The Landscape

Oz Sanchez - Six-Time Paralympic Medalist

July 19, 2020 Naveh Eldar / Oz Sanches Season 1 Episode 11
The Landscape
Oz Sanchez - Six-Time Paralympic Medalist
Show Notes Transcript

Oz Sanchez is a six-time medal winning Paralympic hand cyclist; Marine Veteran; Motivational Speaker; Life Coach and much more. In this episode, Oz pulls back the curtain on his physical and mental rehabilitation journey, which was far from smooth and easy. Oz has put in a tremendous amount of work on his body and mind to elevate himself to be one the most elite athletes in the world, as well as to find happiness and peace. Listen to his story, and find out why his mental rehabilitation took far longer than his physical rehabilitation. Oz is inspirational and a role model for people around the world, and in areas far beyond sports.

Host - Naveh Eldar 0:17  
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast to shed light on the people, programs and businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host Naveh Eldar. Today I speak with Sanchez, six time Paralympic medalist, marine veteran, ESPY Award nominee, motivational speaker, life coach and so much more. As is very blunt and personal. And by pulling back the curtain on the more private stretches of his journey, he becomes a role model to recovery and recovery in different forms as you'll hear. Before we get to the interview, I would like to thank my listeners and the Cleveland Ohio area and Phoenix Arizona. Now, we'll start this episode with us telling us about an accident that changed the course of his life.

Oz Sanchez  1:11  
I was, you know, about six years into my Marine Corps career. And I had done a couple deployments. And I was ready for a sort of something different and it had something to do with politics and as well. So I wanted to move over to the Navy make my way through buds, oh, it's basic SEAL training. And then my ambitious goal was to go to seal team six. And in the process of transitioning over, I had about six weeks of downtime in which I was riding my motorcycle a lot. And in the process of meeting up with some of my friends down the road about a few miles from where I live, and coming back to pick up my wife so we can go motorcycle riding up to a local mountain or take a mountain. I had a car it was a combination of a couple of things. I used to say it was a hit and run this knucklehead cut me off, you know, and I'm a victim of that and that story, pretty much Position the as the victim. But you know, as I moved closer towards enlightenment, and sort of some some inner harmonious balance and peace, I saw the situation with a different lens and little more clarity. And it was definitely a combination of my speeding, and this individual ran through a stop sign. And because it was a sort of a band in the road, he didn't see me coming up the road when he ran through the stop sign. Because otherwise I doubt he would have ran a stop sign. And so that combination of two sort of wrongs created a very interesting situation. And I ended up basically a swerving to avoid going over his rear end because he was in the middle of road at this point. And I laid the bike down, and they just slid into the embankment and he, he didn't stop, he left and I speculate since we didn't technically collide per se, that, you know, fear and everything of what might happen. So he he left the scene, and then my friends came down and follow me. So that was the injury you know, is a partial incomplete spinal cord injury. appeal instant paralysis. And I would say the the rehabilitation process, while the physical portion of it was somewhere two to three years, and I found myself in an adaptive handbike, about two and a half years post injury. And I saw that while I was doing therapy, the local sharp rehab hospital, they're down the street, and they had a bike on the floor, or were actually I believe was at the VA because I did I sort of split my therapy because once I realized I had benefits because of my veteran status for the Veterans Administration. I moved over to the rehab center there, but either which way I did see some weird cycling looking contraption on the floor there one day, and I asked him inquired about it, and they said it was adaptive handbike and I was a very avid cyclist, my whole life love cycling has been in my life since I was old enough to ride a bike. And so I took two and I asked about getting one the VA bought me one and I think that was January or February 2003. And I've not never been off the bike ever since.

Unknown Speaker  3:58  
So I don't want to go out over you mentioned your physical rehabilitation, I don't want to gloss over the mental part of it. So right what was what was that like? And how much did adaptive sports help you in whatever you were going through?

