Luck, timing, meeting the right person and making a connection were the ingredients that led to a recipe of a trip to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics for local massage therapist Lou Ann Botsford.
Botsford works at the Northeast Sports Training facility in Warwick, which serves a range of athletes from professional to high school and collegiate, and also teaches sports massage at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) Newport campus. She will be leaving Feb. 6 to travel to Russia where she will apply her skills as a sports massage therapist to support the U.S. Men’s Ski Jump team at the Olympics.
“You never know where things will lead,” Botsford said during a phone interview Monday, adding her involvement in the Winter Olympics is the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year process that began in January 2012 when she applied to become a member of the Olympic Training Center Medical Volunteer Program.
“It’s a rigorous process that involves letters of recommendation, demonstrated experience working with professional athletes, résumé, etcetera,” she said. “You’re never sure how things are going to work out; you just accept the opportunity and move forward, that’s how I do most things in life.”
In addition to her time spent teaching sports massage and working with professional athletes, Botsford said she competes in triathlons, which she said helps her to overcome any obstacles that are placed in front of her.
“Triathlons require you to get through transitions; things go wrong but you maintain your focus to move forward, which is a good analogy for life in general,” she said.
After being accepted into the medical volunteer program, Botsford said she spent two and a half weeks at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., during the spring of 2012.
“While I was there I met a number of athletes that were training for [the Summer Olympics in] London. I also met the director of physical therapy for the U.S. Men’s Ski Jump team,” she said. Following her stint at the training center, Botsford said she received an invitation to go to Lake Placid, N.Y., to work with the team as it prepared for fall competition.
“I was invited back a year later to the U.S. Nationals at Lake Placid and that led to an invitation to go to Sochi,” she said.
Botsford explained the purpose of sports massage is to minimize the potential for injury, but also to assist athletes in recovering from any sustained injuries. She said sports massage acts as a support to physical therapy, which requires more training.
“It’s a critical part of an athlete’s training regimen,” she said. “I will do whatever I can to help the athletes focus on their performance and not a tight muscle or twinge in the neck, which is one less thing for them to worry about.”
Botsford said it’s truly an honor for her to “be a small part of something the whole world is a part of.”
“ I’ve been watching the Olympics as long as I can remember; attending one is nothing short of amazing,” she said. “It will be wonderful to see all these people that put forth the dedication and give their all to support their country.”
Botsford is especially excited for this year’s Olympics because the event will be historic.
“This will be the first Olympics where women are allowed to ski jump,” she said, adding she got to see some of the women perform last fall in Lake Placid. “They were amazing!”
Botsford said she also views the experience as a beneficial one from a teaching standpoint.
“I’ll be able to talk to my students about it and it will enrich my teaching,” she said.
Although Botsford will travel with a group of colleagues representing the U.S. Men’s Ski Jump team, she said they will be stationed outside the Olympic Village.
“We’ll be at the Ski Jump, but we won’t be allowed in the Olympic Village, which will have extremely tight security and is mostly reserved for athletes, coaches and select staff,” she said.
Not only will Botsford volunteer her time on the trip, but she will be taking it on her own dime. With airfare and the VISA application, among other expenses, she said it would cost at least $3,500.
In order to help her realize her dreams, some of Botsford’s friends have put together some fundraisers. One was already held at Contrology Physical Therapy, on Post Road in East Greenwich, where the Pilates Class took up a donation.
A second fundraiser featuring light fare, cash bar and raffle items will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. this Sunday at Natale’s Deli and Marketplace on South County Trail in East Greenwich.
Not one to seek out the spotlight or sing her own praises, Botsford said she’s amazed at the generosity of people.
“A couple of friends heard about what I was doing and decided they wanted to do something,” Botsford said. “I want people to understand how honored and appreciative I am that they stepped forward to support me. I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, grateful and humbled.”
Botsford said she would return from the trip on Feb. 17.
“I love what I do supporting people and helping them to feel better and recover,” she said.
That passion and dedication should serve Botsford and the U.S. Men’s Ski Jumping team well in Sochi.