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U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM MEDIA SUMMIT: Quotes from Paralympics Press Conference Wednesday, April 16

April 16, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
Press Conference Quotes Wednesday, April 16 10:10 - 11:10 am Paralympics Participants: Andy Cohn (AC) Jessica Galli (JG) Jessica Long (JL) Josh Olson (JO) Erin Popovich (EP) Scott Winkler (SW) Quotes: Q: Do you have any concerns about accessibility issues in Beijing' JG: I haven't heard anything either way. Not anything negative. There have been a couple site visits; I'm actually going to be heading over there in May. I am looking forward to that experience, seeing what it is like ahead of time. Yes, Athens wasn't that accessible, but the town and people were great. Q: Do you think Chicago is accessible' SW: For the 2016 (bid), the city is very accessible. So far I have been outside, you know, rolling around. We actually went to eat on our time off, while we were off yesterday, and I have had no problems at all with handicap accessibility. AC: I think Jessica kind of made a good point about Athens, that everyone was into it, and when you went around the community, if there was a step somewhere, or something wasn't perfect, they would help you out. I think Chicago has a good feeling. 80 plus percent want to have the Olympics here and I think that people will make sure that if something wasn't accessible, they would make it work, but from what I've seen the city was really accessible to me and I hope they get it (the 2016 Olympics). Q: How are you feeling about the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials and the strength of the team' EP: I think going into these Games I think we have one of the strongest teams we have ever had. Throughout the year, each year we see more phenomenal swimmers and I think it is just a continuation of hard work. Finding the right training for athletes with disabilities and putting that into work; whether that is finding the right coaches or finding the athletes or finding the right team structure. I think going into these Games there is nothing that can hold us back. We've got a phenomenal group of athletes and I know we are going to represent our country the best we can. Q: What pleasure do you get from your sport' AC: The feeling I have personally, and I think everyone shares in the sport, is for me that wheelchair rugby, I love the aggression. I love the contact. It is a full contact wheelchair sport. I was hurt in a car accident, When I was 16 it was kind of that feeling that all of a sudden I am fragile, there are some things you can't do, the labels that get put on you. And when I started playing rugby, it was the whole opposite, you know. People are just out there trying to smash you and beat you up and all the stuff when you feel the injury, it is the stuff you still want to do. You still have that drive. You want to do all that stuff. You are still competitive. I just love how intense the sport is and aggressive. Q: What are your thoughts on athletes with prosthetics being able to compete in the Olympics' JO: A lot of people don't understand that whether you are missing one leg, both legs, it takes a lot more physical energy to move that prosthetic. You could say look at the elasticity or what not it gives you, you still have to use what portions of your body you have left to make the prosthetics work. JL: With my prosthetic, it's just, it is hard to walk. With the running legs, I have running legs. They really help you balance. It don't really think it gives you an advantage. It is the person doing the running. Q: Should Oscar Pistorius be allowed to compete' JO: Absolutely, yes sir. He has to overcome just as much as anybody else does, if not more. Q: Do you believe there's a lack of understanding about your disabilities, your prosthetics and equipment' JO: A little bit. As far as when I wear my prosthetic when I shoot, it helps me get into a good position to shoot and to be more consistent. And that is what it is all about, being consistent. Doing the same thing right every time. Eventually someone could come up and say, well, he is using something to hold himself up, a prop if you will. I guess, for lack of a better term, try and put yourself in my shoes or any athlete's shoes. You still have to overcome a lot to get out of bed in the morning, put their leg on or legs on. Definitely people should take that into consideration. Q: What is the pressure in Paralympic Swimming when new, top competitors can emerge at any time' EP: Our trials last week went very well. I was very pleased with how I did. I was able to break a World Record, but I didn't know it was going to happen. I mean, you never really know. But it was a great experience. We had a lot of new athletes that we didn't know about. We had a lot of young athletes which is good, you know, the evolution of the Paralympic swimming will grow. Its outreach into communities that may not have known about Paralympics or swimming. But I think with