Unknown Speaker  4:13  
Yeah, so the reason I made that distinction is that, sure, you know, there was the physical damage to the nerves which were non regenitive, meaning permanent and total. And there was the physical incapacitation as a result of that damage to those the spinal cord and that rehab took me you know, to get back on my feet, if you will. Two years for I was walking on two forearm crutches with some orthotics a afos on my legs, but the the emotional and spiritual rehab that took me well over a decade before I finally bounced out of that darkness, because I get I did get to the point of suicidal ideation, a couple of attempted overdoses, a lot of alcohols and trying to find solace in the bottom of a bottle painkiller. opioids, you know, and eventually I did find my way back into the light and that experience that journey. By time I came out on the other side I was an entirely different space, spiritually and psychologically speaking, that in spite of how long and painful and how close I got to actually ending my own life, it was well worth the the experience because who I am now and what I become as a result of that pain and suffering. I would never take back I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but I also would never take it back.

Unknown Speaker  5:35  
All right. And so there's always something that like grounds you right? There's that that something or something's that stop you does literally stop you. So when you were in that time, what was it that just helped you to hang on?

Unknown Speaker  5:50  
So the pattern that I found was, in my sober state, I had access to executive function and the neocortex, which is private My role, and for the most part, I can remain rational and not let these thoughts of pain and suffering, drive me to the point where I would conclude self harm, right? It was in my inebriated state that these inhibitions kind of went to the, you know, the wayside and I would act on them and a couple of times, even though I would say it was probably not technically intentional, much of the the ruminating thought was, I'd be okay if I went to sleep and never woke up. Right. So an attempted overdose on you know, painkillers and alcohol was one of the incidents. And then I got behind the wheel, and I had a pretty gnarly accident, and in a DUI out of that situation, and then the other incident was in an overdose on, I want to say it was EMT, it's some sort of assist chemical liquid version of basically what's Mali or ecstasy and the I was pretty close when as well. And when I bounce back from that one, and I physically saw the effects and the damage that not only myself but to a partner that was with me, it really left an impression when I was sober because most of the time when I was drunk, I behave and then the next day, most of the symptoms and the signs of the the negligence and self harm are gone. But in this case, it were very visible, and especially how I saw my partner friend at that time, it really made an impression on me. And that's sort of where I subconsciously made a decision to find an answer and sort this out because this this behavior is unacceptable. So that's when I decided to essentially find a way to sober up and not mess with, you know, being that inebriated and

Unknown Speaker  7:41  
and numbing anymore. Did you go through any kind of a official program or was it just self whim?

Unknown Speaker  7:48  
No, I think that's why it took me the better part of 15 years to sort this out, is because you know, my ego and self pride and machismo and Marine Corps mindsets and I got this, I'll sort this out. And the reality was I didn't have this and I was, you know, desperately trying to sort it out. But eventually, I did sort it out. And it wasn't so much intentional or so that it is a side effect of an opportunity that I had, which was in the process of all of this, this pain and suffering, I did still manage to get on my feet and start an athletic career. And I eventually made my way and competed at the Beijing games in 2008. I won a gold medal there, and this notoriety and this accomplishment put me in a sort of mentor, role model capacity for the Wounded Warrior community. So I was asked quite a bit to come and speak to these audiences, whether it be vaccines, but festas, or, you know, the local Balboa hospital here in San Diego. I started having to find details and create a version of a story of myself that was inspired To this audience, right? Because I wasn't going to share my deep dark, you know, secrets of like, Hey, you know, I drink a liter of jack daniels daily, you know, I go to sleep and I wake up within and I use painkillers like, no. So I genuinely wanted to inspire this community. Because one of my biggest hangups with my depression was that I never wanted to exit the military, I was in special operations. And I wanted to stay on that path. My brother was special operations. And so I was really attached to that identity. And so my depression was coming from result of this sort of cognitive dissonance where I couldn't access this way of living. And so therefore, I was condemning myself for this way I had to live as a result of my negligence which was the accident, right? But in the in the context of being a speaker or a mentor or a beacon of hope, to this other community that was very much suffering and which I very much held near and dear to my heart. I found a way to tell a version of my story, which was all still factual and and very relevant based, but it was inspiring and you know, the the notion confirmation bias says that whether it's a truth or lies the mind when we repeat something to ourselves over and over again will believe it in spite of how accurate or truthful it is. So in this case, I started drinking my own Kool Aid. But it was it was, in fact, an inspiring, healthy, positive, uplifting story of myself. And this is sort of where my transformation came because I started telling the story enough, and I got good enough that I started getting paid to do it. And then it's paid, you know, experience led to a speaking career, and the audience's got bigger. So I gave more attention and focus to making sure that I told the best version, the funniest version, the most inspiring, captivating version of the same person myself. And so again, confirmation bias. Eventually, I bought in full at full fully, and the only person I ever had convinced was myself, and that was the subconscious mind. And so that's how the transformation kind of took place, if you will.

