If so, we'd love to hear it!

To learn more about you and what you'd like to hear on future episodes, please take two minutes to fill out our survey.



Alix McCabe: Allianz Trade is the worldwide partner of the Olympic and Paralympic movements.


It's the pinnacle of achievement for any athlete, representing your country in international competition, and bringing home gold.



Announcer: On the outside of him is Daniel Romanchuk. It was four, nearly five thousand meters, looking to pick up his first ever Paralympic medal. Romanchuk is doing his best to get to him, but then Romanchuk, well, that is a photo finish if you've ever seen one.



Alix McCabe: But a lot can go wrong on the path to that podium. Injury, infection, the crushing pressure to perform. These are just some of the challenges that competitors face.



Clip 1: Oh no, he is down. It does not look good for the world number one.



Clip 2: Oh, what has happened there?



Clip 3: What an incredibly sad way to go out of the Olympic games.



Alix McCabe: But what does any of that have to do with running a business you may ask? Let's find out on a very special edition of-



Audience: Wheel of Risk.



Alix McCabe: Welcome to Wheel of Risk, proudly presented by Allianz Trade. I'm your host, Alix McCabe. On every episode, we spin the wheel, land on a new worry, and then tackle it head on by bringing you expert insights and advice to help you keep your business solvent, secure, and well ahead of the competition.


Before we get going, I have a small favor to ask.

Could you, our amazing listeners, take two minutes to fill out a short survey about our podcast? We'd love to learn more about you and what you want to hear more of. You can find the survey link in the show notes of this episode.


I am thrilled to welcome a very special guest to the podcast today. Daniel Romanchuk is a two-time Paralympic athlete who brought home two medals for Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Daniel, it is a pleasure to have you on Wheel of Risk today.



Daniel Romanchuk: Well, thank you for having me. It's great to be here.



Alix McCabe: We are really excited for this episode. But before we go any further, Daniel, would you mind giving the old wheel a spin so that we can nail down our topic for today?



Daniel Romanchuk: Absolutely. Here we go.



Alix McCabe: All right, great. Go for it. You've landed on Predict, Prepare, Persevere, a topic that definitely bridges the gap between business and athletic competition.



Daniel Romanchuk: Lots to talk about there.



Alix McCabe: It's a good one. All right, so I have one of those fancy electronic starter pistols that they use now. So on your mark, get set. Here we go.


All right, here we go. Are you ready?


Whether you're training for an athletic event or running a business, the three Ps are a critical component. You have to predict the actions of your competitors, prepare for all possibilities, and then persevere through any unexpected challenges. Daniel, you are certainly no stranger to those concepts, but before we dig into what those terms really mean to you, maybe you can share a little bit about your personal origin story with our listeners. So for folks who may not be aware, you were born with spina bifida. How did you get into sports and athletics? Tell us about it.



Daniel Romanchuk: Yeah, so I was born with spina bifida and that basically affects leg function primarily. So I've used a wheelchair since I was five years old. I have an older brother and sister and we all played sports growing up and so there was really no question that I would as well. My parents had heard about a physically adaptive sports program out of the Baltimore area and so they got me signed up right at two years old when they started to take kids. And so they were a multi-sport program so I did all sorts of things growing up, whether it's wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, swimming, track and field, archery, and many more.



Alix McCabe: Were you good at all of them?



Daniel Romanchuk: Some of them.



Alix McCabe: You can be honest.



Daniel Romanchuk: The one thing you didn't want me to do was discus.



Alix McCabe: No?



Daniel Romanchuk: Of the 360 degrees it could go, you didn't know which one it would go.



Alix McCabe: Okay. So discus was not your forte. Why did you decide to focus at some point your attention on wheelchair racing?



Daniel Romanchuk: I think kind of what drew me to wheelchair racing was kind of just the simplicity of it. The goal was to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. But also I always enjoyed pushing myself and seeing how far could I go, how fast could I go?



Alix McCabe: So at what point did you set your sights on the Paralympics?



Daniel Romanchuk: I think the first time that I really thought much about the Paralympics was the fall of 2014.



Alix McCabe: Okay.



Daniel Romanchuk: My mom and I were coming home from some co- op classes and she had asked me if I wanted to try and make the Rio games for track and field. And after giving it some thought, I said, "You know what? I want to go for it." So we knew that my current training situation was not going to get me there. Pretty much training alone out on the roads of Mount Airy, Maryland and Paralympic level track is just very different. It's very similar to cycling. You're running in packs, around 20 miles an hour, inches from each other, so it's a very difficult thing to replicate on your own.


And so we got in contact with Adam Bleakney, the head coach out at the University of Illinois wheelchair racing team, and he allowed me to come out and train with the group. And I did end up making the Rio games, just barely. I think I was one of the last names on the list, but I made it and it was just an amazing experience.



Alix McCabe: So I want to hear more about that in a second, but maybe first, you've had some incredible successes even outside of the Paralympics. So tell us a little bit about some of your other victories and records and then I want to dive in a bit more about your Paralympic experience.



