My Olympic and Paralympic Experience Sydney 2000 Summer Games

Written by: Dr Tami Recesso PT, DPT

Updated on: April 4, 2023

I had the honor and privilege of being the only American accepted to volunteer as part of the physiotherapy team inside the olympic village for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games! I was also accepted to stay with other American Physio’s for the Paralympic Games! Based on being a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant the Olympic committee was able to offer me a position. I was informed that they do not accept students and couldn’t count it as my internship. I was able to work out an alternative clinical with my university in order to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity! During my stay I had the honor of working alongside the best of the best medical professionals around the world! The Australian physiotherapists inspired me. In my opinion they are the manual physical therapy leaders in the world and I had the opportunity to learn and work with them for three months in Sydney!

How did I get that opportunity?

Well… for as long as I could remember as a child I always dreamed of visiting Australia.  Something about the country intrigued me.  I felt a tremendous draw years prior and never realized why… Coincidentally… and I do not believe in coincidence I was in PT graduate school looking ahead to choose my clinical internship which would have been 8 weeks full time experiencing a physical therapy setting.  The time frame just so happened to line up with the Olympics and I had already been working in the field as a licensed PT Assistant… I knew without a doubt that if I was taking 8 weeks off from work it certainly wasn’t going to be around here ! I decided to go for it and write a very bold confident letter describing all of the qualities and experience I would bring to their medical team and it worked!!! I still remember yelling, crying tears of joy, and running around the house with excitement waving my acceptance letter sharing the news with my family!  It was better than Christmas morning!  To say the least I had the time of my life over there for three months.  I learned loads of manual therapy techniques, toured the Northeast Coast, and met the most welcoming people imaginable.  Some fun facts that I discovered are how the Australian physio’s only attend four years of college which they call University.  In America we attended 4 years undergrad and 3 years in a Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate program.  I also found it interesting that the majority of physio’s that I met had chosen directly into private practice right out of school.  In America most graduate students express the need to be mentored for 2-3 years post graduate prior to venturing off on their own. They are also on the field of play- there is no such thing as athletic trainers in Australia. Physio’s are the go to medical professionals taking care of the athletes on the sidelines.  I also thought it was very interesting that the United States Olympic Medical Team did not have a PT on staff.  When I inquired around working for them I was told that I would need to go back to school to become an athletic trainer.  I found that very interesting considering the length and quality of education I had already received.   I am grateful for all of the connections I made with people from all over the world and for having the opportunity of being a part of the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Medical team in 2000!