As I sit here and reflect on my experience as chief therapist for the PyeongChang winter Olympics, I cannot help but be proud of what was accomplished. The games themselves were well organized. Korean’s did make us feel most welcomed. The logistics like transportation, lodging and food were up to par. This made our everyday life very easy.
One can only be ecstatic of how Canada did! It is our best medal count ever with 29 medals: 11 golds, 8 silvers and 10 bronzes. As always, some medals got away, some were surprises, but we are certainly very happy about each of them. Medals are not all that count in this wonderful experience. The human stories that were told, of highs and lows, of athletes beating all odds just to make it to the Olympics and then performing very well. Feel good, rehab stories like Mark McMorris, Philippe Marquis to name a few. Stories of all around happiness like Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, performing their best at their last Olympics.
The Olympics are a celebration of human greatness. Yes, doping scandals can put a damper on this excitement. Leading up to the Games, I even thought of my own role in perpetuating the negativity of the Games, such as the doping, the costs of the Games. I wondered if by volunteering at the games, it meant that I was endorsing all of what the Games have become, all of the negative aspects. And then I read an article written by Stéphane Laporte that helped put things in perspective for me. In a nut shell, he said, yes, we can choose to look at that negativity or we can choose to look at all of these hard workers (athletes) and be in awe of what they have accomplished through years and years of devotion, commitment and sacrifice to be at the top of their sport and be able to represent their country on the worlds’ biggest stage. The optimum!! The Olympics are a time when countries come together and try to be on their best behavior. This time even President Trump managed to behave for those few weeks. What a wonderful feeling to walk into the cafeteria of an athletes’ village at Olympic Games and see everyone from different nationalities come together. At the beginning of the Games, most will hang out with country mates, and by the end of the Games, we see more and more athletes from different countries mingling. We even see athletes proud to be wearing other countries swags after sweat trades have been made.
There are also some sad stories. Athletes that have not done as well as they had hoped, or again athletes injuring themselves at the worst time of their competitive life. That is when we kick in and have to be attentive to their feelings, we have to know when to give them space, when to lend a shoulder to lean on and when to intervene. Occasionally we are bystanders, because we are not the therapist involved in their primary care, sometimes we are the ones who first see them. Regardless, we must always be sensitive to them. I did witness one therapist do an amazing job, helping one athlete recover from a silly injury, one that certainly played a big role in tainting this athletes’ experience of the games. Out of the 500+ Canadians that were involved in the Olympics, either as athletes, or mission team members or coaching staff etc., each will have their own memories and all will be different. What defines great games is different for all. It is wonderful to experience this. I am very grateful for having been given the opportunity to be part of the best ever Canadian Winter Olympic team! They were certainly MY best Games yet!
To have been selected as Chief Therapist for these games is an honor, and a role that I took seriously. It is the sum mum of my career so far. I felt that it was an opportunity to make SPC proud. And SPC has a lot to be proud of. In the last decade, I have been privy to witness lots of improvement within our SPC organization. Having been to 4 major games in the last four years, 2 times as CT (yes that is a lot of volunteering), and having just finished my term as Chief Examiner for SPC, I have seen lots of dedicated physiotherapists working towards improving SPC, and health care for our Canadian athletes. Sometimes human nature is quick to criticize but when we stop and take a good look, we realize that lots has been accomplished. To name a few, a new structure with board members that help guide SPC strategies, written exams being on line, revisiting the learning objectives for exams, diploma holder becoming IFSPT therapists, SPC diploma holders being better recognized as having skill sets that are important if you are to work with National Sports Federations (NSF). The increased numbers of candidates attempting their Certificate and Diploma exams speaks volume as to the advancement that SPC has made.
Many SPC Diploma therapists were at the games. Our Canadian athletes were indeed in great hands at the PyeongChang Olympics. And will continue to be in great hands. At the games, there were some younger physios without their diploma or certificate levels yet, but they were lucky enough to be at the games, as they work for NSF. It makes me very content to see that some will be challenging their exams in the near future and wish them the best of luck. I strongly believe that if we all come together and devote a little bit of our time to SPC, we will help advance our profession locally, provincially and nationally.
Chief Therapist PyeongChang Winter Olympics