Unknown Speaker  10:52  
So now when you speak, and I promise we're going to get to your, your sports career, but you're so now when you speak, I mean This is very inspirational, at least to me, I think that this is extremely important. And honesty is is key to any kind of recovery. So when you speak now, is this the story you share?

Unknown Speaker  11:14  
Yeah, yeah, for the most part, but it's about another 55 minutes longer. Sure, sure.

Unknown Speaker  11:21  
Gotcha. Okay, so now let's back it up because we've already jumped past Beijing already. So let's go back to your your sports career. You got exposed to it. You had always loved cycling. And you and you started I imagine just going out on weekends or whatever for fun. When When did you go from competing? To going I'm an elite athlete in the space. How long did that take?

Unknown Speaker  11:48  

Unknown Speaker  11:50  
from injury about four years. Yeah. You know, people always ask me, you know, even the latest games, you know, how long did it take you for you know how Did you train for to win that gold medal or I sold a matter on this, like, my whole life, like, I've been competitive and super athletic my entire life. And even when I was riding a bike at, you know, 678 years old, I remember that time I was age 14, I was competing with everybody. I came up next to my mountain bike on the hills, and I was actually on the GT mountain bike team locally, so that this competitive mindset has been in it for four years. So but specifically with getting the US Paralympic movement on my radar, and then making it a goal to try to get on the team. I was exposed to them as they were getting ready to go to the Athens games. And so at their 2004 Paralympic team selection event, which incidentally was held here in San Diego down the road. I registered because it was just open registration for that for that event. And I got a taste of what this this caliber of athlete was like, and I was nowhere nowhere close to the market, come able to compete with them. But as soon as I I got exposed to it. I said, I want a piece of this. And so I made a decision to try to get on the team. So a year later, because that was summer of 2004. So by November 5 2005, I got invited to my first training camp, and I've been on the stable on the team ever since then. And I'm the senior member on the team now.

Unknown Speaker  13:18  
I see that you're still on the the world team right now. 2020. Sir, congratulations on that as well. So what events you do a wide range of events, my friend like, I mean, you do some like long distance road racing. And so what are the events that you compete in the Olympics? And then what are the events that you just competed in life?

Unknown Speaker  13:42  
So Olympic wise, I'm on the what's considered road cycling because there's track and road. I'm on the road side. And then I have three different events that were up for grabs as far as one of them, or two of them are pretty much automatic. And the third one we have to be selected for and it's essentially The road race, which is you know, if you're watching Tour de France or any kind of Pro Cycling, right, it's very similar rules, we're also governed by UCI. And it's a pack style race. And the distance can vary depending on who's hosting it and the terrain. But generally speaking, that races is somewhere, you know, just under two hours and can be worth anywhere from 30 to 50 miles depending on the terrain, of course. And then the next event is the time trial, which is man versus clock, essentially, there's no there's no team strategies or drafting anything like that. And that's the one I tend to specialize in, because of my size, and just, you know, my physiology and my strengths. So I focus on the time, john, I've been pretty successful at, you know, dominating, or remaining extremely competitive in that event, since winning in 2008. And then the last one, which depending on our time trial results will determine our selection and nomination to the team relay event. And that's a team event and that's country versus country. And that's it, that's a shorter event, but it's like track and field we have the four by relay 100 relay in They don't actually exchange a baton. But it's a similar type where it's a chronological order of team members competing against the other countries. Yeah, and so the that and I was into triathlon quite a bit for a while, in 2010, I made a goal to compete at Kona Ironman World Championships, which is pretty much the benchmark for anything long distance triathlon. And I wanted to just kind of make a testament to myself of what I'm capable of, because what my brother was doing still in the military, active duty wise, and so once he set a benchmark to reach so my goal was SEAL Team Six, my brother actually made it to the army equivalent of that, which is Delta Force. And so I knew there was something special in our genes or blood or, or or our mindset, and now I'm convinced it's more mindset than anything else. And so that's when I made a decision to try to make Kona, and I competed. I think I watched I think the decision for Kona came in 2008. And then I made the selection event and qualified for kona 2010. Then now My best day there but I still finished in I want to say 1212 and a half hours something like that, which is respectable still. But yeah, so those are the probably the two most you know notable sports that I've been in. Now just because of time commitments to compete in multiple sports, I was very much into rowing for a while, I pretty much just focus entirely now on as far as competitiveness for Paralympic cycling the the the depth of field and the talent that has grown since I first started in this sport back in 2005. Is night and day difference. If I were to use my my talent and my equipment of what I won with in Beijing in 2008, I might, might be top 10 now, so the sport evolves really fast and the talent does with it. So you can't be multiple sport athlete anymore on the Paralympic side, because we have that kind of talent. And so now it's pretty much my full time job, aside from speaking and now I also have my own practice and life coach.

