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Lakeshore’s President Prepares for Paralympic Games

Photo credit: James Acomb for Birmingham Magazine

Lakeshore plays an integral part in the Paralympic Games as a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site. With the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games beginning Friday, we sat down with Lakeshore President Jeff Underwood for a fun Q&A prior to his trip to the Games. 

Q: What will be your job title and role during the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games? A: I will be representing the United States as a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Paralympic Advisory Committee. My primary role will be supporting the U.S. athletes. I will attend different events, have dinners with the athletes and be a constant figure in and around the Paralympic Village. We want to make sure the athletes feel the support of their country and the USOC while in PyeongChang.

Q: What other Paralympic Games have you attended and what was your role during those Games? A: This will be my ninth overall Paralympics to attend. I have been to every Summer Games since 1996, but PyeongChang will only be my third Winter Games. I have been in my current position as a Paralympic Advisory Committee member since 2008 and this will be my fourth Paralympics since assuming that role. 

Q: Do you have a favorite Paralympic Games or Paralympic memory? A: The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games stand out in my mind. I was named as the Chef de Mission for the U.S. Paralympic Team by the United States Olympic Committee. During that time I had the privilege of leading the U.S. delegation and attended many ceremonial events. It was an honor to represent Team USA and my country. Also at the 2008 Paralympics, USA Wheelchair Rugby won the gold medal game against Australia. We had several Lakeshore athletes on that team and it was a special moment seeing them win gold.

Q: What is the one item you will be sure to pack in your carry-on bag? A: I will definitely bring a book for the long flight. Actually, maybe two or three books.

Q: Have you learned any Korean? A: I will learn how to say hello, goodbye, good morning, please and thank you. I recently bought a book called “The New Korean” and I have really enjoyed reading it. The book is about the history of Korea, their culture, economy, etc. I believe it is important to learn about another country and their culture prior to visiting. I always want to represent myself, and in this case the United States, well.

Q: Is there a Korean delicacy you are looking forward to eating? A: I just found out it is snow crab season in Korea, so I am looking forward to eating some fresh snow crab.

Q: What places are you excited to visit while in South Korea? A: We don’t have much time to explore because our schedules are pretty busy, but whenever I am in a new place I always like to take in the local culture and visit local spots outside of the Paralympic Village.

Q: Which Paralympic Winter sports are you most excited to watch? A: This will be my first year to watch wheelchair curling, so I am excited to see Team USA compete in that sport. I also love watching Para ice hockey.

Q: If you were an athlete competing in this year’s Paralympic Games what would be your sport of choice and why? A: I would have to say Para alpine skiing. I have some knowledge and experience with that sport more so than any of the other winter sports.

Q: There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2018 Paralympics. What makes this year’s Games different from the previous Paralympics? A: Each year, the Games grow in level of competitors and sports included in the Paralympics. In the U.S., with TV exposure, we will be able to watch two times more coverage than the Sochi Paralympics. Additionally, the Para snowboard events seem to attract more viewers than ever before. That sport brings in a younger audience and helps foster an environment for young athletes to get involved in adapted sport.