Tokyo Paralympics 2020 with David Brown, Jerome Avery, & Alana Nichols | Toyota Untold Podcast #14

Tokyo Paralympics 2020 with David Brown, Jerome Avery, & Alana Nichols | Toyota Untold Podcast #14

Alana Nichols: Now, as a surfer, and a
skier, and a gold medalist, like that was impossible for me. Lying in a hospital bed, not possible. But, you know, one step at a time and with
the right technology in place, I was given the opportunity to reach
that impossible goal. David Brown: Doctor said
I wasn’t going to walk. Here I am running. You know, I wasn’t supposed
to be over five-feet tall. Here I am, I’m five foot eight. I mean, starting your impossible, you know
what I’m saying, we’re living Toyota’s mission statement, and we’re
accomplishing that every day. Kelsey Soule: Welcome back to the
Paralympics Podcast, I’m Kelsey, Tyler Litchenberger: And I’m Tyler. Kelsey Soule: We are so
excited for today’s episode. Tyler Litchenberger: We’ve been featuring
some of our Team Toyota athletes over the past couple episodes, and we’re one year
out from the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. And today, we’re talking
to our Paralympians. Kelsey Soule: So, if you guys don’t know,
the Paralympic Games start about two weeks after the Olympic Games end. And as you know, Toyota is a proud sponsor
of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams. But our commitment runs
a lot deeper than that. The reason that we’re involved
is so much more than that. Tyler Litchenberger: So, a
little company background info. We are transforming it
into a mobility company. And if you want to hear more about that,
go back to Season 1 and listen to Not a Car Company. Our goal is to help create a more
inclusive society, particularly when it comes to freedom of movement. Our President, Akio Toyoda, has said that
our partnership with Paralympics is just one more step towards that goal. And we’ve challenged ourselves as
a company to develop equipment for para-athletes using our technology and
engineering to increase awareness of para-sports through our sponsorships. Kelsey Soule: And through the sponsorship,
we’ve gotten to know some incredible people that are now Team Toyota
Paralympians and Paralympic hopefuls. They’re incredible. And we can’t wait to see
what they get to do in Tokyo. So, first, we talked to
David Brown and Jerome Avery. They are teammates in US
Paralympics track and field. Tyler Litchenberger: These guys, I
can’t even tell you, are the real deal. They were at the Paralympic
Games Rio 2016 together. David is visually impaired, having lost
his sight when he was 13 years old. And Jerome, Jerome is his guide runner. They run side by side on the track,
tethered together by a short cord that they hold on to. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, I don’t—I—I really
don’t understand how this is possible, but like their arm action has to be exact. Obviously, they have to move
in sync the entire time. Their feet have to hit the
ground at the same time. It takes track and field to
a completely different level. So, 3we can’t wait for you to
hear our conversation with them. Here you go. Tyler Litchenberger: So, we have
David Brown and Jerome Avery with us. And you got—like this is incredible. And I wanted to get you guys in here to
talk about this because Paralympians, you guys are in track and field. You run. And you guys run in, like,
lockstep with each other. David Brown: Yeah. Tyler Litchenberger:
Like, how did this happen? Like, this is fascinating to me. David Brown: Well, what happened was- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Kelsey Soule: What had happened was- Tyler Litchenberger: I love it. Jerome Avery: Definitely, I
consider myself a great dancer. Tyler Litchenberger: Okay. Kelsey Soule: Oh. Tyler Litchenberger: Oh. Jerome Avery: And it starts
with being in sync, you know. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Jerome Avery: You definitely have to have
the rhythm in order to run with the guys such as David Brown, who’s extremely fast. I have to mimic the way he runs. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Jerome Avery: I have to
run exactly like him. So, as soon as he touches the ground, his
inside foot, my inside foot touches the ground. Perfect example. It’s like a—it’s like a three-legged race. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Jerome Avery: So, us being
in sync is very important. It doesn’t have a—we don’t waste
any time while we’re running at all. David Brown: And one thing,
Jerome has been guiding for years. So, he’s pretty much the master. Jerome Avery: Yeah. Well, that’s nice. Tyler Litchenberger: How does a- Jerome Avery: Yeah, I’m a master. Tyler Litchenberger: David,
I want to start with you. How did you get into this? David Brown: When I got into
Paralympic track actually is 2008. I got selected to be a part of the
Paralympic experience in Beijing, China. And I got to—out of, like, hundreds of