Unknown Speaker  17:00  
Excellent. You have to tell me about that later, but to get inside

Unknown Speaker  17:04  
so your first Olympics, everybody who's a fan of the Olympics, like like I am, which is why I wanted to do this series always wonders what it's like that you know, just to put on the red, white and blue and and not only did you get to put it on, but you got to you want a gold medal. So you got to hear the national anthem. So take us through some of those nouns.

Unknown Speaker  17:25  
Yeah, I picked up a golden a bronze at Beijing. My first medal ever was the gold. And that was at the time trial was a very sort of bittersweet experience because unfortunately, one of my longtime mentors, was a teammate of mine on that team. And he was the reigning dominant world champion in that event. And so he was very much slated to win that event, and he was going to retire after that event from Beijing. And we both knew that I was developing a lot of talent right? really fast. And then I was very prospective to be on the podium as well for that event. I knew that I had a shot at go. But it was very ambitious, but I knew I definitely was a podium contender. But the the circumstances was that for whatever reason, you know, and his wife had a falling out, and she waited until the games or I don't know, I shouldn't say that, because I don't know what was going on in the background there. But nevertheless, she chose to deliver a divorce notification to him in the middle of our trip to Beijing. And it was actually I believe, the day or the day before the race. And so you know, you can extrapolate intent behind that. So I won't speculate but you know, the timing it was rather unfortunate on his end, and then I ended up winning, beating him on that event, he got second place. Right And so for me to celebrate and be very extroverted and flamboyant about it would would literally be kind of almost kicking the horse was down because I love this guy. He was like a brother. Another Hispanic, and he, we had a really great relationship. And so I didn't overly do much of anything and a lot of a lot of people who experience and watch me, you know, at the podium, it's just like what's going on man? Like, they're like, does this even mean anything to you? Right? Yeah. And but I was holding back and then I remember just about three or four in the morning that night. I remember waking up to go to the bathroom and then come back to my bed and you know, now I'm in private, and I remember just like, like, screaming into my pillow. Yeah. It was it was just, you know, the only way I could celebrate which was in private, unfortunately, right. And my roommate, you know, because we had shared sort of duplex setups in the room. You know, he was also a team member, but he was in the upgrade category. He was a leg amputee. And he was just like, honestly, what the what the venous and like, what's wrong with you? I was like, Ah, man, my bad, my bad. Oh, by the way I want to go is just like, Ah, you're crazy, man. We just like that's it. That was the celebration too. Beyond until I left the country and came back home. So but you know, as far as the experience itself, you know, I, the injury obviously forced my career to end in the military. Me and my brother had by that point decided to but both the career military folks, you know, and wearing the, the color and the badge for America in service was one thing. And to be able to do that again, and now in sport, and representing our country was about as his closest to the next thing for me to, you know, feel complete again, you know, is what I would say, in that moment. And so the flag and the national anthem, remember, was very surreal. And then, I mean, I guess for my first games, I don't know that of all the games I've, you know, past and even to date, could compare to Beijing. You know, I was a little documentary on, you know, what the Tokyo you know, you know, Federation and Olympic committee have done and, you know, their budget was $10 billion, which isn't a massive amount of money but compared to Beijing's $40 billion, like, so if you can just envision what that might be like an experience like it, that's exactly what it was like it was just a surreal and every aspect to just be there and see that there's a scene from Gladiator. It's one of my favorite moments is an older one with Russell Crowe, when they first get brought back into a matter of fact, I think it's his first time in Rome, the city and they're next to the Coliseum and they just look up because they're, they're getting ready to fight in the gladiator arena. And this Coliseum, the birds are flying. It's just this massive, massive building and structure, right. That was what it was like for me entering the bird's nest and entering the main arena. Because there was just these these structures. The bird's nest is what they called it. And it's just, it was just like that scene in the gladiator movie. So

