August 11, 2012

The price of bronze

By DR. JONATHAN MULHOLLAND @Byline credit:, Contributing Writer

---- — As my responsibilities at the Olympic Games wrap up, the time for reflection begins. 

Did my athletes perform to their abilities? What could I have done better? What can I change before the start of next season to help them improve even more?

During the games, there is no time for analysis. Working 18-hour days with minimal sleep, decisions need to be made instantaneously. I try to react to a challenging situation, make the best decision I can and move forward to the next race. 

The Olympics have been the most significant professional experience of my life. For a sports medicine practitioner, it doesn’t get any bigger. It is like the Super Bowl or the World Series — if they lasted for two weeks.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest athletes in the world, alongside some of the best doctors and therapists on the planet. I’ve learned more in London than in my first 12 years in practice. 


However, this experience has come at a price. I have a wife and two young children missing me at home. By the time I get back to Plattsburgh, I will have been away for almost 10 weeks. For young kids with little sense of time, two and a half months is an eternity. They were still in school when I left and will be starting school again when I get home.

Email and video chatting have helped us survive the months apart, but technology is limited. I can’t hug my daughter through the computer screen. I can’t make my son’s scraped knee stop bleeding by emailing him. It struck me during an early morning run a few days ago. I’ve missed an entire North Country summer. The entire school summer vacation for my kids … gone. 

Anyone who travels frequently for work will understand the struggle. The constant emotional battle of being away from the family you love to do the job you are passionate about. I’ve been doing it for the past few years, and I’ve yet to figure it out. I do know this, however. Even if I have to be away from home occasionally, when I am doing work I enjoy, I am a much better husband and father.


So, was it worth it? The Olympics are a great prize, but 10 straight weeks of cramped hotel rooms, foreign languages and inconsistent food takes a lot out of a man. However, sport is funny. All of the stress and arguments are quickly forgotten if we succeed. Performing well at the Olympics would be a perfect ending to a long season.

So how did we do? Outstanding! Of the three events we entered, we ended up winning two bronze medals. My athletes are extremely young, and this was their first Olympic experience. I couldn’t be any happier with how they performed. They will be able to build on these results and have the confidence to compete at a much higher level next season.

There are certainly a few things we will change for next year, and some minor issues that can be improved during the offseason. But that is for another time.


With the races over, it was time to celebrate and relax. Over the past 10 weeks, our little group of athletes and staff has grown close. When you are sharing a room and eating every meal together, relationships evolve quickly and strong friendships are formed. 

And so I set out to enjoy the last few days of the Olympics, see a few events and maybe take a stroll around London. Then I’ll head back to Plattsburgh to be with my family.

Dr. Jonathan Mulholland, who graduated from Plattsburgh High School in 1992, lives in Plattsburgh. He is a consultant for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid and has worked with dozens of Olympians and World Champions. Email him at