bike or a trike that crown now is constantly wanting to push the bike off the road. Hmm. Um, interesting. Yeah. So it, it, it’s definitely a it’s in art to, to, to ride these bikes, you know, it, it, because they’re three wheeled, they’re very stable mm-hmm <affirmative> but they also are prone to tipping over. Um, so they have to be ridden with a certain level of care. Um, so it, yeah, it’s, it’s an art to watch these guys ride and, and women ride on these, these bikes.

Jim Lehman (00:52:45):

Um, and then the final category would be the, the for blind or in visually impaired athletes. Um, and they ride with a pilot on the front. So they’re on a T on the bike mm-hmm <affirmative> um, the pilots come from various backgrounds. Often they are retired. If you’re, if we’re fortunate enough, you refine a retired pro who has the physical capabilities and then also the tactical and technical abilities to, to drive this bike. Um, and there’s, you know, obviously a lot of coordination that goes on between those two athletes, different communication styles, different riding styles. Um, but it’s a fun event to watch and man, they do go fast. Yeah, I do. Um, but again, it, it allows somebody who wouldn’t be able to ride a bike on their own to now participate in sport of cycling again. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:53:35):

Yeah. That’s super cool. And I’d say let’s, we’ll bring some of this home even more and for those visual learners, uh, those, uh, who maybe don’t know, we also have this on YouTube. And so for the visual learners who wanna, um, see this a little bit more, Jim has provided some images of Paralympic and paras athletes, uh, with different categories here that we can see. So, um, on the YouTube, I, if you go check it out, um, there’s like, so here’s an MC one, Jim, and you just wanna describe this MC one real quick and then I’ll choose one other, um, to describe next and then we’ll move on from there. Sure. So this MC one he’s on the track, um, what’s going on kind of visually with this athlete.

Jim Lehman (00:54:28):

So JJ is a Spanish cyclist, um, competing on the Vero in this particular photo, um, right side. He has a fully functioning right leg and right arm. Um, he is missing his left arm completely, uh, and his, on his left side, he has an above the knee amputation. So if you can imagine that, especially starting on a Vero with a standing start, um, for JJ to get up to speed, uh, it’s a very different, you know, there are other athletes that are in the C1 category who have limb impairments mm-hmm <affirmative> um, so there, it could be a degenerative, you know, disease that cause lots of function, neurological issues or, you know, muscular degeneration. Um, but they have all four limbs. So their points of contact, they are on both sides of the, you know, they have two pedals they’re in contact with there. They can contact the handlebar with two, so they can still stand up mm-hmm <affirmative> and accelerate in the standing start or just even climbing.

Jim Lehman (00:55:27):

Right. You know, if you think about out on the road, going up a hill or going around a corner, slowing down, getting back up to speed. Um, so I’ve seen some pretty cool battles with involving JJ on the track, particularly the individual pursuit, um, in individual pursuit, they start on opposite sides of the track and are effectively chasing each other. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, it’s a time to event, but if you do catch the other person, um, the race is over at that point. Um, you know, because of JJs situation, his starts are typically pretty slow and, you know, de depending on who he’s racing against, the other athlete may get initially, you’re like, oh, he’s gonna get caught. But as he gets up to speed, he start to gain more and more speed. He’s started to take some of that back. And I’ve watched sometimes at the track where not that people don’t cheer for the other athlete, but again, visually you see, particularly if you’re not as familiar with a sport, you see an athlete who has two arms, two legs, and then they’re competing against this guy who has one arm and one leg.

Jim Lehman (00:56:27):

And you’ll see, it’s almost like when people do the wave, right. But it’s, it’s an, it’s an auditory wave as this wave of noise goes around the track with JJ as he’s going around, because people are just excited to see this guy and think, oh, well, I, I feel like he’s the underdog, right? Yeah. Because there’s no way this is fair. Um, but you know, eventually once he’s up to speed, then that initial gap that the, the other rider gained over the start, it tends to level off a little bit. So it it’s just, again, the adaptations that have to be made. Um, if you, you know, on JJ J’s left side, he has no point of contact with the, with the handlebar because he is missing his arm. Yeah. It’s incredible.

Adam Pulford (00:57:08):

Everyone should go check this out on YouTube because it’s, and maybe we even find like a link to one of J’s races. If, if we can find one and we’ll throw it in John,

Jim Lehman (00:57:17):

But on his left side, there’s a, a carbon fiber cup. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that it’s been developed and it’s attached typically to the seat to, um, and that’s where his left femur, his left leg goes in there. So it does give him some stability and something to push against a little bit, but he, that leg is not connected. And in fact, if you look closely at that photo, um, oftentimes the athletes that are, you know, are missing, have an above the knee amputation, um, they E they’re, they basically cut that crank arm off. Um, there’s no reason to have a crank arm spinning mm-hmm and there’s no reason to have a pedal on that side. Um, which again, makes it tricky. Yeah. I couldn’t go ride that bike. Um, and it also makes it tricky. You know, another weird aside is the, for a mechanic, you know, oftentimes a rider will bring a bike in, Hey, the bike’s doing this, the mechanic will and go, yeah. Okay. I hear that. Or I feel that, um, but it makes for a tricky situation for, you know, mechanic can’t mechanic can tune that bike in the stand, but the mechanic typically is not really gonna be able to ride that bike to, to replicate what might be happening. So another really, you know, just sort of thing that happens on the Paralympic side that maybe doesn’t occur on the Olympic side of, of the sport

Adam Pulford (00:58:26):

And no left side handlebar either.