Unknown Speaker  21:47  
I could see that that'll be something you never forget. I just it's absolutely so happy for you. Now, that was 2008 and 2009. You were in a doctor You mentary I assume it was on the heels of your success.

Unknown Speaker  22:04  
So how did that come about? Correct unbeaten? Well, it was sort of just the timing and a very just fortunate series of opportunities that I happen to be around. Because originally that that documentary as far as my understanding was really to focus on three athletes that they had chosen and their experience in a race called Sadler's Alaska challenge, which is a five day stage race from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska, which is like 250 plus miles. So we're racing for basically anywhere from 40 to 60 miles a day. And I think we traverse over 14 15,000 feet total in these in during the stage of this race. So it's a really, really grueling event. And this this event had two classes one which is for hand bikes, and the other one which was pushed push chair like racer chairs, like American chairs. And so these three characters were racing in The push room chair. And that was, um, my props to them still because that to push that event that that terrain and that distance in that time of amount of time, it was just absolutely. You know, we always say like, the grass is greener on the side, right? And then we'll look at the next time I was like, man, I would never do that. Right. And so, you know, but that so that film crew, Steve Steven Barber, I think was his name was his documentary. And he partnered up with another outfit to sort of produce in support and fund. And so we met during his filming of that race. And but by this point, they'd already shot a bunch of footage of these guys from their hometowns. And so they were prepping and they were gonna wrap it up with the race. But because he was so enamored with the hand cycle, and my character and on handles character, he started shooting a bunch of our films. And in the end, they decided to kind of split the film and do overlapping of me going to Beijing and Alejandro on hand cycling, as well as these three individuals and their race through a salary challenge. Yeah. And yeah, so he ended up following us to Beijing. And I ended up winning a gold medal. And he had it all on film. So that's how the documentary kind of got wrapped up.

Unknown Speaker  24:09  
So you get to 2012 London Games, you went another gold and bronze. And you you've already mentioned that there was nothing like Beijing. And I was going to ask that question. Because I imagined anything like the first time Jordan won a championship I'm sure wasn't like the sixth time. So how did the other ones compare to the first one? Were you still emotional? But it was a little muted, or was it just completely different? It was, it was

Unknown Speaker  24:35  
it is different, a different theme. And I try not to make the comparison of games to games because it's culture to culture and country to country. Right. And we're very competitive here in our Western, you know, American society. But it'd be like trying to compare the top sushi experience to the top Italian experience, and they're very much different cuisines, and it's really hard to judge Apples to Apples because they're not apples to apples. It goes to an entirely it's an orange to an apple, right and so, but nevertheless, they are making an attempt to recreate and top that previous experience. So there is that inevitable comparison and judgment. So, so in the non comparison sense, you know, London was very much kind of like this, this this more rock and roll Party Theme, British double decker red bus fueling. And so, if you can imagine, you know, the London theme plus like, have you seen the movie Rocket Man with, you know, john, it was kind of that vibe in every sense of respect. And a matter of fact, whenever you have closing ceremonies at one games, the next hosting country actually does the introduction of their plans for the games and they do what they put on a show and a song and dance. And even at the Beijing games, it was very much this rock and roll theme double decker bus singing Dancing London in this British sort of flavor. So in that sense, they had their own flavor, right? And in the comparisons conversate conversation, you know, it's really hard to top like your first kiss your first drive your first car, you know, your first job, you know, because it's just so impressionable. And so it really, it really sets a precedence that it's hard to kind of it's duplicate, if you will, because of the emotional component to it.