applicants, I was one of the 25 that was selected. And I got to go and witness the
Paralympic Games live in Beijing, China. So, I got to see guys like Jerome run with
his guy that he was running with at the time. And, you know, the fire
was lit for me right there. I was like, “Hey, you know I can do that.” So, 2010, I would—I had the opportunity to
run on a relay alongside Jerome, actually. And that kind of put me on the radar to be
invited to a lot of different Paralympic camps and stuff. So, throughout high school, I was running. And 2012, I was selected to come and live
and train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. And the rest is just history from there. Tyler Litchenberger: That’s awesome. Kelsey Soule: That’s awesome. Have you always been into sports? David Brown: Yeah. I’ve come from an athletic family. So, before I went blind, I was playing
basketball, and I started going blind. I just got into sprinting and just
continued to play other sports like wrestling, stuff through
high school, and something. Tyler Litchenberger: And there was never
that like, “Well, you know, I’m losing my sight. I should stop these activities.” David Brown: No. Tyler Litchenberger: Never? No? David Brown: Never. It was always something like, “Okay, how
can I adapt and get to, you know, do what I want to do, and then stay active.” You know, when I couldn’t play anything
with the ball anymore because if my face became a magnet, it was more so, “How
can I stay active and competitive with my friends?” Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Jerome Avery: And that was running. You know, sprinting for me. You know, getting into foot races with
them because I was able to see where I was going, and I wasn’t bumping anything. But I can beat you in a foot race. So- Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Jerome Avery: … that was me. That was me. Tyler Litchenberger: How did you two meet? David Brown: Yeah, 2010, actually was the
first time we met, and I’ve literally just met him on the track. I went to the track. Here I am, little dude, not knowing
anything about sprinting or guiding. Really, I didn’t know there was a
technique to guiding, you know, and even to sprinting. I would just, “Run fast and ah!” Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah, right, yeah. David Brown: Little kid with the fist
balled up, and just going at it, you know. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, right. David Brown: Still kind of
like that to this day, but- Jerome Avery: So, Penn
Relays was our first event. It was actually a pretty big
event for our first event to run. We were paired up, but I was actually
training with someone else at the time. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Jerome Avery: So, it was one of those
things that an opportunity had opened up for me to work with David. And we took advantage of that opportunity. But I was still with another guy, and we
didn’t actually officially get paired up full time until 2014. David Brown: Yeah, five years ago. Jerome Avery: So, in between that, he had
another guide runner he was working with. David Brown: And like
quite a few guys actually. Jerome Avery: Yeah. David Brown: You know, I was running with
them throughout, you know, the years, went to London, went to France
for our world championships. And then, in 2014, that’s
when I paired up with Jerome. And, well, that’s a different story. Kelsey Soule: So, I’m so curious
about your guys’ relationship. So, obviously, you guys have to be
in sync with one another physically. But I’m assuming that it’s important that,
you know, personality-wise, you guys have to—to understand each other and, you know,
you’re going to be next to each other for an entire race, and you’re
relying on each other. So, can you tell us a little
bit about what it’s like. Like, are you guys—I’m
assuming you’re best friends. David Brown: Well, personally, yeah. I mean- Kelsey Soule: You have to have be friends. Tyler Litchenberger: I mean,
do you like each other? Jerome Avery: Go ahead,
go ahead, go ahead, David. Let me hear you.. David Brown: No pressure. Kelsey Soule: Like, can you
break up with him if you want? Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah, yeah. David Brown: Well, yeah. I mean there is those guide runner and
runner relationships where it is just strictly business, you know. Kelsey Soule: Okay. David Brown: I’ve been in the game,
actually, for about seven years now. Jerome had been in it quite,
you know, longer than me. And he can probably explain
that a little bit better. But there is athletes where it’s
just, “Okay, guide, runner.” Tyler Litchenberger: Go. Kelsey Soule: Okay. David Brown: And stuff like that. And it is just strictly,
you know, professionalism. But Jerome and I, we’re
like brothers, honestly. Jerome Avery: Most definitely. David Brown: So, you know, we don’t have
to have a friendship off the track, but we have one just because of our
personalities match and stuff. Kelsey Soule: Awesome. David Brown: When I first met this guy,
