Sarnia’s ‘doctor to the sports stars’ is headed to the Olympics.
Chiropractor Dr. John Vargo has been selected as a member of the Canadian track and field squad’s medical team at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
It’s the latest high-profile assignment for the Sarnia man, who has worked with a long and impressive list of professional athletes and served as Canadian team chiropractor at the Track and Field World Championships in Beijing last year, and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“I’ve been travelling a lot the past few years,” said Vargo, who has also attended smaller competitions and Canadian team training sessions.
His introduction to the national track and field scene started a decade ago while working with Sarnia middle distance runner Hilary Stellingwerff (nee Edmondson).
Since then he has also worked with national team members attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and more recently with Canadian high jump champion Derek Drouin of Corunna.
Vargo said the national track and field team also evaluates its medical staff on qualifications such as “how well they work under pressure and how they work with athletes in a team environment.”
Last year’s World Championships in China were basically “an Olympic tryout” for the medical staff, he added.
“Some people might have this idea that we are like tourists when we travel to these events. We’re not tourists at all. We have to work very hard. It’s generally a minimum 10-hour day.
“The people that go there and think they’re tourists get cut.”
And high performance athletes use a lot of chiropractic.
“If there were 50 athletes at the World Championships, I probably worked with 48 of them,” he said.
Vargo expects to be very busy in Rio and be gone about a month.
The track and field team is holding a two-week training camp in Juir de Fora, about three hours from Rio, prior to the Games.
“It’s exciting to be a kid from Sarnia who grows up and gets to go to the Olympics,” he said. “It’s usually reserved for people from the big cities. But you don’t have to be from Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver if you step out.”
Vargo will work closely with Dr. Trent Stellingwerff, the head of the track and field medical team. The staff includes a sports psychologist, physiotherapist, massage therapist, a physician and a few others.
Hilary Stellingwerff, Trent’s wife, has a good shot at qualifying for the Games while Drouin is already a lock and medal hopeful.
Vargo also hopes Cambridge’s Nate Brannen, a longtime patient and University of Michigan alumnus, qualifies.