WARWICK — Taking risks in life has always been part of the daily routine for Lou Ann Botsford.
A little over two years ago, the sports massage therapist from East Greenwich battled her way through a grueling triathlon in Hawaii, feeling exhausted after the long swim at the genesis of the competition and thankful that she got through it.
While passing through on her bike, with a mile to go in the cycling portion of the race, Botsford saw a sign on the side of the road that read the words ‘Love Life,’ a phrase that moved the experienced athlete to tears and motivated her to finish her grueling triathlon.
“The way I live my life, when the door opens, I walk through it,” Botsford said.
Recently, one huge door opened for Botsford and she didn’t think twice when it came to walking through it.
Botsford, who owns Finish Line Massage just off of Post Road in Warwick, was formally invited to help support the U.S. Ski Jumping Team as a massage therapist in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Botsford’s trek to Russia started two years ago when she applied for a medical volunteer program, needing letters of recommendations and proof that she works with athletes – whether they’re amateur or professional – and was accepted to go to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. While she was out there, Botsford met members of the U.S. Women’s Boxing Team as they were in training for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London and assisted in their workout programs.
In what she calls “fate,” while in Colorado Springs, Botsford met Jessica Thornton-Sherman, the director of physical therapy for the Alpine Clinic – the official physicians of the U.S. Ski Jumping Team – and was invited to go to Lake Placid, N.Y. that same year to meet the young men on the team working diligently on their dreams of claiming Olympic Gold. It was back in November that Botsford was formally invited by Thornton-Sherman to be a member of their training team to help the ski team in the Sochi games, which commence next month.
Needless to say, Botsford gave the obvious answer.
“I said, ‘of course yes,’” Botsford said with a bright smile. “I then started to think ‘oh my God, how am I going to afford this.’ But then I thought how can I not go.”
The key to Botsford being vital in aiding an aching athlete is having that personal connection being an athlete, herself. Most of the bumps, bruises and other forms of soreness, both physical and emotional, that an Olympic-level competitor suffers from are the same that Botsford had in her own experience in doing highly-competitive events, going through difficult grind after difficult grind for that quest to make it to the finish line.
“I can relate to some of the things they’re going through,” she said. “You have to maintain focus. But I’m proud to support them. If I can somehow aid in the recovery, it will help enhance future readiness and they (the athletes) have one less thing to worry about. That will help them perform better. That’s my small role. If they can feel better, they can perform better.”
Botsford also emphasized on the amount of focus the members of the U.S. Ski Jumping Team puts forth in each competition. Between their leg positioning as they’re sliding down the slope, making the quick jump off of the edge of the ramp, maintaining their neck and back position as they fly through the air and holding steady on landing, every single aspect of focus has to be keen in order to produce a possible Gold medal-winning jump.
That, plus the fact that the Ski Jumping Team has one chance every four years to make it count in the Olympics, which adds more pressure to the already tense situation.
As far as fundraising, Botsford has to raise the expenses to go to Sochi on her own, a trip that will costs thousands of dollars for airfare, lodging and a Russian visa.
There will be two fundraisers in East Greenwich coming up to help Botsford’s trip to Russia, one starting this evening at Contrology Physical Therapy, located at 5835 Post Rd. that will be a pilates class at the cost of $30 per person and the chance to meet Botsford. Reservations can be made by calling 885-0051 or by email at email@example.com . The other will be held at Natalie’s Deli, 2708 South County Trail, for a meet-and-greet with Botsford with a suggested donation of $25. People planning to attend should contact organizers Bill Giannini or Holly Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org .
It’s a unique feeling for Botsford in that she’s not used to having friends help her.
“I’m used to raising money for others,” she said. “Whether it’s for ALS or MS, I’m more comfortable raising money for them. I feel blessed for that.”