U.Va. Alum Helps U.S. Olympic Swimmers Go for the Gold

August 7, 2008 — The powerful shoulders and sleek physiques of Olympic swimmers depend on the care of athletic trainers, including University of Virginia alumnus Ian McLeod. For McLeod, the medium is the massage.

U.Va. was the springboard to McLeod's career on the U.S. Olympics sports medicine staff. He has traveled all over the world with USA Swimming teams and accompanied them to Beijing.

McLeod is on a staff that comprises two athletic trainers, a massage therapist, a chiropractor and an orthopedic surgeon. He attends swimming practices twice a day. In addition to treating athletes for injuries and illnesses, McLeod works in the U.S. Olympic Committee's athletic training room in the Olympic Village, helping many other American athletes going for the gold. He also spends a good portion of his day doing "recovery work," as he called it during a recent e-mail interview.

"The medical staff also plays a big role in helping the swimmers recover from their races and prepare for competition. The primary tool we use when doing this is a lot of massage," said McLeod, who earned his master's in sports medicine from U.Va.'s Curry School of Education in 1998 and now resides in Tempe, Ariz.

Following graduation, he became a full-time assistant athletic trainer in the U.Va. athletic department. McLeod worked with the swimming and diving program, as well as with the football team.

"Ian McLeod is the standard by which I measure every athletic trainer who works with not only the University of Virginia swim team, but who also works with USA Swimming teams," Mark Bernardino, U.Va.'s head swimming and diving coach, said. "He is thorough in his physical assessments of their health, interested in improving their fitness, flexibility and muscular strength and engaged in their lives away from their sport.

"USA Swimming is very fortunate to have Ian on their Beijing Olympic sports medicine staff."

"My experiences as a student in the Curry program were invaluable to my professional development as an athletic trainer and subsequent selection to the USOC medical staff," said McLeod, who received a Gold Standard Award from USA Swimming three years ago. In addition to working with Bernardino, McLeod said two of his most important mentors were Ethan Saliba, assistant athletic director for sports medicine and head athletic trainer, and Dr. Dilaawar J. Mistry, a primary care physician in U.Va.'s McCue Sports Medicine Center.

"Both of these individuals helped me grasp the concept that there is both an art and a science to the practice of sports medicine," McLeod said.

Mistry described McLeod as "a tremendous, well-rounded professional and a superior caregiver whose dedication to doing an excellent job is unparalleled." A U.Va. team physician, Mistry also has provided primary care to USA Swimming teams. He pointed out the importance of massage: It enhances recovery between swims, reduces fatigue and improves the psyche.

McLeod became a member of the USA Swimming High Performance Network in 2003, which made him eligible for international travel with USA Swimming. He has been part of the medical staff supporting swim teams at several events, including the 2005 Summer World University Games in Izmir, Turkey; the 2006 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia; and the 2007 Summer World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand.

In total, he will have spent about six weeks with the team, beginning with a training camp at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., then moving on to Singapore "to adjust to the climate and time change" on July 26, and finally arriving in Beijing on Aug. 5. Swimming competition begins Saturday.