The Australian Olympic Committee is stopping at nothing to ensure its athletes have the best chance of winning medals at the London Olympic Games, setting up a replica of the Australian Institute of Sport recovery centre five minutes from the athletes village.
Recovery has become a large part of athletes’ training and competition programs, and new AIS director Matt Favier said the facilities show how far science has come in the 30 years since he was an athlete there.
‘‘I’m not saying it was all beer and pizza straight after a run, but it’s slightly more complex now and much more of a significant part of any athlete’s routine,’’ Favier said.
Head of the AIS recovery centre Dr Shona Halson said research had shown hydrotherapy strategies in recovery could improve performance by one to four per cent.
‘‘While that doesn’t seem much to the average person, if you ask an athlete if they’d like an improvement of one per cent, that’s often the difference between making a final or not making a final,’’ Halson said.
Hydrotherapy – including warm pools and ice baths – will be the main attraction of the centre, but it will also offer massage, stretching and rehabilitation options.
A clinical psychologist will also be on hand to offer psychological debriefing and relaxation, Halson said, as well as general psychological well-being and coping and stress management in that environment.
It’s not the first time a specialist recovery centre has been offered to our athletes, but in Beijing the facility was located 30 minutes from the athletes village and underutilised.
In London, the centre will be the largest the Australian team has ever had and it will be virtually around the corner, set up in a school for disabled children with established hydrotherapy facilities.
Halson expects the pools will be able to cater for 40-50 athletes at a time and says the majority of athletes will use the centre.
For AIS-based swimmer Tomasso D’Orsogna, the recovery centre is a well-established part of his routine, which he uses after most hard sessions between three and five times a week.
‘‘It’s a good time to mingle a bit with a few other sportspeople,’’ he said. ‘‘We come in and there might be basketballers or athletics guys that are in there, or other swimmers, and when there’s a bit of time in the spa we have a bit of a chat, see how things are going and even in the cold pool it’s a good way to take your mind off how cold it is by having a bit of a chat with someone.’’
According to Halson, the mingling had real benefits for the athletes too. ‘‘There’s a social aspect to it, and I think that’s really good for their psychological recovery as well,’’ she said.
D’Orsogna thinks the London recovery centre will be no different. ‘‘It’s going to be such a great opportunity to meet a lot of other Australian athletes you wouldn’t get the opportunity to meet, and really to get some advice and tips from them,’’ the 21-year-old said.