Gay Talese on the state of journalism, Iraq and his life

September 18th, 2019

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Gay Talese wants to go to Iraq. “It so happens there is someone that’s working on such a thing right now for me,” the 75-year-old legendary journalist and author told David Shankbone. “Even if I was on Al-Jazeera with a gun to my head, I wouldn’t be pleading with those bastards! I’d say, ‘Go ahead. Make my day.'”

Few reporters will ever reach the stature of Talese. His 1966 profile of Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, was not only cited by The Economist as the greatest profile of Sinatra ever written, but is considered the greatest of any celebrity profile ever written. In the 70th anniversary issue of Esquire in October 2003, the editors declared the piece the “Best Story Esquire Ever Published.”

Talese helped create and define a new style of literary reporting called New Journalism. Talese himself told National Public Radio he rejects this label (“The term new journalism became very fashionable on college campuses in the 1970s and some of its practitioners tended to be a little loose with the facts. And that’s where I wanted to part company.”)

He is not bothered by the Bancrofts selling The Wall Street Journal—”It’s not like we should lament the passing of some noble dynasty!”—to Rupert Murdoch, but he is bothered by how the press supported and sold the Iraq War to the American people. “The press in Washington got us into this war as much as the people that are controlling it,” said Talese. “They took information that was second-hand information, and they went along with it.” He wants to see the Washington press corp disbanded and sent around the country to get back in touch with the people it covers; that the press should not be so focused on–and in bed with–the federal government.

Augusten Burroughs once said that writers are experience junkies, and Talese fits the bill. Talese–who has been married to Nan Talese (she edited James Frey‘s Million Little Piece) for fifty years–can be found at baseball games in Cuba or the gay bars of Beijing, wanting to see humanity in all its experience.

Below is Wikinews reporter David Shankbone’s interview with Gay Talese.

Contents

  • 1 On Gay Talese
  • 2 On a higher power and how he’d like to die
  • 3 On the media and Iraq
  • 4 On the Iraq War
  • 5 State of Journalism
  • 6 On travel to Cuba
  • 7 On Chinese gay bars
  • 8 On the literary canon
  • 9 Sources

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Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

September 18th, 2019

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

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US officials accused of covering up human deaths from BSE and discouraging testing of suspected animals

September 10th, 2019

Friday, July 1, 2005

Dr. Lester Friedlander, a former United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) vet, had been blowing the whistle on the USDA beef inspection practices before the latest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was confirmed. Dr. Friedlander said that inspectors are allowed only 15 seconds of inspection and that unhygienic practices are common in the meat industry; practices such as cow carcasses with abscesses being hosed off, wrapped up and shipped to the consumer.

Friedlander also claims that some supervisors were more concerned about falsifying inspection documents than protecting consumers and that on June 9, 2005, a cow in Texas with BSE symptoms was sent straight to the rendering plant without testing.

There have also been allegations of a “don’t ask,don’t tell” approach being applied by US health officials when confronted with human deaths which may be caused by eating BSE contaminated meat.The Organic Consumers Association reported last year that hundreds of people are dying in the US each year from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD or vCJD) (the human counterpart of BSE) and the deaths are being written off as “unexplainable”. The disease causes holes in the brains of the victims.

A New Jersey lawyer, Janet Skarbek is being called “the next Erin Brockovich” for her research into the “Cherry Hill cluster” of 12 deaths she said were caused by people eating BSE infected meat; “I’m up to 12 confirmed cases of CJD, where it says CJD on their death certificates and where they all ate at the same racetrack,” Skarbek said.

New Jersey state officials have said that the 12 deaths did not result from the human form of mad cow disease, but rather from sporadic CJD; but Skarbek says the government’s numbers don’t add up. “If you just take five of the victims from New Jersey that ate at the track most recently, two were out of 100 administrative employees and three were out of 1,000 season-pass holders. So out of that population of 1,100 people, we should see one case of CJD every 909 years.”

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Congressional staff actions prompt Wikipedia investigation

September 7th, 2019

Monday, January 30, 2006

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Edits by Massachusetts congressman Marty Meehan’s staff on his Wikipedia article spurred a Lowell Sun story and a subsequent Wikipedia investigation of all Internet addresses assigned to the Congress of the United States.

While edits from the Capitol are not generally news, the biographical article for Mr. Meehan was carefully edited, removing negative comments while expanding with content from the congressman’s political flyer. The IP address which made these edits has an extensive editing history on Wikipedia, and has been repeatedly blocked in past months for article vandalism and violation of Wikipedia policies (Wikipedia’s log of 143.231.249.141 being blocked from editing).

Wikipedia administrators, alerted to the Marty Meehan article edits, realized that many edits to politically-sensitive articles had been made from IP addresses assigned to the US Capitol building, and have begun an investigation into all edits from such addresses.

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Illegal drug found to be used in the manufacture of toys

September 7th, 2019

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bindeez beads, a children’s toy from Australia and manufactured by Moose Enterprise in Hong Kong, is being pulled off toy store shelves in the United Kingdom after traces of an illegal drug, which is converted into gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) when ingested, was found inside the toy. At least 20 million toys are affected.

