INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The pageantry begins Friday with the grandiose Opening Ceremonies at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, and ends Aug. 21 with what’s always an emotional Closing Ceremony.
Over 17 days, some 10,000 athletes in 42 sports will compete for Olympic gold, silver and bronze. To borrow a phrase, there will be ample examples of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
That’s the part of the Summer Olympics in Rio hundreds of thousands will watch from the various venues.
Maybe someone can share the excitement with Ralph Reiff.
“We’ll be very much behind the scenes,” he said. “That’s where we live.”
Reiff is the executive director of St. Vincent Sports Performance. He has been a licensed trainer for more than three decades and his vast resume includes working with various levels of the Olympic movement and helping prepare individuals for the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
More to the point, Reiff’s vast experience on the national and international athletic scene and constant networking opened the door for him and 12 of his SVSP colleagues to travel to Rio to provide support for hundreds of athletes.
Reiff and his SVSP crew are staffing a 500-square foot room adjacent to Proctor & Gamble’s “family home,” a 15,000-square foot facility designed to cater to the athletes and families under the P&G umbrella.
While Reiff isn’t affiliated with P&G in Rio, his door to the athlete-recovery center will be wide open. He could treat between 80 and 100 athletes per day, whether they’re preparing for an upcoming event or seeking treatment between heats or events.
“We’re just offering recovering services, which is becoming a big deal in athletics,” Reiff said. “We’ve got compression boots. In cold therapy, we’ve got stand-up tubs which we call Cryo(therapy) tubs, salt baths where you can decompress.
“We’re not doing the traditional training. We’re not doing the physical therapy. We’re not taping ankles. We’re not taking care of acute injuries. That happens in the Village with their medical staffs.
“We’re being a support staff.”
One that works away from the maddening crowds and the world-class competition.
If time allows, Reiff will sneak away from an event or two. He had the opportunity to purchase tickets for the Opening Ceremonies, but will be too busy assisting athletes.
He has purchased tickets to a few events and hopes to attend some diving, gymnastics and track and field competition, but that’s to be determined.
“It depends on how busy we are in the center,” he said.
Reiff served as manager of athletic care for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and oversaw all on-site medical coverage at Olympic Stadium. He was issued an “infinity” credential that allowed access to virtually every facility and event.
“I could get into all the high-security spots,” Reiff said. “I could get out on the track during an event.”
His Rio credential doesn’t offer similar access, not that he will need it.
“It’s a business venture for us,” said Reiff, who was head trainer at Butler University from 1981-99. “It’s a grind.”
More than a few familiar faces are expected to make use of Reiff’s recovery center. SVSP, which Reiff started in 1999, works with USA Gymnastics, USA Track & Field and USA Diving. It has helped train 97 members of the USA Olympic team, which is about 18 percent of Team USA.
Also, Reiff has developed a working relationship with Masayo Imura, coach of the Chinese women’s No. 1-world-ranked synchronized swimming team.
“We got to know her because they’ve used the Natatorium in town,” he said. “She’s going to bring her team to the recovery center.
“It’s about friendships and relationships. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympic movement and the Olympic ideals. It’s been great for my career.”
Even if, in this instance, he’ll experience the Olympics behind the scenes.
“I’m very, very comfortable with it,” he said. “I couldn’t begin to tell you how many major sporting events I’ve been to around the world where I haven’t seen an event.
“And I won’t this time. You’ll see as much of it as I will.”