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Alumnae put elite athletes in capable hands

Geneviève Renaud, MCISc’14, left, and Heather Clegg, MCISc’17

by Sonia Preszcator

When Geneviève Renaud, MCISc’14, travelled 12,000 km from Ottawa to Taipei on the sport medicine support team for the 2017 Summer Universiade, she expected the rewards of working with the world’s best athletes. What she didn’t expect was to find out her roommate for the event, Heather Clegg, MCISc’17, was a fellow Western alumna of the Advanced Health Care Practice Program.

While Renaud has worked with athletes of all skill levels, the Summer Universiade was a unique experience thanks to the calibre of the athletes competing, as well as the commitment and camaraderie required of the health teams. Assigned to specific Canadian teams, Renaud was responsible for the care of rhythmic gymnastics athletes, while Clegg was committed to the badminton teams.

At the Summer Universiade, Western was also represented by three student-athletes: Kelsey Veltman, women’s volleyball; Aaron Schneebeli, men’s soccer; and Robin Bone, pole vault.

“The Summer and Winter Universiades are international sporting and cultural festivals in which thousands of university student-athletes compete. The Summer Universiade had more than 10,000 athletes from more than 150 nations competing in 15 compulsory sports, which makes it the largest amateur sporting competition after the Olympics,” Renaud said.

“These games are intense, for us and the athletes alike. We had a ball taking care of them and cheering them all on.”

While watching competition at an elite level, it can be easy to forget that even these athletes struggle with challenges like the rest of us when it comes to training, competition and recovery. As physiotherapists with manual and manipulative therapy training, Renaud and Clegg used their capable hands to keep joints and muscles in balance to avoid injury.

“From early morning workouts, to practices and long hours at the clinic, we were constantly moving from helping competitors get warmed up and prepared for competition, to designing a recovery plan to keep them in top shape and ready to win,” Renaud said.

As for the ‘team’ behind the teams, Renaud honed her own training in the fast-paced, 24-hour sport medicine clinic as a member of the health team playing a key role in supporting each athlete’s best performance.

“Although making sure our specific teams were well taken care of, collaboration in the clinic was an adrenalin rush. Working side by side with other professionals, each with their own expertise, experiences and treatments, it is not only satisfying to see how quickly comprehensive care can happen, it is amazing to ‘talk shop’ with everyone from sport medicine physicians, surgeons, massage therapists, physiotherapists and athletic therapists. There aren’t any barriers to information and we’re all on the same team with the same goal. As a learning and emotional experience, there’s nothing like it.

“I can’t believe how much living I managed in just three-and-a-half weeks. I count myself so fortunate to travel the world doing work I love to do, with people I love to work with.”

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Alumni Gazette
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