So far at least three children from the U.K. and at least two from Auckland, New Zealand have fallen seriously ill and are currently receiving medical attention. The toy is also sold in the United States as Aqua Dots, with two reports received by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) of children needing hospitalization after ingesting the beads.

“We’ve asked all our customers to take them off the shelf while we retest everything to make sure the toys comply with all regulations,” said the company in a statement, although no mandatory recall has been issued for the product. The statement also says that the plant in Hong Kong was not using a chemical mixture approved by the company.

“This substitution was not at any time approved by Moose nor was Moose made aware of any substitution by the supplier,” added the statement.

The toys were supposed to contain a non-toxic chemical known as 1,5-pentanediol, but instead 1,4-butanediol, which is mainly used in creating the illegal drug GHB, was used in the toys. When humans consume 1,4-butanediol, the body converts it into GHB and could make the individual seriously ill, causing headaches, seizures, dizziness and in some cases death. GHB is a natural chemical found in a variety of things such as beef, wine and some varieties of citrus fruits. It is also used as a pharmaceutical which is sold as Xyrem.

Recent animal research indicates that drugs are available for human use which may work as antidotes to the poison, either by hindering its conversion to GHB with 4-methylpyrazole (fomepizole, Antizol) or by blocking GHB’s effectiveness at the receptor (SCH 50911). Rodent testing has found the lethal dose of 1,4-butanediol to range from 1.4 to 2.5 grams per kilogram body weight, but an antidote can increase the lethal dose by a factor of 10.

It is not known how the chemicals got mixed up, but officials for the toy company say that they are continuing the investigation. The toy is currently banned in all of Australia, but the company says all those who bought it will be refunded their money.

“The issue of how a dangerous substance was used in these beads and not the non-toxic substance … that is going to take us a few more days to uncover,” said Australia’s Fair Trade Minister, Linda Burney in a statement to the press.

The toy was recently named Australia’s number one toy for 2007.

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On the campaign trail, March 2012

September 7th, 2019

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The following is the fifth in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail, a politician from outside the fifty states receives significant mention as a potential Republican Party vice presidential nominee, Wikinews gets the reaction of three Democratic Party candidates after the party strips delegates from two of their fellow challengers, and a minor third party removes its presidential nominee for fraud.

Contents

  • 1 Summary
  • 2 Might the GOP VP nominee come from Puerto Rico?
  • 3 Democratic Party strips delegates
  • 4 Party removes presidential nominee
  • 5 Related articles
  • 6 Sources

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Volunteers and food needed for flooded Manitoba, Canada

September 3rd, 2019

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Local municipal and provincial volunteers in Manitoba, Canada are exhausted in their efforts to divert the rising waters of the Red River of the North.

It has been hard work with little sleep for the residents who live on the shores of the Red River to shore up their defences with sandbags, build dikes, clear frozen culverts and break ice jams

Volunteers to spell relief for local volunteers and food are desperately needed.

“It’s a week now we’ve been doing this … you’re talking four, five, six public works guys. In my one community we’ve got 25 volunteer firefighters and those guys have been going 24/7, so of course it’s wearing them down.” said Paul Guyader, Manitoba’s emergency measures coordinator.

“We’re dealing with one of the biggest floods the province has ever seen,” said Steve Strang, mayor of St. Clements, Manitoba “We’ve put out hundreds of thousands of bags already. The municipalities are working very well, we’re working with the provincial government, we’ve brought in every possible resource we could to address this issue. The volunteerism within the community has been phenomenal.”

The Portage Diversion has taken some spring waters from the Assiniboine River and diverted the flow to Lake Manitoba.

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has been totally evacuated, as well as many homes near the Canada – United States border.

The cold weather is freezing the ice jams into place. Guyader has had 2 Amphibex Excavators operating on the river breaking up ice.

The Red River is right now 16.7 feet (5 metres) above spring ice conditions. The Red River Floodway gates cannot be opened with the current ice jams.

“If we operate now, we can get ice jamming going into the floodway, jamming up against the St. Mary’s bridge, as such, the floodway capacity would be reduced and would cause higher water levels in the city of Winnipeg.” said Steve Topping, Manitoba Water Stewardship spokesman

The floodway was constructed in 1968 following the 1950 flood to divert the overflow spring flooding waters of the Red River. The floodway has been widened the since the 1997 “flood of the century” and the expansion is expected to be completed this spring. As well Manitoba built permanent dikes around communities within the flood plain since the last two major floods..

The Red River waters will crest between the beginning of April to mid April, at which time also the weather should be warming up. Communities are bracing for higher water levels, more ice jams as well as melting snow in the warmer spring temperatures.

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Barcelona defeat Manchester United in 2009 Champions League Final

September 3rd, 2019

Friday, May 29, 2009

May 27, 200920:45(UTC+1)
FC Barcelona 2 – 0 Manchester United F.C. Stadio Olimpico, Rome Attendance: 62,467 Referee: Massimo Busacca
10′ Samuel Eto’o 16′ Gerard Piqué 70′ Lionel Messi 72′ Thierry Henry 72′ Seydou Keita 90+2′ Andrés Iniesta 90+2′ Pedro Rodríguez 46′ Anderson 46′ Carlos Tévez 66′ Ji-Sung Park 66′ Dimitar Berbatov 75′ Ryan Giggs 75′ Paul Scholes 78′ Cristiano Ronaldo 80′ Paul Scholes 90+3′ Nemanja Vidi?