Daniel Romanchuk: Yes. So after Rio, I pretty much had started to do a lot of the major marathons, Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, and had started to progress to the point with training and just getting older and learning more about the sport that I was almost on the edge of podium potential. I had set world records in both the 800 meter and the 5, 000 meter and then eventually won some of those major marathons starting with Chicago and then New York and Boston and London.



Alix McCabe: That's amazing. So, okay, I do want to hear more about the Paralympic experience that you had in particular. You were saying that your first games were Rio 2016, right? The Paralympic games. You had just turned 18 years old at that point. So Daniel, what was that like?



Daniel Romanchuk: To be able to represent your country on the world stage was just an amazing experience.



Alix McCabe: I imagine.



Daniel Romanchuk: And really laid a lot of the groundwork for future competitions. I remember going to the opening ceremonies and the stadium was huge.



Alix McCabe: Is it as impressive as it looks on television when you see the opening ceremonies? I imagine it's more so when you're there in person?



Daniel Romanchuk: It was certainly overwhelming.



Alix McCabe: I bet.



Daniel Romanchuk: At first. It was just step back and just kind of-



Alix McCabe: Try to take it in.



Daniel Romanchuk: Soak it all in, and just really go through all of the process of learning how to live in a village, learning the transportation, going through a call room before my event, lining up on the start line with the best racers from around the world inside of a stadium of thousands of people. And so it was just absolutely amazing.



Alix McCabe: What an incredible experience. I know from speaking to you in the past, that you are meticulous with preparation and your packing list before you have a race. And so I heard a funny story that you brought everything including the kitchen sink with you to Rio.



Daniel Romanchuk: I did even bring the kitchen sink to Rio. So I had a little collapsible sink. And one of the reasons I brought that was for laundry. Well, they did provide laundry. Sometimes I would leave the village before it opened and then come back after it was closed.



Alix McCabe: Right.



Daniel Romanchuk: And so I had to be able to do some things just by hand, trying to be just as prepared as possible for whatever's going to happen



Alix McCabe: That takes preparation to the next level, Daniel. You brought the kitchen sink. So that really does speak to the preparation aspect of today's topic because your experience in Rio must have helped you prepare for Tokyo in 2020. But then again, I imagine those games were quite different because of the pandemic. What was the atmosphere like in Japan?



Daniel Romanchuk: Yeah, it was certainly very different than Rio. All of the testing that they had to do. Before you get on the plane, you had to have a test, and then it was daily at the village. But at that point in the pandemic, I think everyone was somewhat used to that or expecting something like that.



Alix McCabe: Yeah.



Daniel Romanchuk: And I think everyone also was just really just excited and happy to be at the games and that they were happening.



Alix McCabe: And then there were no spectators in Tokyo, right?



Daniel Romanchuk: Nope. No spectators.



Alix McCabe: That's got to be different in and of itself.



Daniel Romanchuk:It was a little bit different. I don't think it affected me as much as some others. This is actually one of the things that I've worked on over many years, focusing on just what's going on inside of a race and who is there and what their strengths are, where we are in the race, and just trying to think, " Okay, what could be happening next?"



Alix McCabe: Yeah, really being in the present. Tell me about whether there were some lessons that you maybe learned in Rio that helped you prepare more effectively for Tokyo. Does anything come to mind?



Daniel Romanchuk: Rio certainly did prepare me in a number of ways for what was coming in Tokyo, whether it's the team processing, the international travel, living in a village with the team, and learning how the food hall works and the transportation from the village to the venue, going through the call room, lining up on the start line, just all of those different things. I just tried to go through them as many times as I could in Rio so that nothing was new the next time around.



Alix McCabe: So sticking with that same angle of preparation, we talked a little bit about this or we alluded to it earlier. Take us through what you do to prepare for a specific race or event. Do you drive the course beforehand, for example?



Daniel Romanchuk: If I can, I absolutely try and drive the course just to familiarize myself with the current road conditions as well as try and plan out the race as much as possible. And whether that's using something like Google Maps to look at, " Okay, what are the turns? Is there a turn after a big downhill?" Something like that that I really need to watch out for.


A lot of the racers go to the same events, so we really get to know each other and how we all race. So I'll think through, "Okay, what course are we on? What kind of features does it have? Is it flat? Is it turning? Is it hilly?" And I'll think of, "Okay, what racers have different strengths and weaknesses and who might try and break away during certain areas of the course." I'll always try and plan and predict as much as possible. One thing that racing has taught me is that as soon as that gun goes off, yes, you may have made a plan, but that plan is probably going to be completely different by the time you cross the finish line. So always just being ready to adapt to whatever new surroundings I may be in.



Alix McCabe: Being able to be adaptable and present like you were saying before.


I understand that perseverance has also played a significant role in your sporting career, specifically when you were in Tokyo, thanks to an unexpected medical issue. Is that right?