you know, just how funny he was and everything else. And you know, me being, like I said, new
and him being a vet, I asked him a lot of questions. I was able to reach out to him, talk to
him, and then, of course, laugh with them, joke with him. I’m just like, “Oh, okay, you
know, this guy is cool, you know.” And then, as far as- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Tyler Litchenberger:
This could be something. David Brown: Yeah. Kelsey Soule: Right. Jerome Avery: Exactly. David Brown: And, of course, moving to the
training center just helped build on that. And then, of course, knowing how
passionate this guy is about running and his work ethics, you know, this
is like, “Okay, let’s go then.” Kelsey Soule: Right, exactly. David Brown: Yeah, we
just matched up, you know. Jerome Avery: I think my job as a guide
runner, I definitely don’t take it lightly. I know at this moment in time in my life,
I was put here for a purpose, and that’s to see for someone else who can’t see. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Jerome Avery: And I feel that our
relationship and everything that we had accomplished over the years, that’s
big to me, and it means a lot. And to see the smile on his face when
we’re on that podium, that’s an amazing feeling. I don’t know if any, but that feeling
right there, knowing that you had a part of somebody else’s, you know, working
with someone else and just being a part of that, I’d like to say
success through selflessness. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, that’s awesome. Jerome Avery: You know, if
he wins, I automatically win. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Jerome Avery: Right. And that—that’s how we always, you
know, approach everything that we do. David Brown: And, of course, that is an
honor to me too just to know that, hey, this guy, he had Olympic dreams in
himself, but he put himself aside to help me get to my dreams. So, to help him get on the
podium as well and get a medal. Jerome Avery: Yeah, that’s a good thing. Tyler Litchenberger: That’s incredible. It’s awesome. David Brown: Yeah, it is
an incredible feeling. So, to have, you know, somebody—you know,
to have this guy up there beside me, you know, and then him happy for me, but then
me happy for him just because it’s like, “Hey, we got here together, man.” Jerome Avery: Yeah, exactly. David Brown: You know, we’re both doing
exactly what we dreamed of doing, and that’s receiving a gold medal. Jerome Avery: Yes. Tyler Litchenberger: That’s awesome. So, how did Toyota come into your life,
and—and how does Toyota help achieve those dreams? David Brown: you know, me and Jerome, we
are Team Toyota all the way just because one of the sayings is “Start your
impossible.” We’re, you know, accomplishing what people
feel is impossible. You know, when people are saying, “Oh,
yeah, it’s hard to do something with no sight,” here I am, I’m breaking 11 seconds
in a hundred meters where they felt it was impossible, you know. Kelsey Soule: Yes, you are. David Brown: So, it’s like, “Hey, you
think it was impossible to-” You know, me, personally, you know, pick my life up
after, you know, a suicidal attempt, you know, back when I was 13 and a whole bunch
of other things as far as like a doctor said I wasn’t going to walk. Here I am running. You know, I wasn’t supposed
to be over five feet tall. Here I am, I’m five foot eight. I mean, starting your impossible. You know what I’m saying? Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Tyler Litchenberger: We’re living Toyota’s
mission statement, and we’re accomplishing that every day. You’re hired. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. I feel like that’s like a mic drop. Like I don’t have anything else to say. Tyler Litchenberger: I’ve got goosebumps. I’m like, “Oh, my goodness.” So, what do you guys do
when you’re not training? David Brown: Sleep. Tyler Litchenberger: Are
you still hanging out? Yes. Jerome Avery: Sleep is very important. David Brown: Yeah. Jerome Avery: We’re just- Tyler Litchenberger:
Yes, I’m a fan of sleep. Jerome Avery: We’re just hanging out. David Brown: Yeah. Honestly, when we’re off the track,
we try to stay away from each other. Jerome Avery: We have a partnership. Tyler Litchenberger: But you’re friends. Jerome Avery: We’re
working together every day. It’s like being around your
brother all day every day. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, of course. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Jerome Avery: So, we need
a break from each other. Kelsey Soule: Right. Jerome Avery: And it works out perfect. David Brown: Yeah. Kelsey Soule: What is your training—like,
what does the next year look like for you? So, how—how many days a week? Like how does this—how does this work? David Brown: Well, we train
six days a week, twice a day. So, that’s one reason why
we tired of each other too. Tyler Litchenberger: And that’s