Claiming their major trophy of the season, FC Barcelona dominated reigning champions Manchester United F.C. at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome Wednesday to win the 2009 Champions League Final 2 – 0.

After a shaky start, Samuel Eto’o shot the ball past Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in the tenth minute, the only goal Barcelona would need.

Manchester had several great chances in the opening ten minutes, with Christiano Ronaldo forcing a save from Barca keeper Víctor Valdés in the second minute. However it was Eto’o who capitalized on his teams first real chance striking a low ball that van der Sar could get hands to.

After the goal, Barcelona settled into a smooth passing game dominating long stretches in the remainder of the first half.

At the start of the second half, United looked to be on the offensive substituting Argentinian Carlos Tévez for the Brazilian Anderson and the Red Devils looked to have gained a boost for the first ten minutes of the half, but again Barcelona settled into a passing rhythm United could not break. In the 53rd minute, Xavi Hernández’s free kick hit the crossbar, which proved to be Barca’s best chance early in the half.

Halfway into the second half, Dimitar Berbatov came on for Ji-Sung Park, but Berbatov proved no better and in the 70th minute Lionel Messi headed in a cross from Hernández, giving Barca an insurance goal. Four minutes later, Barca captain Carles Puyol has a great chance on goal, but van der Saar in the United goal is equal to the task. In the next minute, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, makes his third and final change, subbing in Paul Scholes for Ryan Giggs.

Scholes scored the lone goal in last season’s semi-final to put United into the final, but could not do so and as the minutes ticked off, United got increasingly desperate, earning three yellow cards in the final 12 minutes, but could not score and Barcelona took their second Champions League title since the 2005–06.

Barcelona also earned two domestic trophies, earning both the La Liga and the Copa del Rey titles.

Manchester United also earned three major trophies, earning the Premier League title, the League Cup title and the Community shield. In addition United defeated the best international club teams in 2008 Club World Cup.

Both teams will be eligible for the Champions League 2009–10, with Barcelona as title holders and winners of La Liga and Manchester United as the winners of the Premier League.

Other domestic club champions qualifying for the group state of next season’s competition include Italy’s Internazionale, France’s Bordeaux, Germany’s Wolfsburg, Russia’s Rubin Kazan, Portugal’s Porto, the Netherlands’ Alkmaar Zaanstreek, Scotland’s Rangers, the Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, and Belgium’s Standard Liège. Champions of Romania and Turkey have yet to be determined and will join the group stage.

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EU, US declare intent to cooperate on climate change at summit

September 3rd, 2019

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A European Union-United States summit held in Slovenia produced a draft declaration outlining the groups’ future cooperation on climate change, energy security and financial stability. Yesterday was the final day of the summit, the last EU-US summit that US President George W. Bush will attend in his current role.

Hopes of a major breakthrough on the topic of climate change were low going into the summit. The foreign minister of Slovenia, Dimitrij Rupel, commented last week that, “on climate change, the positions are split.” Members of the 27-nation EU have regularly expressed their dissatisfaction with the US for not having ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement with binding greenhouse gas emissions targets. Doubts about the summit’s efficacy were not misplaced, as no firm targets were set for actions on climate change.

The EU and US agreed to cooperate increasingly in science and technology research for energy and climate change purposes, including carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen fuel cells. The EU reaffirmed its commitments as per the Kyoto Protocol, but the US restated that developing countries such as China and India must be made to sign up to such global agreements before it will sign on.

Steps to secure energy sources for the future were also discussed. Promoting the creation of multiple pipelines to supply more natural gas to Europe was determined a priority, despite the fact that this would encourage an increase in emissions from gas use.

Bush commented in a follow-up news conference: “I think we can get a global agreement on climate change during my presidency – just so you know.”

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Wikinews interviews Australian wheelchair basketball player Tina McKenzie

August 23rd, 2019

Friday, January 3, 2014

Preston, Victoria, Australia —On Saturday, Wikinews interviewed Tina McKenzie, a former member of the Australia women’s national wheelchair basketball team, known as the Gliders. McKenzie, a silver and bronze Paralympic medalist in wheelchair basketball, retired from the game after the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. Wikinews caught up with her in a cafe in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Preston.

Tina McKenzie: [The Spitfire Tournament in Canada] was a really good tournament actually. It was a tournament that I wish we’d actually gone back to more often.

((Wikinews)) Who plays in that one?

Tina McKenzie: It’s quite a large Canadian tournament, and so we went as the Gliders team. So we were trying to get as many international games as possible. ‘Cause that’s one of our problems really, to compete. It costs us so much money to for us to travel overseas and to compete internationally. And so we can compete against each other all the time within Australia but we really need to be able to…

((WN)) It’s not the same.

Tina McKenzie: No, it’s really not, so it’s really important to be able to get as a many international trips throughout the year to continue our improvement. Also see where all the other teams are at as well. But yes, Spitfire was good. We took quite a few new girls over there back then in 2005, leading into the World Cup in the Netherlands.