Unknown Speaker  26:27  
It's how much you're talking about the party and aspect. I don't know if you partied or not. I don't know if you want to tell us but how much camaraderie takes place in the Olympic Games. It's not just within the USA team, but do you make connections with other nations?

Unknown Speaker  26:43  
There's actually very little cross pollination from sport to sport, because it's a lot of work. And when you do play, you know, you're usually at least I'm an offsite, non resident athlete. I don't know what a resident athlete you know, life looks like. I'm sure there might be some cross pollination but you know, It's like saying, you know, how much does one office in a, you know, a corporate building intermingle and party and hang out with another adjacent office that does an entirely different sort of job for that same organization. And you find that we usually stick to our own because we have so much common ground to talk about things and connect and bond. So generally speaking, we stuck to our own and you know, competitive sport. It isn't to say you, you cannot indulge and have your vices and still be competitive, but it's certainly a lot harder. And I find that the younger ones are the ones who kind of can get away with the most because the body is a little bit more resilient to bounce back from the negligence. So when I was younger, I certainly was able to still drink and still compete and remain competitive. But now as I'm older and in my 40s I don't have that luxury anymore at all whatsoever. But ya know, there was set those certainly, you know, because I think I was still in my 20s was that yeah, I think I was still in my 20s on my first Games. And so I was very much all about the bars and drinking. And Beijing obviously wasn't that kind of theme. Certainly you can find some places that were sort of like expats and you know, very Americanized kind of environments. But London, I think I took it a little bit more seriously because just the momentum I had. And inevitably, I didn't win the gold medal in the event that I wanted to win it in, which is the time trial, I ended up winning a gold medal in the team relay and a bronze in the road race. I'm sorry, in the time trial. So I wasn't too happy with my performance. I wasn't satisfied I should say I'm happy but not satisfied. So I think I remember just kind of staying really focused and didn't really go out and hang out in London much. Do you watch any of the other events like when you're finished? Or are you the one who

Unknown Speaker  28:48  
gets on a plane and goes on

Unknown Speaker  28:49  
if the scheduling allows it? So I remember our events were pretty late in the schedule for Beijing, so I didn't get a chance to watch a whole lot. I did manage to get Over to the the bird's nest, which is the main track and field arena. And I watched a couple of ants. And I remember walking into that stadium and just wow, I think it was 60 plus thousand capacity and it was sold out, which was very impressive. I, our competition venue in London was that we were an hour and a half outside of the city for our cycling site, which was at Brands Hatch Raceway. And so that didn't really allow for coming back to the to the main Olympic city and watching much of the games at all. So I don't think I made it to any events on at London but in Rio, I went to a track event and I don't think I ever went to the main Arena in Rio. traffic was pretty gnarly and Rio in a very interesting, very resourceful way of circumventing traffic and allowing us direct access as best they could to public transportation and whatnot. But I remember in Rio since I had family there I just kind of sticking and hanging out with him when I wasn't competing or so if I wasn't training I was resting or hanging out with with my wife and my father.

Unknown Speaker  30:02  
So that was 2012 London. And that year you were nominated for an ESPY Award, which is also pretty amazing. So write one. How did that feel to get nominated? How was the event? Who did you meet all that good stuff?

