Hundreds of USA Olympic athletes are scheduled to compete in the Tokyo Olympics starting on July 23. But there is a supporting staff behind them that rarely gets recognition.
Benny Vaught is a member of the supporting staff and is a licensed and board-certified massage therapist from Fort Worth and this Olympics will not be his first rodeo.
“This will be my fifth USA Olympic medical team. All of us are hand-picked. You have to have worked with the athletes in the past at various events leading up to the Olympics to be chosen,” Vaughn said. “I served as the Medical Liaison at Olympic Stadium for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996. I was selected for the Medical and Performance Preparation Staff for USA Track and Field for Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012.”
I was selected by the USOPC Medical Staff to serve on the Tokyo 2020 Sports Medical Team as the Senior Hands-on Soft Tissue Therapist providing massage therapy, assisted stretching, performance preparation and recovery care for all USA Athletes in the Olympic Village.
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Unlike Olympic athletes, Vaughn must know about every sport. He said he must know exactly how to treat every athlete, no matter their sport. For him, it’s about much more than the physical.
“Many people see the massage therapist and they think we just give people a rub down. There is so much more going on with that one on one interaction we get with the athletes,” Vaughn said.
He said that is especially true in this Olympic cycle. The athletes have gone through so much physically and mentally trying to train through a global pandemic.
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“I am also helping their mindset. The massage therapist is often, outside of their coach, the very last person contact they have before they walk into [the venue to compete],” Vaughn said.
It’s a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility Vaughn said he has been training for, just like the athletes.
“It’s not like we are open from 9am-5pm. You’re open if the athletes need care. That often translates into 12-hour days or it could be even longer. These are Olympians and world class athletes that stepped up and figured out a way, so I had to figure out a way as well,” Vaughn said.
Vaught was one of the first Black men to integrate the University of Florida athletics program in 1969, so for him, sports is so much more than just a moment in time. Now that he has been serving athletes in this capacity for the last 40 years, he says he is thankful that Benny Vaughn Therapy of Fort Worth, is going to be part of Olympic history.