((WN)) Was that the one where you were the captain of the team, in 2005? Or was that a later one?

Tina McKenzie: No, I captained in 2010. So 2009, 2010 World Cup. And then I had a bit of some time off in 2011.

((WN)) The Gliders have never won the World Championship.

Tina McKenzie: We always seem to have just a little bit of a chill out at the World Cup. I don’t know why. It’s really strange occurrence, over the years. 2002 World Cup, we won bronze. Then in 2006 we ended up fourth. It was one of the worst World Cups we’ve played actually. And then in 2010 we just… I don’t know what happened. We just didn’t play as well as we thought we would. Came fourth. But you know what? Fired us up for the actual Paralympics. So the World Cup is… it’s good to be able to do well at the World Cup, to be placed, but it also means that you get a really good opportunity to know where you’re at in that two year gap between the Paralympics. So you can come back home and revisit what you need to do and, you know, where the team’s at. And all that sort of stuff.

((WN)) Unfortunately, they are talking about moving it so it will be on the year before the Paralympics.

Tina McKenzie: Oh really.

((WN)) The competition from the [FIFA] World Cup and all.

Tina McKenzie: Right. Well, that would be sad.

((WN)) But anyway, it is on next year, in June. In Toronto, and they are playing at the Maple Leaf Gardens?

Tina McKenzie: Okay. I don’t know where that is.

((WN)) I don’t know either!

Tina McKenzie: (laughs)

((WN)) We’ll find it. The team in Bangkok was pretty similar. There’s two — yourself and Amanda Carter — who have retired. Katie Hill wasn’t selected, but they had Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy back, so there was ten old players and only two new ones.

Tina McKenzie: Which is a good thing for the team. The new ones would have been Georgia [Inglis] and?

((WN)) Caitlin de Wit.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah… Shelley Cronau didn’t get in?

((WN)) No, she’s missed out again.

Tina McKenzie: Interesting.

((WN)) That doesn’t mean that she won’t make the team…

Tina McKenzie: You never know.

((WN)) You never know until they finally announce it.

Tina McKenzie: You never know what happens. Injuries happen leading into… all types of things and so… you never know what the selection is like.

((WN)) They said to me that they expected a couple of people to get sick in Bangkok. And they did.

Tina McKenzie: It’s pretty usual, yeah.

((WN)) They sort of budgeted for three players each from the men’s and women’s teams to be sick.

Tina McKenzie: Oh really? And that worked out?

((WN)) Yeah. I sort of took to counting the Gliders like sheep so I knew “Okay, we’ve only go ten, so who’s missing?”

Tina McKenzie: I heard Shelley got sick.

((WN)) She was sick the whole time. And Caitlin and Georgia were a bit off as well.

Tina McKenzie: It’s tough if you haven’t been to Asian countries as well, competing and…

((WN)) The change of diet affects some people.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah. I remember when we went to Korea and…

((WN)) When was that?

Tina McKenzie: Korea would have been qualifiers in two thousand and… just before China, so that would have been…

((WN)) 2007 or 2008?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, 2007. Maybe late, no, it might have been early 2007. It was a qualifier for — Beijing, I think actually. Anyway, we went and played China, China and Japan. And it was a really tough tournament on some of our really new girls. They really struggled with the food. They struggled with the environment that we were in. It wasn’t a clean as what they normally exist in. A lot of them were very grumpy. (laughs) It’s really hard when you’re so used to being in such a routine, and you know what you want to eat, and you’re into a tournament and all of a sudden your stomach or your body can’t take the food and you’re just living off rice, and that’s not great for anyone.

((WN)) Yeah, well, the men are going to Seoul for their world championship, while the women go to Toronto. And of course the next Paralympics is in Rio.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I know.

((WN)) It will be a very different climate and very different food.

Tina McKenzie: We all learn to adjust. I have over the years. I’ve been a vegetarian for the last thirteen years. Twelve years maybe. So you learn to actually take food with you. And you learn to adjust, knowing what environment you’re going in to, and what works for you. I have often carried around cans of red kidney beans. I know that I can put that in lettuce or in salad and get through with a bit of protein. And you know Sarah Stewart does a terrific job being a vegan, and managing the different areas and countries that we’ve been in to. Germany, for example, is highly dependent on the meat side of food, and I’m pretty sure I remember in Germany I lived on pasta and spaghetti. Tomato sauce. Yeah, that was it. (laughs) That’s alright. You just learn. I think its really hard for the new girls that come in to the team. It’s so overwhelming at the best of times anyway, and their nerves are really quite wracked I’d say, and that different travel environment is really hard. So I think the more experience they can get in traveling and playing internationally, the better off they’ll be for Rio.

((WN)) One of the things that struck me about the Australian team — I hadn’t seen the Gliders before London. It was an amazing experience seeing you guys come out on the court for the first time at the Marshmallow…

Tina McKenzie: (laughs)

((WN)) It was probably all old hat to you guys. You’d been practicing for months. Certainly since Sydney in July.

