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Realizing an olympic dream

My name is Frank A. Manzo, RMT, SMT(c) and I’m a Registered Massage Therapist certified in Sport Massage Therapy. I’ve been practicing massage therapy for 11 years and have been a Level III Certified Sport Massage Therapist for the past six years.


September 28, 2009
By Frank A. Manzo RMT SMT(c)

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My name is Frank A. Manzo, RMT, SMT(c) and I’m a Registered Massage Therapist certified in Sport Massage Therapy. I’ve been practicing massage therapy for 11 years and have been a Level III Certified Sport Massage Therapist for the past six years.
oly1.jpgA Level III SMT is a Massage Therapist who has met ALL the requirements of a Certification Candidate and completed the CSMTA National Sport Massage Certification Program (NSMCP). This includes 500 hours of clinical and 500 hours of field experience (team placements), pass a written and oral/practical certification exam and holds a valid standard First Aid, Basic Rescuer (CPR) Certificate and Emergency Care training; they are eligible and can work at all levels of sporting events including Major Games and International Competitions as a member of the Canadian Health Care Team. To learn more about the CSMTA or becoming a SMT one can visit their website at www.csmta.ca or phone the CSMTA National Office at (416) 488-4414.

During my 11 years of practice, I’ve worked in several different settings, such as rehab clinics, fitness clubs and spas as a Massage Therapist. I’ve treated the general public, amateur and professional athletes.

I’m presently employed part-time at the University of Toronto’s David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic (for the past five years) and also operate a private massage therapy practice in Thornhill, Ontario.

At the MacIntosh Clinic, I provide massage therapy services to students (both non varsity and varsity) and private patients. I’m also the Varsity Team Therapist for Baseball and Swimming.

As a massage therapy student, and throughout my 11 years of practice, I’ve volunteered my services at many different levels of sports. The following is a brief list of events covered:

• 2004 Olympic Summer Games
• 2003 Beach Volleyball Junior Nationals
• 2003 Toronto Challenge Athletics
• 2003 Swiss Open Wheelchair Athletics
• 2002 IPC Athletics World Championships
• 2001 Canada Summer Games
• 2000 Paralympic Summer Games
• 1999 & 1998 FIVB World Pro Beach Volleyball
• 1997 Special Olympics World Winter Games

oly2.jpgAfter an extremely rewarding and memorable experience at the 2000 Paralympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, my goal over the next couple of years was to be part of the Canadian Health Care Team returning to the birthplace of the Olympics. It has been almost 2500 years since the first games were officially held at the Olympiad in Athens, Greece. Once I submitted my application and CV in early 2003 to the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association (CSMTA), it would now be a matter of waiting patiently to see if I would be good enough to represent my profession and country. 

If the CSMTA selection committee felt I was a good candidate, they would forward my name to the Canadian Olympic Committee who would then make the final decision in selecting the team. In late November 2003, after months of anticipation, I was officially selected to the Canadian Health Care Team for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

A total of seven Sport Massage Therapists were selected to represent Canada: two from Alberta, two from Ontario, two from Quebec and one from Saskatchewan. There will also be two Sport Massage Therapists from Ontario that will be representing Canada at the Paralympics.

The Olympic Games precede the Paralympics. As a member of the Canadian Health Care Team (37), I will be mainly situated in the Athletes Village and working with the Canadian Core Medical Team and Cycling. Briefly, my duties include providing health care support and therapy services to the entire Canadian Team along with health care clinic work and assignments to a variety of sports during the Games. An athlete’s dream is to excel in their respective sport at the highest level possible. The Olympics and Paralympics are considered to be the highest level of athletic success. To win a place on the podium is a testament to years of hard work, pain, joy and everlasting memories.

oly3.jpgMy goal as a therapist, and as an individual, has always been to strive for the highest level possible. To represent Canada and my profession at any major Games is an honour. 

To be selected to the 2004 Canadian Olympic Health Care Team is truly the pinnacle of a therapist’s success. To be part of this elite group of individuals, one has to be able to feel the burning desire within them. I’m not only a Sport Massage Therapist, but I’m also a student and an educator. I believe that in order to educate, one must continue to learn.

Events such as the Olympics and Paralympics gives me the opportunity to learn from the best medical staff, athletes, coaches and others involved with the Games, not only from Canada but from around the world.

The Sydney Paralympics was an amazing experience, and I could not have imagined how much greater the Olympics could be – they surpassed all of my expectations.

oly4.jpgThose who I spoke to at home would ask, “how was the Olympics?”  I would pause, and tell them that no single word could describe my experience at this year’s Olympic Games.  It was an event I wish everyone could see, feel, touch and hear. It was simply awesome.

From the moment I put down the telephone almost one year ago, after being told by our Head Therapist, Cindy Hughes, that I was selected to represent Canada at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as a member of the Canadian Olympic Health Care Team, I remained focused and determined to provide the best care possible for our athletes.

As each day passed, patients, friends and family congratulated me.  I became the “talk” at work and at social gatherings. It was great, but I was on a mission: stay focused, give it my all, be a team player and keep in mind I was there for our athletes and not on vacation. I mentally prepared myself to work 12-hour (or longer) days; seven days per week for as long as I was in Athens.

The countless hours I’ve spent volunteering at numerous events over my 11 years of practice has shown me that sport massage therapy is the most sought out form of therapy at these events and, therefore, I needed to be ready in all aspects.

The Olympics can be intimidating and rightfully so. Many World Champions in their respective events were denied medals at the Olympics.

oly5.jpgTo win a medal at the Olympics would confirm that you are the best in your event, hence the stress and pressure to succeed at these Games is much greater than any other.

