Michelle Biggins – Proactive Physio

Can you tell us how the opportunity arose to join the Irish Physio team in Rio?

This is something I have been working towards for the last four years. I was part of the volunteer physiotherapy clinic in the Athletes Village in London 2012 and decided there and then that I wanted to be part of the Irish Team for Rio2016. I believe having a clear long time vision is very important. You may not know at the outset how you will achieve it but it will guide your choices and decisions, steering you towards your long term goals.

For example I realised I need more international multi-sport experience so I went for a position in the Irish Team in Russia 2013. I got that position and that led me to go for position of Lead physio for South Korea 2015. I also decided to further my specialisation in sports physiotherapy and applied for a scholarship at UL to study risk factors for injury in Elite Athletes. All of these things were taking into consideration by the Olympic Council for the selection process and I was brought into the Olympic Irish Team earlier this year.

Had you much to do in terms of preparation before you left?

There weren’t any Olympic athletes based in Galway so I didn’t have to see any of the athletes in clinic. However, there are a number of Paralympic athletes based in Galway so I have been providing their physiotherapy care for the last two years. Special congrats to Eoghan Clifford on his gold and bronze in cycling events!

Can you give us an example of how a typical day would plan out?

Usually get up around 7-7:30, meditation/ run/gym/yoga – depending on what the body needed! Big breakfast in the huge food hall and bring back some snacks for clinic. Athletes are always eating!

We had a physiotherapy clinic set up in the Irish house in the Athlete’s Village. I might be scheduled to cover the morning shift 9am-3:30pm. Any athlete who required attention would pop in for treatment or advice. Communication between physios and docs on any new issues or problems was crucial to ensure every athlete was at their optimum level of health and fitness and we were all on the same page. There could be some down time in the evening and if an Irish athlete was competing we would try to get down to their event to support them. Early to bed and back at it in the morning!

Had you much time to travel and see Rio?

We had two days at the end which were a lot quieter and got to see the touristy side of Rio! Swam in Copacabana beach, trekked up to see Christ the Redeemer and got a cable care up to the top of Sugarloaf mountain which had panoramic views across Rio.

What were the highlights of your trip?

We got to see Usain Bolt make history and win his third consecutive Olympic gold medal in 100m final. That was pretty special!

You’ve travelled with the Irish team before, how did this trip compare?

It was similar in many ways but the biggest difference was the media attention. The athletes were very focused on their own individual preparation and performance and as physios we also just had to focus on the job we were there to do. It is a high pressure emotional environment but the athletes and support team are selected and ready to perform under these conditions.

Any big future plans?

I am finishing up my Masters and hope to have my thesis handed in by December. We have taken another physio in clinic ProActive Physio-Brian Lenehan and he is holding any Saturday morning clinic for anyone who can’t make Monday-Friday. I am happy to be back in the Crossfit, Pilates and yoga buzz again and love working out in the group environment! I have a few more plans in the pipelines but taking things one step at a time while keeping one eye on Tokyo 2020


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