EUGENE - What does it take to be an Olympic athlete?
For most athletes who reach that elite level, it takes years of dedication, the ability to maintain focus, tremendous determination, and countless sacrifices. Not to mention natural ability and talent.
There is something more, though. No athlete gets there by herself or himself. They require the support of family, friends, coaches, training partners, trainers, and therapists.
Mt. Angel resident Holley DeShaw has been an important part of that support team for a number of track and field athletes at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, including several notables who qualified for the team going to Beijing. Holley, a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) at Back in Motion Sports Injury Clinic in Beaverton, worked for seven days at the Trials, putting in some very long hours at the track and at the treatment area at the Hilton Hotel.
Although Holley has been practicing for only five years, she has already given over 5,000 massages and is quickly making a mark in her profession. Dr. Ted Forcum, who hired Holley to work at Back in Motion, is the head Team Chiropractor for the Olympic trials and will be in Beijing as well. He said Holley has a lot going for her.
"She has an extremely positive attitude and you need that around athletes . . . you don't want to have any negativity or complaining . . . you have to have the right attitude.
"Athletic events like the Trials are a seminar (for medical support personnel) - you learn from athletes and from other practitioners . . . Holley embraces that and utilizes the resources around her. She is very open to working as part of a team."
One of the athletes Holley has worked with extensively is Brad Walker, the American record holder in the pole vault. Walker will be one of the favorites to win gold in the pole vault in Beijing .
Walker said that Holley "has been great to work with. . . as track and field athletes we don't have team doctors or therapists, so it is important to find people like Holley who can provide the individual care we need as athletes."
Another top athlete Holley worked with throughout the Trials is hurdler Lolo Jones. Jones suffered a bad fall in training just before the Trials and needed a lot of treatment to get back to being able to perform at her peak. In winning the 100 meter hurdles, Jones recorded the top time in the world this year, 12.29. While that time was aided by wind over the allowable limit, it is tied for the fastest ever-recorded in any conditions.
Interviewed after the hurdles final, which was her fourth race in two days, Jones gave full credit to her massage therapist, saying, "Holley is an energetic person. Her energy transpired itself right into my legs."
Working with elite athletes like Walker and Jones is something of a dream come true for Holley. She always knew that she wanted to be in the health care field, but wasn't sure what capacity would be the best for her. An interest in the medical benefits of massage eventually led her to the East-West School of Massage in Portland.
Holley remembers being told in a seminar at the school that only two of the forty students present would make massage therapy a lifelong career. She raised her hand to tell the instructor that she planned to be one of those two people.
"I knew from day one that this was what I should be doing," Holley said. "Once I discovered this was my calling I have been passionate about it ever since."
After passing her state licensing examinations, Holley began working with her father-in-law, Dr. Steve DeShaw, at his Northwood Chiropractic Clinic in Woodburn. Most of the patients she saw at the clinic had suffered trauma-related injuries.
Holley enjoyed her work with those patients, but she was drawn to working with athletes and people committed to fitness and health. She made an appointment with Dr. Forcum, whom she calls "one of the best sports chiropractors in the world," to discuss getting into the field of sports medicine. Much to her surprise, Dr. Forcum offered her a position on the spot.
From that sudden shift in focus, Holley has progressed very quickly, taking one sport-specific seminar after another. She said the continuing education she has pursued has been invaluable.
"Study is the key. The learning is endless - orthopedic assessment, kinesio taping, pre-event work, post-event work, assessing where an athlete is at in the training cycle, biomechanics. It is great to actually make a difference with people who are committing to health."
Holley has worked a number of events in addition to the Trials, including the Dew Tour, Oregon Fencing Association events, the Fiesta Bowl, and Portland State athletic events. She values these opportunities to help athletes avoid injury and stay in peak condition.
Working events like these requires a substantial commitment of time, and with a husband and young son, Holley is aware of the need to maintain a healthy balance in her life.
Noting her priorities are "God first, family second and career third," Holley gives a lot of thought to any extra commitment.
"Anytime I have an opportunity to do an event like the Olympic Trials, Levi (her husband) and I have to talk about it first. We both thank God that we have jobs that are our passions, and we are supportive of each other." Levi is a certified financial planner with a practice in West Linn.
At the end of a long and very busy day at the Trials, Holley said, "Being here has been amazing - there is a sort of magic to Hayward Field, with its atmosphere, history, and all the records that have been broken. The energy of the fans and the athletes is unbelievable.
"This isn't a sacrifice, it is a gift to be able to do such exciting and fulfilling work."