Jan 29, 2015
Olympic Support

By R.J. Anderson

It’s no secret that American athletes at the Sochi Games have access to the best sports medicine care in the world. From hockey to curling–yes, curling–U.S. athletes are well supported in their drive for gold. In this blog, we profile athletic trainers working with the U.S. Women’s Hockey and U.S. Curling teams.
Some might say Brian McWilliams has the easiest job at the Sochi Olympics. But McWilliams, the Head Athletic Trainer for the U.S. Curling team, would beg to differ.

“I get that all the time: ‘What injuries do they have?’ ” he told The New York Times. “You know, it looks so simple. But it’s really a unique and difficult sport.

“The sliding itself is a unique position they have to be in,” he added. “You have a lot of effects from sliding. I tell people sometimes it’s like golf. If you swing the same way in repetition, you’re going to have the same issues.”

McWilliams says knee pain is also a common injury, usually triggered while kneeling to throw the stone. However, in his eight years of covering the sport for USA Curling, McWilliams has never had to assist an injured athlete during competition.

He does have one slightly different challenge than most other athletic trainers at the games though: hangovers. According to The Times, the sport’s tradition calls for the winning team to buy the losers a round of drinks after the match. Though postgame revelry at the Olympics may not be as rowdy as in other competitions, McWilliams said he was ready.

“The teams like to have a good time,” he said.

Jill Radzinski, an Assistant Athletic Trainer at the University of California-Davis is in Sochi, Russia working her second Winter Olympic Games as the Head Athletic Trainer for the U.S. Women’s Hockey team. Radzinski has worked with the team since 2008 and feels lucky to be at another Olympics.

“Just like anything else, you put in a lot of time and energy, and sometimes the stars line up for you, sometimes they don’t,” Radzinski told the Sacramento Bee. “And I’ve been fortunate.”

Radzinski still marvels over the experience of her first Olympics, especially walking during in the Closing Ceremony. It’s an experience that goes by in the blink of an eye.

“There are times I reflect on it, and I can’t even remember parts of the Olympics,” she said. “It’s so full of that charged emotion for six months prior, and then you get there, and it’s escalated even more. Then the Games are taking place, it all moves so quickly, and it’s over – poof, everyone’s gone.”

Radzinski told the Bee that only through the support of her colleagues on the UC Davis athletic training staff is she able to chase her Olympic dreams. And even though her participation requires a huge time commitment–the team begins training in September–Radzinski wouldn’t do it any other way.

“Sometimes, it feels like such a grind, and you’re thinking, ‘Man, can I do this again?’ ” Radzinski said. “And as you’re getting to the end, you think, ‘Yeah, I can do this again.’

“People call it ‘five-ring fever.’ You definitely get the bug. I just wanted to get involved and then to do it again. And I would love to do it again after this.”

R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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