For the past year, I have had the pleasure of working for the New Zealand Olympic Track Cycling Team as their sports chiropractor and performance enhancement consultant.
I am now working with them in London at the Olympic Games.
Last October, I was hired by Bike New Zealand to analyze its cyclists, fix any injuries and evaluate their movement patterns. Basically, to see if I could help them perform better. In a sport decided by hundredths of a second, maximizing the ability of every joint and muscle is crucial.
Although it is tough being away from family, it is a fantastic gig. I get the privilege of traveling the world and working with elite athletes every day.
As popular as the Olympics are, most people don’t realize how much time and effort go into getting to the games. Referring to the importance of proper preparation, Muhammad Ali once said, “I run in the road long before I dance under the lights.”
Most athletes have been working for the past four years for a chance to compete in London. Training programs and sports-medicine care plans are established years in advance. Four years of lifting weights, eating a perfect diet and suffering through brutal training sessions — all for the chance to perform in front of the world.
After traveling with the team through Europe for the past eight weeks, it was finally time for our team to “dance under the lights.”
I arrived in the Olympic Athletes Village on July 27. As you might imagine, it is a huge compound, able to house more than 17,000 athletes and staff, roughly the same population as the City of Plattsburgh. There are 11 residential plots, each made up of five to seven blocks built around communal squares and courtyards. Each apartment provides state-of-the-art facilities for the athletes, including high-definition TV and wireless Internet.
Following the games, the Olympic Village will become new housing for East London, transformed into 2,818 new apartments as a new residential suburb to be known as the East Village. I am one of the 17,000 people calling this “city” my home for the next two weeks.
After quickly unpacking and getting some treatments done for the athletes, I found out I would be going to the opening ceremony that evening. With 80,000 people in attendance, it took me a while to fight through the crowds and find our seats. Imagine my excitement when I realized I was sitting in the 14th row, only a few yards from where the athletes would be marching.
Although a bit strange at times, the show was billed as a quirky take on life in the United Kingdom. A local paper cleverly summarized it as “A Beatle, a Queen and Mr. Bean,” referring to the performances of Paul McCartney, the queen of England and Rowan Atkinson.
However, as unbelievable as the performances were, what was most impressive was the atmosphere: the sight of the choreographed light show and the thousands of performers, the sound of planes and helicopters overhead, the smell of the smoke from the fireworks and the feel of the occasional raindrops on my head.
I am a North Country kid, born and raised in Plattsburgh. As the music played and the performers danced, I kept looking around, thinking how surreal it was, how lucky I am to be involved with the Olympic Games.
As the stuntman who parachuted into the Olympic Stadium said, “It will hang in my memory until I become senile and can’t remember it anymore.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
Jonathan Mulholland, who graduated from Plattsburgh High School in 1992, lives in Plattsburgh. A consultant for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid since 2005, he worked with both the gold-medal-winning U.S. bobsled and U.S. skeleton teams. He also served as team chiropractor for the U.S. paralympics team at the 2010 Paralympics Winter Games in British Columbia.