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AIS head physio Craig Purdam retires after 35 years with Australia's elite athletes

After five Olympics and 40 years at the top of his craft, veteran AIS physiotherapist Craig Purdam is calling it a day.

The AIS head of physical therapies has been working with Australia's elite athletes in Canberra since day dot as an inaugural member of the department founded in 1982.

Purdam went to five consecutive Olympic Games beginning with Los Angeles in 1984 and finishing at an "incredible" home games in Sydney.

"I was fortunate enough to be involved in gold medals performances with Glynis Nunn [heptathlon] in 1984 and I was working a lot with Phil King and Debbie Flintoff-King [400m hurdles] in their fastidious approach to the race in 1988," Purdam said.

"Then to finish with a home games that was amazingly run was incredible and the standout moment was Cathy Freeman, without a doubt, she carried the pressure of a whole country."

He's has rubbed shoulders with some the greatest athletes the world has ever seen but Purdam was always more interested in the challenge of his job than the individual athlete.


Known for groundbreaking work in tendinopathy and hamstring recovery, Purdam has more recently been developing training methods to prevent injury.

"My interest isn't at all how famous they are, it's more about the people themselves and the challenges they present as a physiotherapist," Purdam said.

"It doesn't matter if they're on the back page or someone nobody has heard of, it's about the individual or their journey.

"I love all the new challenges and I'm often sharing thoughts with other physios and doctors to find solutions for individuals."

Australia's Olympics results faded at recent Games and Purdam believes a lack of funding has affected the medal tally, which has fallen from 58 in Sydney to 29 at the Rio Games last year.

"We've got to look very closely at why we didn't succeed in Rio but let's be clear, the Paralympics were an outstanding success, so it's more in the Olympics themselves," Purdam said.

"A lot of athletes arrived well prepared and in good shape so we question whether the sports have enough money to prepare themselves well enough for international competition because there has been such a reduction in federal funding.

"Something has been made of their ability to compete on the day but a lot of that comes back to how you rehearse in the four years previous and that comes back to money."

Purdam plans on using retirement to improve his golf handicap but will continue at the institute with some part-time research and clinical work.

"I'll also take time out to catch up on relationships I haven't been able to do justice for the past 30 years, but in saying that I wouldn't swap it for a moment," Purdam said.