A few years ago I began to ask therapists questions about how they got to where they were at. You can find the half dozen interview articles on this blog. That helped create a path to follow with the goal of working with high level track and field athletes. 2016 was a great year for me as a therapist. I had the honor of working two Olympic Trials events and was at the New York Marathon doing personal medical for one of the elite runners. After New York, I set my sights to be placed on a national team for USA Track and Field. In the fall, I completed an application and crossed my fingers. I eventually received an email saying I was selected to be part of the medical team for the 2017 Thorpe Cup in Germany.
I was excited to get to go to Germany, but had no idea what the Thorpe Cup was. I shared my selection on social media and began getting replies from people I highly respect telling me this was an incredible event and I was going to enjoy it. For those curious, here is the short history from Wikipedia: Thorpe Cup
At the time I was given notice, I still had about 7 months until the event took place. I began to receive various forms to complete and not too long after received a large box filled with USATF team apparel I was to wear for this trip.
The competition took place the last week of July in Dusseldorf, Germany. I flew to Atlanta and met with a large number of the team and coaches as we connected on our flight to Germany. The flight was a “red eye” and I didn’t sleep, and most of the others didn’t sleep well either. We arrived at the airport and was greeted by Hermann, the German coordinator of the event. We were escorted to vans with our luggage and after a short 10 minute van ride we arrived at our hotel, the Tulip Inn Dusseldorf Arena. It was attached to Espirit Stadium, home of the Fortuna Dusseldorf professional soccer team. You walked in the lobby of the hotel and were looking at the entire stadium. The accommodations of the hotel were fantastic. I barely spent any money the entire week I was there.
Some athletes went to the warm-up track and did some loosening up in the afternoon and soon after, my medical team partner for this team, Scott Hudson, arrived from Belgium, where he had been stationed the entire month of July helping US athletes training and competing in Europe. We arranged a schedule and began doing treatments that evening.
The team was comprised of 7 males and 7 females who competed in the decathlon (men) and heptathlon (women). Some were still college students, others more “experienced” competing in their upper 20’s. In the one event in track and field where the best are given the title “Worlds Greatest Athlete,” the sport hasn’t embraced it financially here in the US or in many other countries. I don’t think any on this team had significant sponsorship and those post-collegiate competitors have had to find unique ways to get housing and enough money to allow them to train enough to be at a competitive level. For many of the athletes, this was a chance to get all sorts of nagging aches and pains worked out for free. I have to say that every athlete there was very appreciative of this, and Scott and I were happy to help.
Scott is an athletic trainer (ATC) at St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis. He and I worked well together. Scott is one of the few people who I have been able to learn new things that made sense and agreed with my philosophy. He has an incredible ability to pin point causes of aches, pains and injuries and find fixes for them fast. There were times I would feel something not right, tell him what I found, and then he could address it. That there is teamwork at it’s finest!
The second day there was a morning practice session, lunch, then an afternoon tour of the city, followed by evening treatments after dinner. Right next door to the hotel was an outdoor and indoor track. The weather was cool and the athletes trained indoors.
The next day the athletes would train at the competition stadium, about a 20 minute van ride away. One thing our team learned is to be not just on time, but early! The stadium was very nice, surrounded by trees, and had a personal feel with stands the came up next to the track.
Treatments were mainly in the evening due to schedule and meal times. We started most evenings around 7:30 or 8pm and would go until 10:30 or 11pm. Saturday is day 1 of the competition and we arrived at the stadium. Scott and I were set up inside a gymnasium at the athletic facility.
For many of the athletes, their season has been very long filled with plenty of competitions, and that takes a toll on their bodies. Scott and I worked hard to keep them as healthy as possible for this two day event.
Following the first day, the team headed back to the hotel for dinner and the evening treatment routine. We had to work fast to get finished in time so the athletes could get to bed at a decent time.
The second day was filled with emotion. The men’s team was down a large amount of points after day 1 and couldn’t rally back. The German men took the podium going 1-2-3. Our women’s team did win the Thorpe Cup and swept the podium as well. Following the awards ceremonies, celebrations began.
The day after the competition, a cultural day was scheduled and finished off with an evening Bundesliga soccer match at the stadium our hotel attached to. For many of us, this was quite the highlight given the soccer culture in Germany.
Tuesday was a travel day back home after a wonderful week in Germany. This competition isn’t a small task and takes considerable effort. I can’t thank USATF and the Germans enough for organizing this competition. One day I would enjoy coming back for another competition. I have no idea what next big event awaits me, but I will keep getting better at what I do so I can provide the best care for the world’s best athletes.