FOR lead soft tissue therapist Thea Dillon, the start of her day at the Tokyo Olympics is simple.
Six o'clock is rise and shine with a coffee to follow.
"Iced, because it's stinking hot and humid here," she said.
"Thankfully, the Australian Olympic Committee has provided the Australian team with a barista service, yay!"
The former South West Rocks local and Melville High student then follows that with exercise to set herself up to crush the day.
From there it's straight into action, working with several brilliant Australian athletes competing at the Olympic games.
"In Tokyo I'm working within the Medical Headquarters for the Australian Olympic Team," she explained to the Macleay Argus.
"There are seven other soft tissue therapists from around Australia working with me.
"We are based mostly in the Australian team building inside the village, and work alongside Aussie sports physios, sports doctors, nurses, a psychologist - approximately 25 medical staff in total.
"We are here to provide services for the entire team, so have seen athletes and some coaches across almost every sport.
"Swimming and athletics tend not to use us much as they bring their own therapists, but the team sports rely quite heavily on us in this environment.
"Most commonly we've looked after The Boomers, rugby 7s, waterpolo, hockey, and beach volleyball athletes."
This work doesn't come without its restrictions with COVID-19 protocols strictly enforced.
"There is quite a bit that we are doing on a daily basis in this space to keep the risk of picking up COVID as low as possible," Thea said.
"Every day everyone submits a saliva sample for testing, it's a lot of spit - the hardest part about it is remembering not to eat or drink for at least 30 mins before.
"We are also monitoring our temperatures daily and submitting this along with other health information into a Japanese app that flags whether there are any changes to our health that could flag TOCOG to send us for more testing in the onsite infectious diseases clinic.
"Before entering Japan we all had to download a Japanese tracking app that is switched on 24/7 and picks up whether you've been in close contact with someone else who has tested positive.
"We are wearing masks constantly - the only time we are allowed to take them off is when eating, sleeping, competing or training.
"For me that means wearing a mask for hours on end, and is especially important when working in a clinical treatment space where I am in close proximity with others and in relatively small treatment rooms.
"We are also extra vigilant with washing hands, using hand sanitiser, wiping surfaces down and airing spaces out between treatment sessions."
The journey to Tokyo started in 2003 when Thea started in the remedial and sports massage industry.
Based in the Gold Coast, in 2006 she started working and travelling with a range of different sports and athletes.
When at home in her role as director at No More Niggles, her main sport is swimming with a number of national team athletes based on the Gold Coast, travelling with the Australian swim team frequently since 2010 and working at the Rio Olympics as well.
She's also practiced with Triathlon Australia, Athletics Australia (especially throughout Sally Pearson's career), Paddle Australia and last year worked and travelled with the GWS Giants AFL team.
For Thea, working with professional athletes has three main enjoyable aspects - mindset, people and travel.
"I love the excellence mindset involved with working in high performance sport. The mindset around continually striving to be better, learning from every opportunity (good or bad), and the emotion and passion around it is so unique. It is an environment that we don't really see in every day life, and to have an opportunity to be involved is quite special. I'm a believer that pressure is a privilege and there is certainly plenty of that around in high performance sport!"
"Having the opportunity to work as part of a team with the people involved is quite special (that's everyone from the athletes through to coaches, support personnel, and sometimes family and friends). To achieve success in sport there is so much that goes into it behind the scenes - lots of other people who have to come together to overcome challenges collectively along the way - I love getting to know the people involved and what makes them tick. In general I love helping people from all walks of life enhance their health, wellbeing and performance, and it's the same with athletes - I love helping them achieve their goals, it's just that their goals are very specifically focused on high performance in sport."
"I'm not gonna lie, the opportunity to do a bit of travel is a massive bonus too! Over the past 10 years, working in sport has given me opportunities to explore and experience lots of places around the world. Since COVID has hit and subsequently limited our opportunities for travel, I feel so fortunate to have been able to get to Tokyo and to travel last year with the AFL."
Through her work, Thea has rubbed shoulders with one of our greatest ever Olympic athletes in Emma McKeon.
The two met in 2010 but the workplace relationship didn't start until 2017 when McKeon relocated to the Gold Coast.
Thea couldn't be happier for the accomplishments McKeon has made.
"Emma is an exceptional athlete, but most importantly, she's a really authentic, honest and genuinely lovely person," she described.
"She's a really hard worker in training and is diligent in doing all the little things right such as eating well, getting plenty of sleeping, and being proactive with physio and massage treatment.
"She has a really great team of people around her, as do most successful people, who have worked closely with her for a number of years.
"This has helped Emma develop and progress as an athlete and as a person - achieving balance in life and a training plan and routine that works for her.
"I am so so happy for Emma that she has been so successful at these games - it's so well deserved!"
For the Olympics overall, Thea can attest they've been a success with a brilliant energy throughout the group.
"I must say that across the whole Australian team there has been a fantastic buzz throughout the Games," she said.
"Many experienced team mates across a number of sports have commented on how great the vibes have been, how fantastic the set up is and that the AOC has done an outstanding job in deciding on the location of our building and in setting up our team building within the village with barista on tap and delicious, simple, easy access meal and snack options."
As for getting back home to South West Rocks to see mum and dad, Thea hopes it's sometime soon.
"I don't get home often enough," she said.
"I usually aim to get back two-three times per year but since COVID hit in March 2020 I've only been back once to see my parents, and that was earlier this year.
"I do miss South West Rocks and am hoping to come visit again at least once before the end of the year."
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