Tina McKenzie: It was pretty amazing, yeah. I think it doesn’t really matter how many Paralympics you actually do, being able to come out on that court, wherever it is, it’s never dull. It’s always an amazing experience, and you feel quite honored, and really proud to be there and it still gives you a tingle in your stomach. It’s not like “oh, off I go. Bored of this.”

((WN)) Especially that last night there at the North Greenwich Arena. There were thirteen thousand people there. They opened up some extra parts of the stadium. I could not even see the top rows. They were in darkness.

Tina McKenzie: It’s an amazing sport to come and watch, and its an amazing sport to play. It’s a good spectator sport I think. People should come and see especially the girls playing. It’s quite tough. And I was talking to someone yesterday and it was like “Oh I don’t know how you play that! You know, it’s so rough. You must get so hurt.” It’s great! Excellent, you know? Brilliant game that teaches you lots of strategies. And you can actually take all those strategies off the court and into your life as well. So it teaches you a lot of discipline, a lot of structure and… it’s a big thing. It’s not just about being on the court and throwing a ball around.

((WN)) When I saw you last you were in Sydney and you said you were moving down to Melbourne. Why was that?

Tina McKenzie: To move to Melbourne? My mum’s down here. And I lived here for sixteen years or something.

((WN)) I know you lived here for a long time, but you moved up to Sydney. Did your teacher’s degree up there.

Tina McKenzie: I moved to Sydney to go to uni, and Macquarie University were amazing in the support that they actually gave me. Being able to study and play basketball internationally, the scholarship really helped me out. And you know, it wasn’t just about the scholarship. It was.. Deidre Anderson was incredible. She’s actually from Melbourne as well, but her support emotionally and “How are you doing?” when she’d run into you and was always very good at reading people… where they’re at. She totally understands at the levels of playing at national level and international level and so it wasn’t just about Macquarie supporting me financially, it was about them supporting me the whole way through. And that was how I got through my degree, and was able to play at that level for such a long time.

((WN)) And you like teaching?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I do. Yeah, I do. I’m still waiting on my transfer at the moment from New South Wales to Victoria, but teaching’s good. It’s really nice to be able to spend some time with kids and I think its really important for kids to be actually around people with disabilities to actually normalize us a little bit and not be so profound about meeting someone that looks a little bit different. And if I can do that at a young age in primary school and let them see that life’s pretty normal for me, then I think that’s a really important lesson.

((WN)) You retired just after the Paralympics.

Tina McKenzie: I did. Yeah. Actually, it took me quite a long time to decide to do that. I actually traveled after London. So I backpacked around… I went to the USA and then to Europe. And I spent a lot of time traveling and seeing amazing new things, and spending time by myself, and reflecting on… So yes, I got to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on my career and where I wanted to go.

((WN)) Your basketball career or your teaching career?

Tina McKenzie: All the above. Yeah. Everything realistically. And I think it was a really important time for me to sort of decide sort of where I wanted to go in myself. I’d spent sixteen years with the Gliders. So that’s a long time to be around the Gliders apparently.

((WN)) When did you join them for the first time?

Tina McKenzie: I think it was ’89? No, no, no, sorry, no, no, no, ’98. We’ll say 1998. Yeah, 1998 was my first tournament, against USA. So we played USA up in New South Wales in the Energy Australia tour. So we traveled the coast. Played up at Terrigal. It was a pretty amazing experience, being my first time playing for Australia and it was just a friendly competition so… Long time ago. And that was leading into 2000, into the big Sydney Olympics. That was the beginning of an amazing journey realistically. But going back to why I retired, or thinking about retiring, I think when I came home I decided to spend a little bit more time with mum. Cause we’d actually lost my dad. He passed away two years ago. He got really sick after I came back from World Cup, in 2011, late 2010, he was really unwell, so I spent a lot of time down here. I actually had a couple of months off from the Gliders because I needed to deal with the family. And I think that it was really good to be able to get back and get on the team and… I love playing basketball but after being away, and I’ve done three Paralympics, I’ve been up for four campaigns, I think its time now to actually take a step backwards and… Well not backwards… take a step out of it and spend quality time with mum and quality time with people that have supported me throughout the years of me not being around home but floating back in and floating out again and its a really… it’s a nice time for me to be able to also take on my teaching career and trying to teach and train and work full time is really hard work and I think its also time for quite a few of the new girls to actually step up and we’ve got quite a few… You’ve got Caitlin, and you’ve got Katie and you’ve got Shelley and Georgia. There’s quite a few nice girls coming through that will fit really well into the team and it’s a great opportunity for me to go. It’s my time now. See where they go with that, and retire from the Gliders. It was a hard decision. Not an easy decision to retire. I definitely miss it. But I think now I’d rather focus on maybe helping out at the foundation level of starting recruitment and building up a recruiting side in Melbourne and getting new girls to come along and play basketball. People with… doesn’t even have to be girls but just trying to re-feed our foundation level of basketball, and if I can do that now I think that’s still giving towards the Gliders and Rollers eventually. That would be really nice. Just about re-focusing. I don’t want to completely leave basketball. I’d still like to be part of it. Looking to the development side of things and maybe have a little bit more input in that area would be really nice though. Give back the skills I’ve been taught over the years and be a bit of an educator in that area I think would be nice. It’s really hard when you’re at that international level to… you’re so time poor that it’s really hard to be able to focus on all that recruitment and be able to give out skill days when you’re actually trying to focus on improving yourself. So now I’ve got that time that I could actually do that. Be a little bit more involved in mentoring maybe, something like that. Yeah, that’s what I’d like to do.

