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Central Mass Massage Therapist Recounts Olympic Experience

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Gammal outside of the polyclinic in the Athletes' Village / Image courtesy Anna Gammal

While most of the world watches the Olympic Games on television screens, local massage therapist Anna Gammal was right in the mix in London. Working as part of the Medical Team for Sports Massage, Gammal treated athletes from all over the world at the polyclinic in the Athlete’s Village.

Although Closing Ceremonies are still a day away, Gammal’s work at the games has ended for the summer. Before leaving London she caught up with GoLocal’s Brittany Devane to share her experiences.

“The athletes have been absolutely amazing. They are so thankful and so kind,” Gammal said.

The polyclinic provides every medical service an athlete might need—including the E.R., optometrists, dentists and physiotherapists, among other departments. This is the first year Sports Massage is considered a medical service, as it was previously stationed in the athletes’ recreational area.

In addition to treating athletes, Gammal has had a learning experience as well. “The IOC, the International Olympic Committee, has brought presenters, and they are actually giving us lectures…I’m getting an education, too. I have attended three workshops so far, and it’s phenomenal,” Gammal explained.

Gammal will bring these new experiences and certifications back to Body n' Beyond in Hopkinton, which she has owned for 13 years.

Gammal enjoys some free time along the River Thames / Image courtesy Anna Gammal

Gammal is no stranger to the Olympics, as she was the Co-Director of the Sports Massage team for the 2004 Athens Games. This time around she had less responsibility and enjoyed her free time. Arriving in London, she was surprised to find that she saw many familiar faces.

“Every shift I go to, one of the members of Athens shows up. It has been more like a reunion for me this time. It’s been exciting because I know the people. We’re reminiscing about Athens,” Gammal said.

Gammal also found the time to attend two events: swimming and track. She was in the crowd for one of Michael Phelps’ gold-medal winning races, and was able to see the women’s 10000m—the event that she competed in while she lived in Greece. “It meant a lot to me to see that race,” she said.

Working with the Athletes

For Gammal, the best part about working at the Olympics is being able to help the world-class athletes that come to her for massages.

After receiving a deep tissue massage, a judo player told Gammal, “‘No wonder why you’re here, because you’re so good. You know your stuff.’” Getting these kinds of compliments from athletes is “priceless,” says Gammal.

As a volunteer, Gammal is not paid for her work. When asked why she does it, Gammal answered: “I do it because I love it…I’m addicted to the buzz, I’m addicted to these extraordinary athletes. And the truth is, they’re normal people like us, they’re humans like us, they hurt like us, they’re happy and they laugh like us. They’re not super humans, it’s just that they have put in a lot of work.”

She says that her business at home did not increase because of her work in Athens, but what she took away in personal growth made her sacrifices worth it.

What’s Next?

After leaving London, Anna headed to her native Greece where she is enjoying a two-week vacation with her kids.

“I can’t believe two weeks went like that. So much preparation, so much anticipation, and two weeks just flew by. So I’m excited and I’m thankful I did it, I’m definitely sad going, but happy to see my kids and have a vacation of my own now,” Gammal said of her experience.

Her clients will be more than happy to have her back in Hopkinton once her summer travels are over. “One of my clients said, ‘Great that you’re there, but this broken body needs you back!’ They’re excited for me, they’re proud of me, but at the same time, I know they want me back,” Gammal said, laughing.

Gammal leaves open the possibility of working at the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio Games, but nothing is set in stone.

“I leave with a great love and experience and memories. Until the next one,” Gammal concluded. 


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