why you’re so sleepy too. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. David Brown: Yeah, exactly. Kelsey Soule: Wow. David Brown: I mean, so, of course,
leading up into Tokyo, it’s—we got a saying, “What got you
there will keep you there.” Jerome Avery: Exactly. David Brown: So, you know, we’re just
going to continue to grind it out. And, of course, we know that we have a
great team, my Team Toyota behind and his Team USA. And we’re just going to continue to do
what we do, and that’s to play towards gold. Kelsey Soule: Awesome. Tyler Litchenberger: It seems—I mean, so
Toyota has made a big push and getting Paralympic time on NBC and making
sure that you guys are seen. David Brown: Yeah. Tyler Litchenberger: Are you seeing more
recognition because of the time on TV and things like that? David Brown: Yeah. Honestly, since 2016, when the Paralympics was broadcasted,
since then, me personally, I don’t know about Jerome, but I have been
receiving more recognition. Like that day that I got back in the
airport, there was somebody that came up to me, and was just walking alongside me
talking, and he was like, “Hey, how are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m doing good, sir,” you know,
“How are you doing?” And he was like, “How was your flight?” I’m like, “I’m doing— —
you know, it was good. You know-” Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Jerome Avery: “… a little tired
and always great to be back.” He’s like, “Yeah. So, you’re coming from Rio?” I’m like, “Yes, Sir.” You know, he’s like, “Are you Mr. Brown?” And I’m like—and I turned to him like, “Yeah, I am.” He’s like, “Sir, I saw you on TV,” and
this guy completely freaked out, you know. And, of course- Tyler Litchenberger: That’s awesome. Jerome Avery: Yeah. David Brown: Like one thing with me,
though too is I have—I’m real big in talking to high schools,
and elementary schools. and stuff like that. I’ve had a lot of students come up to me,
and they’re like, “I saw you on TV, I saw your races, you know, I’ve seen you all
over social media,” and stuff like that, and you know. So, you know, a lot of recognition like
that has been coming out of being on television. And it’s been a blessing. You know, just- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. David Brown: really humbling. I mean, Jerome? Jerome Avery: I’ve seen a lot of changes. Especially 2016, like he said. At our nationals, Toyota was actually
there, and they were—they were looking over at us a little bit,
which was a good thing. And Tatyana McFadden, I don’t
know if you’re familiar- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Jerome Avery: … with that name, she’s
one of the biggest athletes we have for Paralympics. So, to see her represent and coming
from—going to the Games, definitely, it was good to be a part of that. Kelsey Soule: Okay. So, if you could say one thing to the
listeners to hold them over until they see you on TV in 2020, what’s the hype? What’s the—what’s the tag line? What are we look—what are we
looking for from you guys? David Brown: One thing I would say is it’s
never too late to start your impossible. With Jerome and I coming
up a year from now- Jerome Avery: That’s what I’m telling. David Brown: Yeah. Jerome Avery: But it isn’t. David Brown: It is not. Be prepared to see the impossible. Kelsey Soule: I love it. Tyler Litchenberger: OMG, Kelsey, I still
get goosebumps thinking about that day, we got to talk to them. Kelsey Soule: I know. They’re definitely—I feel like they’re
two of the coolest people I’ve ever met. And I can’t—I just can’t
wait to watch them on my TV. I am team David and Jerome all the way. Tyler Litchenberger: 100%. So, our next guest is equally as amazing. She’s like Wonder Woman. She’s a five-time Paralympian
and six-time medalist. Kelsey Soule: Honestly, I don’t know
if there’s anything that she can’t do. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah, we interviewed
Alana Nichols, and while she’s not competing for 2020, she’s working on
developing adaptive surfing for future competitions. Kelsey Soule: I’m constantly amazed at
what these people do in their “free time.” Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Kelsey Soule: So, during this interview,
Alison was pinch hitting and—but just listening to it got me super excited. Check it out. Tyler Litchenberger: Alana
Nichols, you are here. You are like Team Toyota
legend, I feel like. Alana Nichols: Well, thank you. Tyler Litchenberger:
And you also—two sports. You have wheelchair basketball and
Alpine skiing as a Paralympian. Alana Nichols: That’s right. Tyler Litchenberger: Like that’s crazy. Alana Nichols: Yeah. Tyler Litchenberger: That’s exciting. Alana Nichols: Yeah. I mean, I like to brag that I kind of
started the two-sport trend because I went wheelchair basketball, and then alpine
skiing, and then suddenly, like, Lolo Jones is on board. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: …and, you know, Lauren
Williams, and all these athletes are really kind of like exploring because the