((WN)) That would be good.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah! That would be great, actually. So I’ve just been put on the board of Disability Sport and Recreation, which is the old Wheelchair Sports Victoria. So that’s been a nice beginning move. Seeing where all the sports are at, and what we’re actually facilitating in Victoria, considering I’ve been away from Victoria for so long. It’s nice to know where they’re all at.

((WN)) Where are they all at?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, dunno. They’re not very far at all. Victoria… I think Victoria is really struggling in the basketball world. Yeah, I think there’s a bit of a struggle. Back in the day… back in those old times, where Victoria would be running local comps. We’d have an A grade and a B grade on a Thursday night, and we’d have twelve teams in A grade and B grade playing wheelchair basketball. That’s a huge amount of people playing and when you started in B grade you’d be hoping that you came around and someone from A grade would ask you to come and play. So it was a really nice way to build your basketball skills up and get to know that community. And I think its really important to have a community, people that you actually feel comfortable and safe around. I don’t want to say it’s a community of disabled people. It’s actually…

((WN)) It’s not really because…

Tina McKenzie: Well, it’s not. The community’s massive. It’s not just someone being in a chair. You’ve got your referees, you’ve got people that are coming along to support you. And it’s a beautiful community. I always remember Liesl calling it a family, and it’s like a family so… and it’s not just Australia-based. It’s international. It’s quite incredible. It’s really lovely. But it’s about providing that community for new players to come through. And you know, not every player that comes through to play basketball wants to be a Paralympian. So its about actually providing sport, opportunities for people to be physically active. And if they do want to compete for Australia and they’re good enough, well then we support that. But I think it’s really hard in the female side of things. There’s not as many females with a disability.

((WN)) Yeah, they kept on pointing that out…

Tina McKenzie: It’s really hard, but I think one of the other things is that we also need to be able to get the sport out there into the general community. And it’s not just about having a disability, it’s about coming along and playing with your mate that might be classifiable or an ex-basketball player. Like I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she’s six foot two…

((WN)) Sounds like a basketball player already.

Tina McKenzie: She’s been a basketball player, an AB basketball player for years. Grew up playing over in Adelaide, and her knee is so bad that she can’t run anymore, and she can’t cycle, but yet wants to be physically active, and I’m like “Oooh, you can come along and play wheelchair basketball” and she’s like “I didn’t even think that I could do that!” So it’s about promoting. It not that you actually have to be full time in the chair, or being someone with an amputation or other congenitals like a spinal disability, it’s wear and tear on people’s bodies and such.

((WN)) Something I noticed in the crowd in London. People seemed to think that they were in the chair all the time and were surprised when most of the Rollers got up out of their chairs at the end of the game.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah.

((WN)) Disability is a very complicated thing.

Tina McKenzie: It is, yeah.

((WN)) I was surprised myself at people who were always in a chair, but yet can wiggle their toes.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, it’s the preconceived thing, like if you see someone in a chair, a lot of people just think that nothing works, but in hindsight there are so many varying levels of disability. Some people don’t need to be in a chair all the time, sometimes they need to be in it occasionally. Yeah, it’s kind of a hard thing.

((WN)) Also talking to the classifiers and they mentioned the people playing [wheelchair] basketball who have no disability at all but are important to the different teams, that carry their bags and stuff.

Tina McKenzie: So important, yeah. It’s the support network and I think that when we started developing Women’s National League to start in 2000, one of the models that we took that off was the Canadian Women’s National League. They run an amazing national league with huge amounts of able bodied women coming in and playing it, and they travel all over Canada [playing] against each other and they do have a round robin in certain areas like our Women’s National League as well but it’s so popular over there that it’s hard to get on the team. They have a certain amount of women with disabilities and then other able bodied women that just want to come along and play because they see it as a really great sport. And that’s how we tried to model our Women’s National League off. It’s about getting many women just to play sport, realistically.

((WN)) Getting women to play sport, whether disabled or not, is another story. And there seems to be a reluctance amongst women to participate in sports, particularly sports that they regard as being men’s sports.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, a masculine sport.

((WN)) They would much rather play a sport that is a women’s sport.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, it’s really hard. I think it’s about just encouraging people, communicating, having a really nice welcoming, come and try day. We run a… like Sarah [Stewart] actually this yeah will be running the women’s festival of sport, which is on the 30th of January. And that’s an amazing tournament. That actually started from club championship days, where we used to run club championships. And then the club championships then used to feed in to our Women’s National League. Club championships used to about getting as many women to come along and play whether they’re AB or have a disability. It’s just about participation. It’ll be a really fun weekend. And it’s a pretty easy weekend for some of us.

((WN)) Where is it?

