Shen athletic trainer helps Olympic hopefuls go for gold

Posted at: 11/13/2013 10:05 PM
Updated at: 11/14/2013 9:41 AM
By: Jessica Layton

When the bell rings at the end of the school day, the training room at Shenendehowa High School gets slammed. And an already in demand guy becomes even more popular. Rick Knizek enjoys being wrapped up in his work as the head trainer at Shen.

"It's nice to be able to come back to where you grew up and give a little something back," said Knizek.

The students love him. But they're learning to share him. Knizek spends a lot of time with the US Bobsled and Skeleton Teams at their training facility Lake Placid. And right now, he's traveling with those Olympic hopefuls to Russia as they get acquainted with the brand new track at the Olympic Facility in Sochi for an international week of training.

It's the only time they can really get a feel for the track before they try to glide for gold in February.

"A big part of the sport is being familiar with all the turns and everything associated with the track."

The athletes will be racing like it's the real deal. Anything can happen, including injury. It's Knizek's job to make sure the bobsled and skeleton athletes are eating well, getting rest and taking care of their bodies.

"They're pushing a 1,000 pound  pound sled and sprinting on ice all at the same time, so it's a lot of shoulder, upper back, lower back, that just gets really stressed," he said. 

There's also concern about traumatic injuries like concussions. And the fear of facial injuries.

"Skeleton is one of the these sports where you run the risk of jaw fracture because the chin and face is inches off the ice."

And this time of year there are worries of cold and flu.

"We'll have antibiotics, over the counter stuff, anything you could possibly think of with us. It's a big deal."

A very big deal for the athletes who are training. And a big deal for Knizek, who feels lucky to have landed this opportunity.

But after what he calls a once in a lifetime kind of experience in a foreign place, he knows it'll feel good to be home, where he got his start, with his Plainsmen again.

"I try not to treat them any different than I would the Olympians when I work with them. They're all stars in their own right," Knizek said.

Knizek will return to the Capital Region November 20th. We're looking forward to catching up with about his trip him after he gets a few days of rest.