Jim Lehman (00:58:28):

I’m, I’m just looking no left side handlebar either, right. Again. Yeah. From weight standpoint, an aerodynamic standpoint, no reason to have that there, if, if it’s not being used.

Adam Pulford (00:58:38):

Um, yeah. So from an aerodynamic standpoint, um, these bikes are looking way different than regular bikes, for sure.

Jim Lehman (00:58:46):

Well, and oftentimes, I mean, the, the basic equipment will start the same mm-hmm <affirmative> right. So if you look at that bike, it’s a track frame, it’s got a dis wheel in the back and, uh, it looks like maybe a tri spoke or a four spoke wheel in the front mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, in his case, you know, because of only one arm, he really can’t, he doesn’t transition well to arrow bars. So for some riders, they may just make a decision to not use an arrow bar mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, for that, you know, we have an athlete on our team, Joe Barney, who is also missing his arm. Um, but he also has two legs. So he, for him, he, he actually is able to transition to an air bar, um, when he is racing on the track or doing a time trial. But again, every rider has different limitations and different adaptations that they have to make.

Jim Lehman (00:59:35):

So it isn’t as simple as, oh, well, you look like him, so you can do the same thing. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because there could be some other underlying neurological issue. It could be, you know, again, a lot of times athletes who have had an injury, if it’s been a car accident or a fall, um, they had the physical injury, but they they’ve also probably depending on the impact, they’ve probably also had a traumatic brain injury, which could lead to other balance issues. So again, and visually, they might look like they can and should be able to do what another rider that looks like them does, but we don’t know what their balance issues are or other things that may be impacting them. So each individual rider really has to have adaptations made, you know, for them specifically.

Adam Pulford (01:00:18):

Yeah, exactly. And I’m, and I’m just gonna kind of flip through some of these other images that you provided and then we’ll land on the last one. Um, but for those who are watching YouTube, there’s a slide now of an MC five, which, which actually looks like, you know, again, visually not that much, you know, impairment just on, uh, kind of first, first level looking at, looks like a, a normal cyclist on a track. Then you’ve got an H two, and that is a male hand bike. Uh, second, uh, category or classification you’ve got MH four next, and then you’ve got a, a tricycle in Mt. Mt. Two. Finally, you’ve got, uh, now for the women, w B now Jim real quick, um, just WB with no number classification. Uh what’s what’s going on there. So women’s blind tandem. And is there any other subcategory of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or is it just WB

Jim Lehman (01:01:15):

Within the, yeah, within that’s great question within the sort of blind, visually impaired category. Um, again, there’s, there’s different athletes have different levels of sight mm-hmm <affirmative> and that’s why it’s blind and visually impaired because we’ve had some athletes over the years who have degenerative conditions where they still have some peripheral vision mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, which, you know, in cycling can be an advantage because now as the Stoker on the back of the bike, that athlete can then still see it, least they can see that there’s motion and they can see that there’s something coming up. So they might be able to see as the bike is coming around them, whereas other athletes on the back, um, or they do not have that VI you know, visual ability. So they aren’t able to see that. But again, I think then they rely a little bit more on auditory cues. Right. Um, and again, that’s where the communication piece comes in between the Stoker and the pilot. Got it. It is, it’s definitely a symbiotic relationship.

Adam Pulford (01:02:12):

Yeah, for sure. Uh, next you’ve got a WC four and then finally, you’ve got a w H five, so women’s hand bike five, and this is, um, an athlete that you’re just talking about with uh Okana. Right,

Jim Lehman (01:02:25):

Right. So this is Okana masters. Um, so she’s, she would be, what would they, you know, that H five, so she’s in this sort of kneeling category. And if you notice, and in Toyota actually help develop this by for her. Um, if you look in, you know, again, you see this sort of carbon fiber almost bucket that she sits in mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, that’s been developed specifically for her, her anatomy, you know, her, her leg length, um, you know, she’s, she’s a, a double, she has a double above the knee amputation. So again, I couldn’t ride her bike. Right. It, it, that that carbon fiber, you know, bucket has been made specifically for her molded for her. So, um, each of these, each of these bikes, particularly the hand bikes are, are set up specifically for this athlete based on their anatomy based on, on their limitations.

