Having set up my new clinic in September in my hometown Maynooth, I had to think of decorating the reception room. I wanted to dedicate a wall to memories and achievements which I have achieved throughout my career, both on and off the field, and also to put up snaps of family and friends and their achievements. The wall very quickly filled up and I think I will need to look into a clinic extension to keep expanding this collection!!
In 2010 I registered to volunteer for the Olympics and, following a lengthy application processes and several interviews I was asked to come on board as a volunteer physiotherapist for the Olympic games. I was so excited to be part of the games, I happily travelled to London on several occasions to undertake the mandatory training workshops on policies and procedures. The British do like to have a policy and procedure for everything so this training was detailed and lengthy.
In January 2012, I received the all-important email telling me which area I was to be working in and in big bold letters the word Boxing was written. This was where I was to be stationed for the entire 2 weeks of the Olympic Games. Even though I had no direct experience with the sport of Boxing I was so excited to take this opportunity. Especially as this would be the most iconic venue for all Irish fans (with the best chance of medals) at the Games – and how lucky was I to have a front row ticket, practically in the Irish corner!!
The Boxing Games took place at the Excel Centre in London and it was to be 1 of 7 sports that would be performed there during the 2 weeks of the Games. Other sports included fencing/ judo/ wrestling/ table tennis/ taekwondo and weightlifting which I had a free backstage pass to all these sports and could literally walk around the warm up and competition areas at my leisure. Looking back, it was such an amazing experience.
Boxing was the only sport in the entire Games that the medical staff of the London Games had to perform compulsory examination to each athlete after every bout. So I had a great time in the medical room watching boxers arrive every 15 minutes to get the full head, hand and body check from the doctors. This gave me time to meet and greet all the elite boxers and in particular the IRISH team which included heroes like Darren O Neill, Michael Conlon, John Joe Nevin, Adam Nolan, Paddy Barnes and Katie Taylor.I also had the privilege to meet other iconic celebrities like Sonia O Sullivan, Michael Carruth, Marty Morrissey and even the great Lennox Lewis himself.
Working at the games was such an amazing experience. To be able to say I was there when the Irish flag was raised for 1 GOLD (Katie Taylor), 1 SILVER (John Joe Nevin) and 2 BRONZE (Michael Conlon and Paddy Barnes) Olympic medals and hear the national anthem being played across the arena was just an all out monumental time and proud time to be IRISH.
After the Olympic Games I got a 2 week break where I returned home for some R&R before I travelled back to London and spent 10 days working at the Paralympic Games. During these Games I was stationed in the Polyclinic (medical centre) in the Athlete Village. Here we were inundated with Athletes who had no medical staff travel with them for the Games. I remember one athlete in particular arrived up to me and had just torn his calf quite significantly. He was a triple jumper and had 2 days until competition started. He demanded to be fit to compete as he was the world champion and wanted to get the Olympic title to go with it. I knew how important the competition was to him so I made certain I treated him 3 times every day until his competition and to my delight we got him to the starting line and I knew then that the role of a physiotherapist is not only working with the gold medallists but to ensure every competitor makes it to the starting line ‘fighting fit’!
That summer of 2012 will always remain one of my fondest sporting memories; when I had the opportunity to work with elite athletes in the Olympics and Paralympic Games and most importantly to me – watch Katie Taylor electrify the Excel arena on her way to winning gold.
It was an unreal experience and one which I can only really believe happened when I see the pictures on the clinic wall. Next time you’re in the clinic for treatment have a look at the wall and see which faces you recognise ….