Unknown Speaker  30:16  
Oh, yeah. So I've actually been nominated twice now for an sp. And I was nominated last year. So we were there. Just recently, I didn't win. That's all my to do. I intend to want to go back a bit because you have to be nominated. So I have no influence over that. Like, all I can do is just become very dominant, my sport, win and then hope to get selected. And then it's a popularity contest from that. From that point forward. I finally learned this. So yeah, my first SP event was in 2011. Well, no, no, no, I'm sorry. It wasn't 2012 but it was because the result of my 2011 accomplishments. So it wasn't from a result of London. So in 2011, I think I won a total of three medals at World Championships which was to gold in a silver or to gold and bronze. I forget it was a while back. But yeah, I so that was my first red carpet event and it was everything it's cracked up to be. I forget who the host was. Rob Riggle and Rob Riggle is a former Marine on so you know near and dear to my heart. Dude is absolutely hilarious I don't have you seen any movies or any stand up stuff but he is hilarious and he was just as funny in person. A fantastic job hosting it. It was very interesting to see how the Kitt hobby cut and control the crowds and when they allow us to stand and say it and how they maneuver the whole event for the filming of the SPS. It was at the same venue. I don't think it's at the staples venue but whatever at Jason venue. It is right there just behind the Ritz Carlton in downtown Los Angeles. I took a at the time my roommate who's my 20 year long standing friend and we went together so he was my my my mandate and my brother We met I mean I hung out for a little bit with Kenny Chesney because we got stuck in the elevator together. Kenny Chesney is a really sweet man I love his music. But But surprisingly you know, like camera angles and everything always make us look bigger than life and then you see him in person. It's just like, Oh, all right, okay, you know. But Kenny is an absolute, you know, sweetheart of a man. Let's see who else did I meet? I took a photo with Drew Brees, who I think at the time was playing for San Diego Still, if I remember correctly, ladainian Tomlinson, I also took a photo with I met a, you know, a handful of UFC fighters some Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I met him again, actually at the the last SPS I was at both him and Bill Walton. Bill wattens, a local legend. He lives here in San Diego. So I run into him sort of infrequently, and some events as well. So, okay, now I

Unknown Speaker  32:55  
know he's he's a character, man.

Unknown Speaker  32:57  
Yes, he is a character. Yes, he is. Matter of fact, that story my wife will tell you is when we were leaving the arena. This the second time, which was earlier, my guess last yard. Yeah. Me and another wheel triathlete were seated together and on our way out Tatyana McFadden, she's on the track and field side, she's a super dominant female wheelchair athlete, he should have run out of the pocket someday.

Unknown Speaker  33:20  
That's a plug.

Unknown Speaker  33:22  
So we were heading out, we were sitting pretty close to the front, maybe about 10 rows up. And so we both exited together. And then her sister and my wife were behind us and or I'm sorry, in front of us because they were trying to clear a path because everybody stands up and tries to migrate out. And as soon as Bill solace coming down, I guess he talked to Kareem and he's like, hey, let's make a path for these wheelchair folks. Because bill knows me because again, we've crossed paths a few times we written on my friend, my face or something white either which way I've put her path for her to write. They just put their arms out and and and my wife was just like, well, I'm coming and you just see this to each of these guys have like What a 14 foot we'd like that right. And they literally made this big open space in the middle of a massive crowd as everybody's trying to exit the the auditorium from SPS. And my wife's tells that story every chance she gets still to this day.

Unknown Speaker  34:15  
Yeah, I wish somebody would have got a picture that would have been amazing. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  34:20  

Unknown Speaker  34:22  
What do you do? Because you like you said, you're in your 40s. Now, is that what you told me? Yeah. 44 Yeah. And you started like your first Olympics, you were still in your 20s? How in the world? Do you keep motivated? Because you said this is a full time job for you. So how do you keep focused and motivated?