Tina McKenzie: Next year, in 2014, it’ll be January the 30th at Narrabeen. We hold it every year. And last year we got the goalball girls to come along and play. So we had half of the goalball girls come and play for the weekend and they had an absolute brilliant time. Finding young girls that are walking down the street that just want to come and play sport. Or they have a friend at high school that has a disability. And it’s just about having a nice weekend, meeting other people that have disabilities or not have disabilities and just playing together. It’s a brilliant weekend. And every year we always have new faces come along and we hope that those new faces stay around and enjoy the weekend. Because it’s no so highly competitive, it’s just about just playing. Like last year I brought three or four friends of mine, flew up from Melbourne, ABs, just to come along and play. It was really nice that I had the opportunity to play a game of basketball with the friends that I hang out with. Which was really nice. So the sport’s not just Paralympics.

((WN)) How does Victoria compare with New South Wales?

Tina McKenzie: Oh, that’s a thing to ask! (laughs) Look I think both states go in highs and lows, in different things. I think all the policies that have been changing in who’s supporting who and… like, Wheelchair Sports New South Wales do a good job at supporting the basketball community. Of course, there’s always a willingness for more money to come in but they run a fairly good support and so does the New South Wales Institute of Sport. It’s definitely gotten better since I first started up there. And then, it’s really hard to compare because both states do things very differently. Yeah, really differently and I always remember being in Victoria… I dunno when that was… in early 2000. New South Wales had an amazing program. It seemed so much more supportive than what we had down here in Victoria. But then even going to New South Wales and seeing the program that they have up there, it wasn’t as brilliant as… the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, cause there there good things and there were weren’t so great things about the both programs in Victoria and in New South Wales so… The VIS [Victorian Institute of Sport] do some great support with some of the athletes down here, and NSWIS [New South Wales Instituted of Sport] are building and improving and I know their program’s changed quite a lot now with Tom [Kyle] and Ben [Osborne] being involved with NSWIS so I can’t really give feedback on how that program’s running but in short I know that when NSWIS employed Ben Osborne to come along and actually coach us as a basketball individual and as in group sessions it was the best thing that they ever did. Like, it was so good to be able to have one coach to actually go and go we do an individual session or when are you running group sessions and it just helped me. It helped you train. It was just a really… it was beneficial. Whereas Victoria don’t have that at the moment. So both states struggle some days. I mean, back in 2000 Victoria had six or seven Gliders players, and then New South Wales had as many, and then it kind of does a big swap. It depends on what the state infrastructure is, what the support network is, and how local comps are running, how the national league’s running, and it’s about numbers. It’s all about numbers.

((WN)) At the moment you’ll notice a large contingent of Gliders from Western Australia.

Tina McKenzie: Yes, yes, I have seen that, yeah. And that’s good because its… what happens is, someone comes along in either state, or wherever it may be, and they’re hugely passionate about building and improving that side of things and they have the time to give to it, and that’s what’s happened in WA [Western Australia]. Which has been great. Ben Ettridge has been amazing, and so has John. And then in New South Wales you have Gerry driving that years ago. Gerry has always been a hugely passionate man about improving numbers, about participation, and individuals’ improvement, you know? So he’s been quite a passionate man about making sure people are improving individually. And you know, Gerry Hewson’s been quite a driver of wheelchair basketball in New South Wales. He’s been an important factor, I think.

((WN)) The news recently has been Basketball Australia taking over the running of things. The Gliders now have a full time coach.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, which is fantastic! That’s exciting. It’s a good professional move, you know? It’s nice to actually know that that’s what’s happening and I think that only will lead to improvement of all the girls, and the Gliders may go from one level up to the next level which is fantastic so… and Tom sounds like a great man so I really hope that he enjoys himself.

((WN)) I’m sure he is.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I’ve done some work with Tom. He’s a good guy.

((WN)) Did you do some work with him?

Tina McKenzie: Ah, well, no, I just went up to Brisbane a couple of times and did some development days. Played in one of their Australia Day tournaments with some of the developing girls that they have. We did a day camp leading into that. Went and did a bit of mentoring I guess. And it was nice to do that with Tom. That was a long time before Tom… I guess Tom had just started on the men’s team back them. He was very passionate about improving everyone, which he still is.

((WN)) Watching the Gliders and the Rollers… with the Rollers, they can do it. With the Gliders… much more drama from the Gliders in London. For a time we didn’t even know if they were going to make the finals. Lost that game against Canada.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, that wasn’t a great game. No. It was pretty scary. But, you know, we always fight back. In true Gliders style. Seems to be… we don’t like to take the easy road, we like to take the hard road, sometimes.

((WN)) Apparently.

Tina McKenzie: It’s been a well-known thing. I don’t know why it is but it just seems to happen that way.

((WN)) You said you played over 100 [international] games. By our count there was 176 before you went to London, plus two games there makes 178 international caps. Which is more than some teams that you played against put together.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I thought I’d be up to nearly 200. Look, I think it’s an amazing thing to have that many games under your belt and the experience that’s gained me throughout the years, and you’ve got to be proud about it. Proud that I stayed in there and competed with one of the best teams in the world. I always believed that the Gliders can be the best in the world but…

((WN)) You need to prove it.