Daniel Romanchuk: So it was right before my 100 in Tokyo. So I had actually planned to do all of the events that my classification has in Tokyo from the 100 through the 5, 000 on the track and then also the marathon. But the day before the 100 I ended up getting a pressure sore. We didn't know how bad would this be? Would I need to be hospitalized? Would I need to go home early? Would I need to drop all of my events? So lots of questions there. But I'd say a few things really helped here is, first of all, knowing myself and that these things happen and you can't take them lightly. So I was able to go to the Team USA medical team and was able to work with them. And I did have to drop out of the 100, but thankfully I was back to competing in the next event. I was able to finish out with the 800 and the marathon were the last two events.



Alix McCabe: So despite all of this, you went on to medal at the games, right?



Daniel Romanchuk: So before that I had gotten a gold in the 400 and then it was kind of a high, low, and then a high. Actually it was the last event of the games, it was the marathon. And it was quite a roller coaster of a few days there between the pressure injury and then the day before the marathon, we were still kind of trying to figure out is my schedule with travel home going to change or not? And so I was trying to help out as much as I could, giving people information on, " Okay, I can do this, can't do that."



Alix McCabe: Right.



Daniel Romanchuk: And then back to the morning of the marathon, it was raining that morning. And so that also presents another issue for us, which is getting grip on the hand ring. The race went off and I started to have some issues with grip, and then around a few miles into the race there was a pretty big downhill. And I don't go down hills well.


And so I think at that point I had pretty much fallen back to somewhere around fifth and I couldn't see anyone in front of me or behind me.



Alix McCabe: Right.



Daniel Romanchuk: Nothing seems to be going right. Everything is up in the air and this that the other thing. My mind starts to wander. But then I thought back to a post that my mom had made about the 400 and she said, "Never give up." And so with that in mind, I need to focus in here and don't give up. Actually, one of my teammates had caught up to me, so we worked together to catch the next group, who were in third and fourth. So we all stayed as a group until the last few miles, at which point that same downhill was now an uphill. So I climb relatively well. So I put in a last attack there and was able to separate from the group and come away with a bronze.



Alix McCabe: That is an incredible story. Wow. So 2024 is another Olympic year with Paralympic games taking place in Paris. So what's coming up next for you?



Daniel Romanchuk: We usually have some marathons in the early spring and then it'll transfer over to track in July. I will have the trials event that will determine what events I'd compete in on the track. We'll see what happens in July.



Alix McCabe: Okay. We're certainly rooting for you.


So there's another P, that isn't technically part of today's topic, but I think it's equally important whether we're talking about your accomplishments in sport or success in the business world. And that P is partnership. So who have been the most important partners for you on your journey?



Daniel Romanchuk: Partnership is really vital to succeeding in many areas. Earlier when I was talking about trying to do 100 of different things, having someone that you can rely on is really vital to help have the best outcome. And I think some things about when you try and choose a partner to get into something with, it's really important that A, they're honest and B they have your best interest in mind. For me, it's my mom. Because she has a medical background, she was able to help me learn about spina bifida and all of the issues that may come up and how to deal with them. She has helped me through a lot of that and developed systems to counter any issues that may come up. Having someone that you can rely on like that is really vital.



Alix McCabe: I've met your mom and I think the support that the two of you give to each other is really quite impressive. What about other partners, like coaches, teams that you've been a part of?



Daniel Romanchuk: I'm thinking back to Bennett, and how much that would teach me about partnering. Because the motto at Bennett was teach kids they can before someone tells them they can't.



Alix McCabe: I love that.



Daniel Romanchuk: And really that was a part of everything they did. They didn't sugarcoat anything. They didn't allow excuses for things. The fact that my legs didn't work was never an acceptable excuse as to why I couldn't reach a goal that they put in front of me because they knew what I was capable of. And while it would probably be difficult, they knew that I could reach it. They supported me and showed me how to use what I had to reach my goals.



Alix McCabe: Teach kids they can before someone tells them they can't. I love that. That's really impactful.


So, oh man, okay. Unfortunately, I'm hearing music and that means we're almost out of time for today. So before we cross the finish line, oh my gosh, excuse my pun, Daniel, before we cross this finish line, I wonder if I could ask you to share some parting wisdom or maybe inspirational words with our listeners.



Daniel Romanchuk: Absolutely.



Alix McCabe: So what do you want people to remember the most when they think about the terms predict, prepare, persevere?



Daniel Romanchuk: I'd say take the time to learn about yourself and know what you're capable of. Know your strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. Try and predict what issues may come up with those strengths and weaknesses. Try to work on those as much as you can, and the next time any big event comes around, you'll know that you've done everything you can to get the best possible outcome.



Alix McCabe: Those are wise words. Daniel, thank you so much for being here. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on the podcast. All of us here at Wheel of Risk wish you the best of luck in your upcoming races. We'll be rooting for you.



Daniel Romanchuk: Thank you.



Alix McCabe: My guest today has been Daniel Romanchuk, two-time Team USA Paralympian and World Champion in Para Track and Field, who's hoping to represent Team USA once again at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. 


I'm Alix McCabe, and this is Wheel of Risk, brought to you by Allianz Trade. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode, we'd really appreciate it if you could leave us a positive review. And to learn more about our official partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic movements, you can visit allianz-trade.us-opm. That's a A- L- L- I- A- N- Z- trade.us/opm. Talk to you soon.