Once my departure date finally arrived (August 03/04), I gave my wife and kids a final hug and kiss and off I went to the Toronto airport to fulfill a dream. At the airport, I calmly looked around to see if I knew anyone, but I didn’t. While waiting to board the plane, I felt great but, at the same time, I was somewhat sad, nervous and anxious. I would be away from for almost a month (Aug. 03-Aug. 31/04).

Did I forget anything at home?  Will my family be okay while I’m away? Will I be okay? What lies ahead? Nevertheless, what once was a distant dream, with the support of my family, friends, colleagues and the thousands of patients that allowed me to treat them and gain knowledge and experience, was about to become a reality.

The flight had one stop-over in Montreal and then direct to Athens.

In Montreal, other members of the health care team boarded, which I had met at our Olympic team orientation in early May.

On arrival at Athens’ new airport, the local people greeted us with smiles and welcomed us to their home. Athens is a city that is rich in history and tradition. It had the honour in hosting the Olympics for the second time in modern history. In no time we had picked up our luggage and accreditation and off we went to our “home away from home” – the Olympic Village.

At our first health care team meeting on the same day we arrived, one could feel the support and trust among the team members. That, to me, was very important.

We had a wealth of knowledge, talent and experience as one team working together.

I had the utmost confidence that this team was prepared, and together we would be able to meet any challenge that lay ahead.

We had a light drizzle on the first day and two days later there was a heavy downpour. After that, it was sun, heat and more sun and heat. The average temperature was about 32 degrees celsius.

oly6.jpgAs the athletes began to trickle in each day, attendance at the Canadian Medical Clinic site increased. As I
had predicted, sport massage was the most in demand. Athletes and other members of the Canadian Olympic Team made use of the many services we offered: medical attention, physical therapy, athletic therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, etc.

Since I was selected to work with the Core Medical Team, and cycling, I spent most of my time in the clinic and, if needed, at the various cycling venues – road, mountain bike and track. I treated anyone that required soft tissue therapy; pre-event, post-event massage, stretching, etc.

It is my opinion that the keys to treating successfully are: listening, communicating, and knowing your limitations. Do not be afraid to seek help when in doubt.

For the past year or so, there were many doubters/critics who felt Athens would not be ready on time and perhaps it may have been a bad choice.

I had no doubt in my mind prior to arriving in Athens that the Games would go on – and did they ever!

The Games of the XXVIII Olympiad had returned to the country of their origin. These Games also marked Canada’s 100th year of participation at the Olympics (1904-2004).

The 1904 Olympic Games in Paris marked Canada’s first appearance.

The Opening Ceremonies was spectacular and I was there marching into the Olympic Stadium representing my country and profession. What a rush!

“These Games will bear the hallmark of tolerance, peace and friendship.” (Jacques Rogge, President, International Olympic Committee).

For many of us, this was our first Olympics, for others, the last. What a way to begin or end a chapter in one’s life. Everyone was touched by someone, positive or negative, along this long journey of ours that has taken us to where we are today.

There were 11,099 athletes representing 203 countries and competing in 52 sporting events. For the first time, the Olympic flame had travelled to all continents. For 17 days, athletes from around the world have come together to compete.

As I marched around the stadium, waving my Canadian cap to the more than 50,000 spectators, I knew that these people, along with millions of others around the world, were congratulating and acknowledging each and every one of us.

They understood what it takes to get to this level of competition, no matter if you medal or not. The Olympic motto: “Citius, atius, fortius” means “faster, higher, stronger” in Latin, representing the Olympic principles and spirit.

Food services provided excellent service and food to all its guests. It took into account ethnic preferences and dietary requirements.

There were two dining areas located in the Olympic village, one main dining facility that was as big as a football field and a much smaller casual dining facility. There were approximately 50,000 meals served daily in the village and food was available around the clock.

For the first time in history, three stadiums that were built in three different centuries hosted Olympic sporting events: Ancient Olympica (5th century B.C.), Panathinako Stadium (19th century), and Olympic Stadium (20th century).

In the clinic, I had the opportunity to treat several of Canada’s elite athletes. Some are already household names; others will become household names after the Games.

I made new friends, re-connected with others and I had the opportunity to share in many of the highs and lows that are part of the Olympics.

The Olympic venues were amazing. The turnout of volunteers from around the world was incredible. There were over 160,000 volunteers for the Games.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

As a team we realized that we could not work continuously, so we covered for each other while some took in some of the local sites.

I had the opportunity to visit The Acropolis, The Temple of Zeus, The Parliament, The National Library, Downtown Plaka, The Island of Hydra, and the Panathenaic Stadium.

Athens’ population is 3,192,606 (according to 2001 census). It built a modern infrastructure to compliment its number of cultural interest sites from its landmark, The Acropolis to museums and so on.

oly7.jpgThe Closing Ceremonies brought the XXVIII Olympiad to a memorable closure. Athens, Greece has raised the bar for future cities and countries to follow. “As in the daytime there is no star in the sky warmer and brighter than the sun, likewise there is no competition greater than the Olympic Games.” – Pindar, Greek lyric poet, 5th century B.C.

The Canadian Olympic athletes demonstrated that they can compete with the best in the world. They placed 19th overall with a total of 12 medals – three gold, six silver and three bronze.

I have taken home an experience and so many memories that will be remembered forever. As Athens did, I too have raised my personal bar and will continue to strive for excellence.

It would not be possible to continue doing what I love, and strive for excellence, without the support, hard work and dedication to the sport massage therapy profession by the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association (CSMTA), and especially my wife, Patricia, and two sons, Christian and Nicholas.


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