fact is we’re always training anyways- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: … so why not be competing
in another sport like while you’re training- Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: … and
cross train, you know? Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: And so, fortunately,
my two sports worked out really well. So I was, you know, really fit as
a wheelchair basketball athlete. I also have the adrenaline type, you
know, ability to want to go fast. And so, I transitioned to alpine skiing
really well, being already physically ready to do that. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: And so, you know, I knocked
out five games like within, you know, a span of 12 years. So, it was like back to back. And it was just such a blast. I’ve had so much fun. Tyler Litchenberger: That’s incredible. And the skiing was—it came naturally
because you started as a snowboarder, right? Alana Nichols: Right. Well, so I grew up as an athlete. I started when I was five. I started with T Ball. I played volleyball and basketball
throughout junior high and high school. I put a lot of my eggs in the fast pitch
softball basket, was hoping to go to college on a softball- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: … scholarship when I
was first introduced to snowboarding. So, I got started a little later in life
in junior high, like at 14, you know. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: And I suddenly realized,
“Oh, there’s this whole other aspect of my athletic ability that I wasn’t aware of.” Like, I like to go fast. I like pushing the limit. I like seeing where
that edge is, you know. And so, snowboarding really offered me
this feeling of like creativity that I didn’t get from traditional sports- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah, yeah. Alana Nichols: … or known sports. And so, getting to be able to express
myself in that way was really exciting. Although I was really very focused
on going down that softball road. My senior year in high school, I was 17
at the time, I ended up trying my first backflip on a snowboard. It didn’t go well, if we- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah, yeah. Alana Nichols: … if you will. I over-rotated the backflip. I ended up landing on a rock
that was underneath the snow. So, it was kind of a combination
of a perfect, like, storm. Tyler Litchenberger: Storm. Alana Nichols: And that’s—and that’s what
left me paralyzed from the waist down. So, you know, athlete all my life. And suddenly, my—my whole
world gets flipped upside down. And I have to, kind of,
like reinvent myself. And at the time, this is in 2000, there
weren’t companies like Toyota that were celebrating people like paralympians, and
people with different abilities, and their ability to be mobile. So- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: … I really—it took me two
years to, like, realize, “Oh, there’s other people with disabilities. They’re playing sports. They’re being athletic.” And once I did realize that and I started
playing basketball, that’s when I got my life back. That’s when I finally came into my
own skin again, but it took two years. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: So, thankfully, in this
day and age, there are people, God forbid, that get paralyzed now that do
see other Paralympians on TV. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: Thanks to Toyota, you
know, and—and companies that believe in mobility. And so, you know, after my injury, getting
back into sports really got me back into life. And, you know, I just had
to figure out how to adapt. And I got into a basketball chair
and, suddenly, I felt more athletic. You know, I go to Beijing for basketball. And then, again, turn around, and I
figure, “If I can do this, like, why can’t I go to the Paralympics
for alpine skiing?” And, you know, in such a Cinderella story
way, I ended up making that dream not only come true by going to the Games, but then
becoming the most medaling athlete at the 2010 Games. And, you know, it’s unbelievable to me
just to be able to say that, but you could imagine, you know, after becoming
paralyzed, thinking my athletic career was over- Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: … next thing you know,
I’m on a podium getting a gold medal. I’m like, “How is this my life?” Tyler Litchenberger: I have goosebumps. Like, that’s so awesome. Alana Nichols: Thank you. Yeah, it’s—it’s been such a wild ride. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Allison Powell: You know, can you talk
about how becoming a Paralympian has kind of informed the rest of your world? Alana Nichols: Yeah. Well, you know, I—I don’t know
what would have happened, right? So, I was—I was headed to college
on a softball scholarship. I was hoping for the best. I had a dream of playing
at the Olympic level. I don’t know if that would have happened. I certainly know that I wouldn’t be a
