London 2012 Athletes Medical Team: Aurelie’s Report
Aurelie Almeida just returned from working with the London 2012 Athletes Medical Team at the Olympic Park. This is her report:
How I got involved
I applied to work in the London 2012 Athletes Medical Team in 2010, along with 18,000 medical applicants from around the world. The requirements were strict: a top diploma with specialty in sports therapy, full practitioner insurance and professional body registration, 4 years minimum experience working in Elite sports, enhanced Criminal Report Bureau check, evidence of event sports therapy at top level…
Two long application forms, two interviews and many meetings later, only 1 in 5 of us were successful.
My work started in 2011 with the test events (World Championships for different sports), and I was lucky enough to be assigned the Olympic Park and be venue specific, which meant that I supported the athletes on site during the competitions, in the athletes medical room, and watched them perform, being on hand to prepare & help them recover.
The athletes’ medical team
Sports massage has only been included as an essential therapy at the Olympic games since Atlanta 1996. In our team we had dentists (for the first time ever at the Olympics), sports doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists, sports masseurs, nurses and paramedics. This was in addition to each country’s own travelling team medical support, the Olympic Village polyclinic, and the Spectator Medical Team.
The reason for having a specific Athlete Medical Team on site is so that we can offer specialist skills to treat athletes instantly and offer them neutral advice on what are the most important few days of their sporting career. If it comes to it, we are the only professionals able to say if an athlete is fit to play, so that team tactics don’t have an impact on athlete’s health.
Our medical room was stocked to the brim with braces, straps, ice, lotions, plasters, bandages, tape, needles, morphine. Our shifts were 7.30am-4.30pm or 3.30pm-11.45pm, every day. In these conditions it’s easy to lose track of time. Our services were in demand at all times, and I massaged, stretched & K-taped a good few famous body parts!
During the opening ceremony, our team had already been working on site for a good few days, to support the athletes training at the venues, we couldn’t believe London 2012 had only just started.
What it felt like to work there
Due to our confidentiality agreement, I can’t talk in great details about who we treated and what we did, so I want to thank the athletes and all the amazing volunteers who have made this experience unique and thoroughly enjoyable.
Being assigned the Copper Box (handball, basketball, modern pentathlon) I have become a bit of a handball expert (France won Gold, it’s… ahem, maybe not a coincidence…). I was also on site at the velodrome and the stadium and watched the world’s top sportsmen and women break world records.
My team was made of absolutely awesome colleagues: true professionals, kind, dedicated, hugely knowledgeable, and very inspiring. Rick Strang our medical team leader was great fun to work with. In a funny twist of fate, I was partnered up with the Orthopedic Surgeon who fixed my ankle following a Show Jumping injury 7 years ago: Mr Rhidian Thomas.
We all got on extremely well, despite the pressure, workload, adrenalin, caffeine and lack of sleep; I think that says a lot about the type of people involved. There were no egos and we were all working for a common purpose: to make London 2012 the best ever Olympic games. I know I’ll keep in touch with many of them, including 2 physios with whom I shared many laughs: Emma Petherick and Elizabeth Lane.
- . The French are REALLY good at Handball and they are also very nice. It’s a new sport for the British team and I have no doubt it will become increasingly popular. It’s fast, ruthless, brutal, I loved it, and so did the Duchess of Cambridge.
- . It’s heartbreaking when an athlete gets injured at a training session and can’t compete at the Olympics.
- . Jacques Rogge (president of the International Olympic Committee) is also an orthopaedic surgeon
- . It’s mega hot in the velodrome
- . The country’s stock of Kinesio tape was right by my therapy couch
- . LeBron is really tall and to be honest all Olympians are taller than me
- . The roar from the stadium is majestic
- . There were 7 security checks between the tube station and my medical room
- . Royals and Politicians were in attendance every day
- . Olympic pin badges (with the rings, the ones athletes gave us) have more value than Pokemon cards, there is a black market out there!
I haven’t yet decided what is more exciting. The London 2012 Paralympics are just around the corner where I’ll be working at the Polyclinic in the Athlete’s village. Then it’s the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014 and being half Portuguese, I’m already looking at Rio 2016!
We had three of our therapists working at London 2012. Aurelie Almeida (in this article), Julia Warren (Sports Massage in the media village) and Dan Scott (Sports Massage at Paralympics Training Camp). Dan’s article will follow shortly.