Physiotherapist Lindsey MacFee volunteered to work at the Olympic Games and found herself in the middle of the world’s best swimmers.
Ms MacFee, who works at Cayman Physiotherapy in Pasadora Place, was not a member of the support team that accompanied the Cayman Olympic squad, but as she had planned to be in London during the Games anyway, she volunteered her services.
She decided to try to work at the Games more than 18 months ago when a friend of hers said she had volunteered for the Winter Olympics. “I just applied,” Ms MacFee said.
Initially, instead of getting a volunteer job at the Olympics, she was offered a position to work with the rowing teams in the Paralympics, which begin on 29 August, but she was not able to be in London then and so declined.
“I thought I was not going to get anything in the Olympics and just the week before I was to arrive, they contacted me and asked if I’d do it,” Ms MacFee said.
“I worked for three weeks, including two weeks before the Olympics started because a lot of teams were coming in early. I got the Aquatic Park and the training area,” she said.
Being chosen to be a physiotherapist for swimmers in the Olympics seemed fateful, as Ms MacFee and the staff at Cayman Physiotherapy have been working with the Cayman Islands National Swim Team for years.
“I couldn’t have wished for better. I was really glad,” she said.
Ms MacFee was not working with the Cayman swimmers, Brett and Shaun Fraser, as they had their own medical and physio team, but she did run into them at the training area.
She also got to see some of the other great swimmers who competed in the Games.
“My favourite part was the less hectic, less formal time in the two weeks prior to the start of the Games. Most of that, I was over at the training centre and all the athletes were coming in. The camaraderie between them before the Games started was amazing.
“I watched Michael Phelps training, the whole of the Australian team, the GB team. They were all doing their training and there was this feeling of excitement. I think I was very lucky to be there. I thought I would like to be working during the Olympic Games, but I found it was the bit before the Games that was the most exciting time,” Ms MacFee said.
She said athletes from some of the smaller countries or who had only a small number of swimmers in the Games seemed surprised that there would be free physiotherapy and massage therapy available to them and their tired muscles. “They were very appreciative,” Ms MacFee said. “A lot of them thought they had to pay for it, but it was an all free, voluntary service.”
“I did not feel like anybody was taking advantage of anything … It did not feel like anybody was stuck up … It surprised me. You think sometimes with elite athletes they might be prima donnas, but they weren’t at all,” she said.
She worked on athletes from several countries, including Paraguay, Uruguay, Lebanon and Guam. The elite athletes from places such as the United States, Great Britain or Australia had their own massage therapists and physiotherapists, so she did not a chance to get her hands on Phelps or Ryan Lochte, but there was no shortage of water polo players, divers, swimmers and synchronised swimmers who needed the services of the volunteer physiotherapists and massage therapists.
“It was an incredible experience meeting a lot of different people,” she said.
“Mainly the athletes I worked on were swimmers. I worked on some of the water polo athletes.
“I thought I would be underprepared, but I realised working on elite athletes isn’t that much different to working with the general public,” she said.
Ms MacFee admitted that while the work itself was not very hard, the hours were long and she covered shifts from 5.45am to 2.30pm or from 2.30 to 11pm.
Getting there before the Games started also enabled her to get a good look around the facilities and to attend the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony.
“I was amazed by the training facilities. We had three 50-metre pools in the training venue, which is quite separate from the Aquatic Centre,” she said.
Despite spending much of her time in the training area and working behind the scenes with the swimmers, she did get the chance to watch other athletes in action.
“We had tickets for the men’s 100-metre final so saw Usain Bolt win. We were sitting behind a big crowd of Jamaicans, it was electric,” she said.