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In 1996 I graduated from massage school – I’d spent the last 9 months in Memphis, TN learning to be a massage therapist. I was about to move back to Atlanta, in the VA-High area, to the apartment I’d sublet during my absense. And I needed a job. The city was radiant and buzzing about the Olympics.

By the time I moved home and got settled in, I had a job. Sort of. It was a very low paying gig (practically volunteer – in fact that’s what we were called), I had to undergo an FBI background check, and I was expected to work 10+ hour shifts. But I was up for it – it was my first official massage job…as a massage therapist in the Olympic Spa smack dab in the center of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Village (on the campus of Georgia Tech). I usually took MARTA from my apartment straight down Ponce de Leon to the bus stop where Olympic Village transporation picked us up.

It was a peak experience for me. Yes, I worked long hours but I loved every minute of it. I was still on a massage school high so I had lots of new techniques at my fingertips and I still had fresh hands and I was young and strong.

I set up my massage “room” – the Spa was the transformed locker rooms of the GA Tech Yellow Jackets – as a former UGA Bulldog, it was killing me! – I had a candle a small table and chair and, of course, my massage table. But everyday I brought in a backpack with my camera and a small sketchbook and pen. At the end of most of my massages, I asked the athletes to sign my book (almost all did and some gifted me with one of their special Olympic pins). If we had time, I’d also ask for a photo!

The massage sessions were amazing – I was working on world class athletes and often they would tell me about their journey to that moment in time. Everyone had an Olympic moment and some had several.

Working on that range of bodies was almost enlightening for me…I worked on short, tall, skinny, large, and every combination in between. I learned that even world class athletes can have cellulite. They were are in the best physical condition for their sport…their body perfectly suited to what they asked of it. Something else I learned, some of them lived with pain everyday…for years. They always had something that was sore or hurting or just a little nusiance but needed some attention. They all trained hard – there was no holding back for any of them. That was a huge commonality – that laser focus on where they wanted to be.

But they also had a good time. After their events they could really relax into the experience and enjoy their moment in history. So after long days of massage after massage, our group would link up with athletes we had met and take them out around Atlanta.

I have a lot of photos from that time – just need to scan them in (we didn’t use digital cameras then – we used real film).  Check back over the weekend, I’ll start scanning some in and post here.  🙂

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