Unknown Speaker  34:38  
So sport has taking a very different relationship and sort of prominence in my life as I evolved in psychology. So initially, I was racing to compete I'm sorry, to I was competing to prove something to myself, right that I was still worthy, that I mattered, that it was significant because you know, Tony Robbins likes to break down, you know, human motivation and existence into like six categories, the upper two being like philanthropic and goodwill, but the lower ones being control novelty, significance and connection, right. So in the sense when we're very depressed and feeling very broken spiritually, and emotionally, then we strive for control and significance because we can actually create those things for ourselves a lot easier than connection and novelty. And so if we're following this ideology, then for me to win some medals and beat people at something that we're both sort of developing a skill and honing this craft gave me a sense of validation that I didn't possess from within myself. And so once I started proving this, this winning and dominance over and over, I kind of fulfilled like level one, if you will, and then the next level, so the evolution of sport in my life. So the next one is then I had something to prove to people, right because I had this notion because I felt unlovable and unworthy. I said, if you don't love me for who I am, then you'll love me for what I can accomplish right now. Again, all sort of inner thoughts in psychology. And so I started competing and racing. And this gets exhausting after a while, because you're still not really competing and racing and doing it for the right reason. And so when you have injury, or you don't win, or you don't have the results that you expected, this all creates a lot of problems and inner conflict. And you can you can reach a burnout, because you're essentially doing it for the wrong reasons, which is external validation. And I completely get it, I completely understand it. But I have now evolved into a space of inner harmony and inner peace. And so now the reason that I keep motivated to do what I do is simply because I love the science and the process of continuously growing and evolving what I can do as a human being both physically and spiritually. And so competition is simply the platform that I get to test these ideas out in them against the world's best and so I absolutely love but I'm no longer attached to the outcome. So whether I win or don't win, whether they host the Olympics or don't house them is inconsequential. To me, because I still drive on and keep doing what I do. Because the source of why I do what I do is very different now. Right. So when they announced the postponement of the Tokyo games, it was literally Hmm. Okay, well, I guess I'll just not do as much volume on the bike and switch over to the weights because in weights right, and, yeah, so because of this, Simon Sinek has a book white start with why. And if you understand this notion and phenomenon and you respect it, then you it's really hard to reach a burnout and exhaustion, because again, if I'm attached, I'm attached and committed to the process, but I have complete freedom and liberty from the outcome. Right. And so this creates a lot of harmony with the whole process of doing day in day out and adhering to the discipline because it's no longer really self discipline for me to stick to my workout. It's just out of love of self and out of love of process right

Unknown Speaker  37:52  
now. So what would you I mean, there's just just so much that you went through in sport like you So psychologically you went through all these phases, what would you say to young people who are thinking about or maybe not even young people, maybe people who are have a recent injury and are older what what are the benefits of sports and adaptive sports?

Unknown Speaker  38:17  
Well, I to date, I think sport as a rehabilitative component is very, very, very underestimated. Because I have read many, many books that now confirm and speak to the idea of how physical exercise affects the mind. So we're talking about the neural cocktail chemicals of neuro epinephrine, oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, which are all the feel good anti depressive kind of chemicals. And so sport allows you to release these on command, if you will, because all you got to do is get your heart rate elevated and if you work out for 30, you know, 20 to 30 minutes, you can access these sort of decompressive, anti anxiety, anti depression, sort of chemicals, there's that there's obviously, you know, this this notion of hormesis, which is the body responds to stresses. And once you apply stress, it actually comes back bigger, better, faster, stronger, which is kind of the concept that we apply without knowing it. When we go to the gym and lift weights, we break down the muscle, and we don't know that we're breaking it down, because when it responds, it responds with an equal and or greater amount of strength, because it's actually applying this notion of harm, he says. And so if you recognize it, even in a physical sense, you'll see the value and working out and then on top of that, I mean, mind and body connection is, is pretty profound. And so even if we're say psychologically depressed, and we're keeping the body healthy, at least we have a good foundation for you know, the mind to heal itself and eventually get back into balance. And then that last one is, you know, if we don't have faith or or love of self because we feel broken or depressed in one way or another. We can counter that by doing Sport, setting some small, attainable goals and then succeeding at them. Because every time we succeed at them, even if it's literally just going to the gym and we say we're going to go to the gym and we get dressed, we put our shoes on, we commute and we get to the gym, we've already put sort of a chip or a vote casting in our favor that we're successful, that we commit and stick to our goals and that we follow through with our promises to self. And this, this starts to change the relationship that we have with ourselves. And so eventually if we start saying we're gonna compete at a race, we're going to finish a marathon or we're going to finish a half or a five K, and we do them and execute on them, you know, we start small and attainable, then we're making casting votes that eventually convinced the subconscious, that we are worthy. We are someone who can fulfill our promises to ourselves and then we are, you know, able to competent and successfully attain the goals that we set forth for ourselves. And this all changes the psychology behind you know, what usually brings up the onset of depression and you know, lack of self love and all that.

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