Paralympics, because of athletes that happen because their life changes, you never really know who is going to show up or who is going to pop out of the woodworks. We may never know who are true competitors until we get to the games and see the final who is bring who to the games and what classifications and everything there are. So things are pretty much open, but we are being able to see more of the people that are going to be at the Games. JL: Unfortunately, I couldn't swim at the trials. I just had an appendectomy. So, I got to watch. I guess, I mean, there is definitely so many younger swimmers. There are so many younger athletes. They are definitely really improving. So it is really good for sports for more kids to get involved. The better it is, the more well known it becomes. Like for me, there are six Chinese swimmers. I don't know where they are right now. I could be in China, and I could swim, and some of them could definitely improve. Q: What are your thoughts on politics and human rights in China, especially being from the military and representing your country' JO: Well, everybody has their own opinion. I'm just trying to concentrate on the Games, and getting to the Games. I am excited that I get to represent the country not only on the battlefield, but now in the sports arena. SW: Basically the same thing that Josh said. We all come together as athletes to compete for our countries. We just do our best that we can just like every other athlete that's out there. Q: For athletes hurt in Iraq, are the Paralympics a silver lining' JO: For me it is an opportunity. I was always taught growing up to never quit and when I got in the army...no matter what, you stood in a fight. When I was given the opportunity to stay in the army, and shoot with the Army Marshals unit and become a part of the World Class Athlete Program, it was just an opportunity for me that I never thought I would have. I remember at Walter Reed, I was watching Major Mike...in the finals, I was like, 'wow' that guy is in the army and that guy is in the army and he is shooting. And I had the opportunity to work with him every day, and shoot out there in the beginning, and I was told if this works out well for me, and we can get the program started, give other injured guys the opportunity to compete in the Paralympics, not just in shooting, but all sports. SW: It has given me another chance to put on that (USA) uniform. I mean, I had the opportunity to fight for my country and now I am trying to win for my country. Same thing with Josh too, having the military sports teams out there to give veterans that are disabled a second chance to do something. It is a great honor to them physically, mentally, spiritually...It also gives us the opportunity to rehab ourselves. It isn't the easiest thing in the world to deal with...It is a new age, it is growing. Hopefully, the next Paralympics you will see more veterans joining on with the team. JO: I missed the comradery when I was in Iraq, the people you meet and being on the team. It is whole new level of comradery that we have. QL: Jessica, you've missed a week of training because of your appendectomy. How off of your training are you' JL: I have had a break for about two weeks. It is hard. I just have to keep focusing on Beijing. But it has been nice to give my shoulders a great chance to rest and I think once I get back into the pool, I am going to be good. I think I will take about two weeks before I really start feeling like myself in the water but I think I will be good. Roundtable Quotes: Erin Popovich: -"The biggest challenge is learning to pace myself better. The first time I went all out, and I realized the significance of setting a continual pace." -"As much as it's important to concentrate on the physical side, it is more important to focus on the mental end."Andy Cohen: -"I have received lots of positive comments for the movie Murderball. I feel the most positive result came from the people in wheelchairs that realized there was a place for them to compete athletically." -"The title, Murderball, symbolized our team's struggle to get attention and be recognized." -"There is no other sport like this... Most of the other sports have a minimum amount of contact." -"My pitch to get people to come out and try wheelchair rugby is: once you do it, you'll be happy you gave it a chance."Jessica Long: -"So many people don't know about the Paralympics. Therefore, I hope that if the Olympics go to Chicago, it will give us a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness in the United States." -"Even though I am not able to practice right now, I am focusing so much in my head and it is even more exciting." -"I don't ever think about not making the team, because then it will happen_I like to stay positive."Josh Olson: -"I am just so very excited to be representing my country and representing myself to the world." -"Shooting is 90-95 percent mental, and 5-10 percent physical_It takes precision and lots of concentration."
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