three-time gold medalist and the first female American to win gold in the
Summer and Winter Games, you know. So- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: … like, in a lot of ways,
becoming a Paralympian created these opportunities that I wouldn’t have
had had I been an able-bodied athlete. So, you know, you—you kind of
look at it in a different way. You give it a little twist, and you’re
like, “Wow, that was—that might have been the best thing that’s
ever happened to me.” Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: You know. Like becoming paralyzed was the
best thing that ever happened to me. And I know that’s probably hard for some
people to hear, but it’s honestly been such – I don’t know – an
intriguing way to live. It’s—I’ve had to be creative in
what I’ve done to adapt to my world. And, you know, it’s really an honor
to be an inspiration to people. And I used to really hate that word. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: I’m like, “Don’t
use the ‘I’ word at me, okay?” Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah, yeah. Alana Nichols: But, you know, I’ve really
embraced this idea that some people just need a little bit of perspective. And regardless of what’s going on in their
life and their struggles, and everybody has them, and I don’t want people
to compare their stuff with mine. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: Everybody’s monster under
the bed is only as big as you let it be, you know. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: And so, I just—you know,
I’ve been able to kind of create a different type of life that I think is
really kind of intriguing and inspiring for people. And, you know, again, like, it’s only when
I come across, like, obstacles that my life is actually disabled, right. So, I come across a set of stairs, and I’m
suddenly, like, different, and disabled, and I can’t go up then. But if the world was universally designed,
I would just look a little different. You know, we all have- Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: … different bodies. And so—and that’s what I really love about
Toyota’s mobility program is like, let’s figure out these—these obstacles. Like, I love that. And I think that, you know, having a
bionic body, if one day I get to walk around in a robot, I’m happy to
do that and be like a superhero. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: That’d be great. I don’t know. Tyler Litchenberger: Well, even without
that, I feel like you’re a superhero already. Alana Nichols: Oh, thanks. Tyler Litchenberger: Like that’s crazy. Alana Nichols: We’re working really
diligently to develop adaptive surfing. So, as you know, able-bodied
surfing is in the 2020 Games. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: It will be, you know,
debuted in Tokyo, which is so exciting. And adaptive surfing is not far behind. So, we are working really closely with
the International Surf Association and USA Surfing. And we’re getting, you know, this huge
group of adaptive athletes from all over the world into, you know, one competition. And we’re developing a
classification system. And we’re kind of, like, well on our way. So- Tyler Litchenberger: Great. Alana Nichols: … it’s really exciting. And I’m—I love the sport of surfing. It’s amazing, so. Tyler Litchenberger: You get niche. It’s a little niche. Alana Nichols: It’s a little niche. But yes, in the Paralympic world as well,
we have to have classification systems, which are, basically, here’s
categories of disabilities. So, not everybody—like a single-legged
amputee wouldn’t compete against somebody with paralysis. Tyler Litchenberger: Right, right.. Alana Nichols: You know. So, it’s essentially
leveling the playing field- Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: … for
categories of disabilities. And then, from there, you then
start checking all the IOC boxes. Tyler Litchenberger: Right, have that. Alana Nichols: So, then it’s like, you
know, “Here’s what needs to happen on your way to becoming a sport.” I’m not headed to Tokyo
for any Paralympic sport. I do love broadcasting. I would love to be able to contribute
in some way to the surfing scene- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: … there. But working diligently
on adaptive surfing. Tyler Litchenberger: This seems
like a bigger calling, at least. Like, you know, you’ve competed. And, now, you’re like for the future
generations of people who want to compete in surfing, you’re setting
the stage for that. Alana Nichols: Yeah. That’s kind of the idea is to give
back, and paving the way, and creating opportunities because there’s—there’s so
many adaptive athletes, I mean, from all over the world, from Chile and Argentina
that, literally, sell their belongings to come to La Jolla, California to compete in
the International Surf Association World Adaptive Surf Champs, you know. Tyler Litchenberger: Wow! Alana Nichols: Like it’s their one thing. And I would love for them to be able to