Tina McKenzie: Need to get there. Just a bit extra.

((WN)) Before every game in London there was an announcement that at the World Championships and the Paralympics “they have never won”.

Tina McKenzie: No, no. I remember 2000 in Sydney, watching the girls play against Canada in 2000. Terrible game. Yet they were a brilliant team in 2000 as well. I think the Gliders have always had a great team. Just unfortunately, that last final game. We haven’t been able to get over that line yet.

((WN)) You were in the final game in 2004.

Tina McKenzie: Yep, never forget that. It was an amazing game.

((WN)) What was it like?

Tina McKenzie: I think we played our gold medal game against the USA the first game up. We knew that we had to beat USA that day, that morning. It was 8am in the morning, maybe 8:30 in the morning and it was one of the earliest games that we played and we’d been preparing for this game knowing that we had to beat USA to make sure that our crossovers would be okay, and knew that we’d sit in a really good position against the rest of the teams that we would most likely play. And I think that being my first ever Paralympic Games it was unforgettable. I think I’ll never, not forget it. The anticipation, adrenalin and excitement. And also being a little bit scared sometimes. It was really an amazing game. We did play really, really well. We beat America by maybe one point I think that day. So we played a tough, tough game. Then we went into the gold medal game… I just don’t think we had much left in our energy fuel. I think it was sort of… we knew that we had to get there but we just didn’t have enough to get over the line, and that was really unfortunate. And it was really sad. It was sad that we knew that we could actually beat America, but at the end of the day the best team wins.

((WN)) The best team on the court on the day.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, absolutely. And that can change any day. It depends where your team’s at. What the ethos is like. and so it’s… Yeah, I don’t think you can actually say that every team’s gonna be on top every day, and it’s not always going to be that way. I’m hoping the Gliders will put it all together and be able to take that way through and get that little gold medal. That would be really nice. Love to see that happen.

((WN)) I’d like to see that happen. I’d really like to see them win. In Toronto, apparently, because the Canadian men are not in the thing, the Canadians are going to be focusing on their women’s team. They apparently didn’t take their best team and their men were knocked out by Columbia or Mexico or something like that.

Tina McKenzie: Wow.

((WN)) And in the women’s competition there’s teams like Peru. But I remember in London that Gliders were wrong-footed by Brazil, a team that they had never faced before. Nearly lost that game.

Tina McKenzie: (laughs) Oh yes. Brazil were an unknown factor to us. So they were quite unknown. We’d done a bit of scouting but if you’ve never played someone before you get into an unknown situation. We knew that they’d be quite similar players to Mexico but you know what? Brazil had a great game. They had a brilliant game. We didn’t have a very good game at all. And it’s really hard going into a game that you know that you need to win unbeknown to what all these players can do. You can scout them as much as you want but it’s actually about being on court and playing them. That makes a huge difference. I think one of the things here in Australia is that we play each other so often. We play against each other so often in the Women’s National League. We know exactly what… I know that Shelley Chaplin is going to want to go right and close it up and Cobi Crispin is going to dive underneath the key and do a spin and get the ball. So you’ve actually… you know what these players want to do. I know that Kylie Gauci likes to double screen somewhere, and she’ll put it in, and its great to have that knowledge of what your players really like to do when you’re playing with them but going into a team like Brazil we knew a couple of the players, what they like to do but we had no idea what their speed was like or what their one-pointers were going to do. Who knows? So it was a bit of an unknown.

((WN)) They’ll definitely be an interesting side when it comes to Rio.

Tina McKenzie: I think they’ll be quite good. And that happened with China. I’ll always remember seeing China when we were in Korea for the first time and going “Wow, these girls can hardly move a chair” but some of them could shoot, and they went from being very fresh players to going into China as quite a substantial team, and then yet again step it up again in London. And they’re a good team. I think its really important as not to underestimate any team at a Paralympics or at a World Cup. I mean, Netherlands have done that to us over and over again.

((WN)) They’re a tough team too.

Tina McKenzie: They’re a really tough team and they’re really unpredictable sometimes. Sometimes when they’re on, they’re on. They’re tough. They’re really tough. And they’ve got a little bit of hunger in them now. Like, they’re really hungry to be the top team. And you can see that. And I remember seeing that in Germany, in Beijing.

((WN)) The Germans lost to the Americans in the final in Beijing.

Tina McKenzie: Yes. Yeah, they did.

((WN)) And between 2008 and 2012 all they talked about was the US, and a rematch against the US. But of course when it came to London, they didn’t face the US at all, because you guys knocked the US out of the competition.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, we did. It was great. A great game that.

((WN)) You won by a point.

Tina McKenzie: Fantastic. Oh my God I came. Still gives me heart palpitations.

((WN)) It went down to a final shot. There was a chance that the Americans would win the thing with a shot after the siren. Well, a buzzer-beater.

Tina McKenzie: Tough game. Tough game. That’s why you go to the Paralympics. You have those tough, nail-biting games. You hope that at the end of the day that… Well, you always go in as a player knowing that you’ve done whatever you can do.

((WN)) Thankyou very much for this.

Tina McKenzie: That’s alright. No problems at all!

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