Jim Lehman (01:03:18):

Um, but it, again, it’s, it’s, that’s the piece that’s really fascinated. And the piece that wasn’t really there, you know, even even two or three psych game cycles before where this sort of specialization of equipment and equipment being tailored to that particular athlete, as opposed to, well, we have this hand bike, let’s make it work for you. Um, you know, obviously there’s resources involved in that. Um, but through Okun’s relationships and through her, uh, connections she’s been able to build and have these bikes set up for her specifically, um, you know, and she went on to win two gold medals. She won both the time trial and the road race in Tokyo. It’s incredible. So pretty, pretty exciting to see that kind of come together for her.

Adam Pulford (01:04:07):

Yeah. And I think it just plays off of what we were talking about before, where, you know, we, you know, more high profile athletes or, uh, tell their stories, which gets out to everybody on planet earth, which can then hopefully lead to more opportunities or this kind of this relatability of like, oh, she can do it. She looks like me. Maybe I can do it. Absolutely. You know, and that’s

Jim Lehman (01:04:29):

Super cool. Yeah. And, and it doesn’t hurt that she is very personable. Right. Um, she interacts well with people she’s, you know, always there for taking, you know, she’s always up for taking a photo or signing an auto graph. Um, so that, that helps, right. Because you’ve got someone who, again, has this, this really, um, outgoing, you know, welcoming personality, um, cuz that’s not always the case. Right. So you have someone who is interested in people learning about Paralympics and learning about the Olympic movement and she’s interested in, in being part of that education process, which is pretty awesome.

Adam Pulford (01:05:08):

Yeah. That’s super, super cool. Okay. Well, we’re getting, we’re getting to the top of the hour here, Jim, and uh, I think it’s time to wrap up. Um, I, I learned a lot today and I think our listeners did too. Um, anything from the history of the Paralympic games, uh, kinda in the Paris cycling, um, program throughout men and women, not always having the equal representation, but this kind of quick evolution, um, up to this point kind lending to, um, a lot more equality and diversity in this sport. Um, anything that you wanna add to the overall recap or any kind of final thoughts from your end that you want our listeners to know about the Paralympics or para cycling?

Jim Lehman (01:05:54):

I, I think kind of the, the take home message for me. And it’s something I, you know, funny story here and this, this sort of illustrates the, my education process. So the very first trip I went on, um, we were going through the airport. I don’t remember which airport it was. We’re on our way to the Czech Republic. Um, I’m with a group of guys who are in wheelchairs and we were going up and, and we get to the bottom of this escalate later. And I, I look and go, oh shoot, we gotta, I gotta find an elevator, right. Something I hadn’t really thought about. And I start looking around for the elevator and I turn around and they’re all on the escalator. They’ve basically just rolled themselves onto the escalator and they lean back and they hold onto the handrails that’s and they just ride the escalator up.

Jim Lehman (01:06:35):

<laugh> um, the, I would tell you that the people that were at the airport security at the airport do not like this approach <laugh> I can imagine. Cause again, their, their impression of someone in a wheelchair is someone who’s, you know, not an athlete, right. Not physically capable of doing what they just did. I, I probably couldn’t have do it, my arm strength would’ve given out halfway up and I would’ve tumbled back down the escalator <laugh> um, but that was one of those moments where it was like this aha moment of like, oh yeah, right. These are athletes, right. These are athletes. They, they don’t need, obviously there’s things they can’t, you know, there’s, there’s barriers that, that there’s a, you know, you know, a set of stairs. We have to find a workaround over that, but they’re, they’re, they’re more than capable and, and they’re not, you know, they’re not out there to be in, in, it’s not, uh, people say something, oh, it’s so they’re so inspiring.

Jim Lehman (01:07:23):

But oftentimes they’re talking about them being inspiring because they’re just riding a bike where really they’re inspiring because of how fast they’re riding. Right. To me, that’s the inspiration piece of what they’re doing. Just like it’s an inspiration that Ashton Lamby rode a 3 59 mm-hmm <affirmative>, that’s an inspiring performance as an athlete. It’s not inspiring just because he rides a bike. Right. And I think that’s where as we, as a, as a society and as a, as, as a, as a, a world, we grow to appreciate people for what they’re doing, as opposed to, you know, just looking at them like, oh, that’s really, you know, you’re riding a bike and you’re missing your leg. That’s cool. But holy cow, you’re riding a bike really quickly, faster than most people on the planet can ride a bike, you know, with two legs. Yeah. That’s the part that’s pretty amazing.

Jim Lehman (01:08:12):

And I think as the, the Paralympic movement grows and people begin to appreciate that more and, and kudos to ABC and to Toyota and to visa, to recognizing that that’s an important piece of sort of including in our sports world. Hopefully we continue to move forward with that, you know, as we go into the next round of games and, you know, Beijing is just around the corner for the winter games. So hopefully we can, we can see a little bit more of that coverage and exposure, um, through our, through our media channels here in the us.

Adam Pulford (01:08:42):

Completely agree. I think that’s a good place to end it. So, Jim, thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today about the Paralympics and, uh, your involvement with the sport and thank you again for everything that you do for the sport. So, um, thanks for being on the train right podcast.

Jim Lehman (01:08:58):

Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure, Adam.


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