compete at a Paralympic level one day, if that’s what they want. And- Allison Powell: And the development
of mobility tools seems- Alana Nichols: Right. Alison Powell: … you’ve probably seen
quite a bit of change in—in your time. Can you tell us a little bit about how the
actual products have changed and what you see kind of the potential? Alana Nichols: Well, it’s kind of funny
to say this, but if there was ever a good time to be disabled, it’s now, you know. Tyler Litchenberger: All right. Okay, yeah. Alana Nichols: It’s like, okay, so
something tragic happens, and we’re all very fragile humans. You lose a leg, you lose an arm, you lose
your vision, or you become, you know, paralyzed, and you’re in
a chair, you have options. And so, I’m in a wheelchair
that’s 22 pounds. And if you asked me how much my wheelchair
weighed 60 years ago, it’d be upwards of, like, 65 pounds. Tyler Litchenberger: Wow! Alana Nichols: And so, being able to push
a titanium carbon fiber wheelchair around, and something that’s small enough
to fit just about anywhere- Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: … is really—I
mean, it’s—is really great. And so, say, you’re an amputee, there’s
these new Bluetooth-enabled knees that you can actually connect to your phone that
have like, “You’re going uphill, okay, let me just get on my phone and tell my leg
how to walk uphill,” you know, those kind of things. And, you know, Toyota’s mobility for all
program is creating a lot of really fun Toyota products as well. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: And it’s like this amazing
technology that creates, you know, mobility for people and independence. And I think that’s just really cool. Tyler Litchenberger: ”Start
Your Impossible”, I’m sure- Alana Nichols: Right. Tyler Litchenberger: … when people hear
that tagline from us, they just think, “That’s your tagline for Olympics? Okay, fine.” But how do you see people living and
breathing start your impossible like from a Team Toyota perspective? Alana Nichols: Yeah. Well, from a Team Toyota perspective
specifically, we are compiled of both Olympic and Paralympic athletes. When you start a four-year cycle of
going to the Olympics, it’s essentially impossible. You’re looking at that mountain like
four years, how am I going to do this? Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah,
that’s a long time, true. Alana Nichols: You start your impossible,
and it’s—it’s about breaking down the large goal into manageable smaller goals. And so, Olympic or Paralympic,
I mean, that’s very applicable. And it starts every day at 6:00 a.m. when you wake up, and you go
to the gym, and you build. For the Paralympians, specifically, I
mean, every Paralympian has probably had an impossible moment where, you know, like
myself, I was lying in a hospital bed. And I was 17. And it was time for me
to start my impossible. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: And that, again, is just
about getting one—I mean, it’s an inch, a step, or a mile at a time. It’s—it’s like just get
into your wheelchair. Tyler Litchenberger: Yeah. Alana Nichols: And then push forward- Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: … and
whatever that looks like. So, you know, every Paralympians got this
really rich story of how they started their impossible. And, you know, now, as a surfer, and a
skier, and a gold medalist, like that was impossible for me. Tyler Litchenberger: Right. Alana Nichols: Lying in a
hospital bed, not possible. But, you know, one step at a time and with
the right technology in place, I was given the opportunity to reach
that impossible goal. Kelsey Soule: Tyler, that
was an amazing conversation. Tyler Litchenberger: I know, right. Thank you. Kelsey Soule: You get no credit for that. I was impressed by Alana. Tyler Litchenberger: Oh, right. Okay. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Tyler Litchenberger: So, all of our Team
Toyota athletes were incredible to talk to. And we’re excited to see
what they do this year. And we hope to see them at the Olympic
and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. And we’ll be checking in on
their progress later this season. So, look forward to that. Kelsey Soule: And once again, thanks
for joining us on Toyota Untold. You can watch the progress of our
Team Toyota athletes on social media. David is on Twitter, @drb1019. Jerome tweets @Mr_Jerome_Avery and he’s on the ‘gram, @_jeromeavery_. Alana Nichols is also on
Instagram, @alanathejane. Tyler Litchenberger: And you can
follow all of our Team Toyota athletes, @teamtoyota on Twitter and Instagram. Kelsey Soule: The show is produced
by Sharon Hong and Alison Powell. Music by Wes Meixner. Edited and mixed by Crate Media. We’re back in two weeks with
an episode on Overlanding. Tyler Litchenberger: Overlanding. Kelsey Soule: So, don’t
forget to subscribe. See you later.

About the Author: Michael Flood


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