TRAVERSE CITY — The second half of Jessi Wallington’s February was spent helping care for some of the best athletes in the country — Olympians and Paralympians.
“Working with the athletes was the absolute highlight,” Wallington, 32, said of her recent rotation at the Colorado Springs Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
The Traverse City resident worked with Olympic wrestlers — both men’s and women’s — men’s gymnastics and women’s water polo. She also worked with Paralympic triathletes, swimmers and shooters.
Wallington, a massage therapist with a focus in sports medicine, in March 2019 applied to be a volunteer care provider for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee Sports Medicine division.
Volunteers spend a two-week rotation at one of three training centers — Colorado Springs, Colo., Lake Placid, N.Y., or Chula Vista, Calif., according to TeamUSA.org.
Rotations are available for physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, athletic trainers and massage therapists.
“When all was said, I think I had close to 40 pages that I had to mail out,” Wallington said of her application. “It was a big packet. I kind of kissed it goodbye at UPS and crossed my fingers.”
She was accepted in May and, in October, was told her rotation would be Feb. 15 to March 1.
“My motivation (for applying) professionally — whether it was me in property management or it’s me now as a massage therapist — has always been, ‘What can I do next?’” Wallington said. “I’m always looking at how I can be the best of who I can be in this profession.
“I like a good challenge. I get bored very easily,” she said. “So me it was, ‘What’s bigger than the Olympics?’”
It was an incredible opportunity for her, said Ken Schweigert, one of Wallington’s local clients.
Schweigert is a triathlete who Wallington has been treating regularly every few weeks for about five years and co-wrote a recommendation letter for Wallington’s application.
It’s because of Wallington’s work he’s able to do triathlons at age 52, Schweigert said. The events are strenuous on the body and it’s crucial to have someone helping with muscle recovery, he said.
“She’s a wonderful person, very knowledgeable,” Schweigert said. “I wanted to do whatever I could to get her there so she could have that experience.”
It’s fun to have personal attachments to Olympic athletes because of her experience, Wallington said, adding that she gets attached to her clients, whether they’re ones in Traverse City or those she worked with closely for two weeks.
“I don’t really know how to word this, but it’s like the difference between going and watching a professional sports game versus watching a game where your little nephew’s playing,” Wallington said. “The passion’s different now.”