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The Team Behind the Team: Physiotherapist

Thu, Feb  11, 2010 - By Viktoria Franke

After the bulk of the winter is behind us you know the team. You know the Burke's, Teela's or Johnson's of the biathlon world. But their way to the Olympics 2010 was paved by other people as well. This series will introduce you to the "team behind the team". Those people, you seldom see on TV and never in the result lists. But their work is crucial for the success in Vancouver.

Today's feature: The Team-Physiotherapist Martin Biermaier

I remember it clearly not to say painfully: The day the World Cup season 2009/10 started, the day before Tim Burke started his podium-paved road towards the Olympics 2010 was a day I’d love to forget. I twisted my back while lifting up my suitcase at the airport and almost couldn’t move. Then, in Stockholm airport, I met Martin. Our team-physiotherapist Martin Biermaier. He’d offered me to take care of my back at the evening.

To be honest? Until then I did not know how important it is to have a physiotherapist in your team. But after being able to move again and not feeling any pain – I got it. And the athletes do as well with their muscles hurting and wrenching after hard races.

Martin Biermaier raced as a cross country skier before he started with biathlon in 1991. “That has been quite a good time but in the end I couldn’t continue with the sport after tibia problems”, Biermaier says about his sudden career-end in 1993.

Martin Biermaier US Biathlon team physiotherapist

Martin Biermaier US Biathlon team physiotherapist

After that he followed his interest and started an education as massage therapist. “My teacher at that time advised me to continue with the education and start as a physiotherapist” After finishing that education, Biermaier started working at a rehab center for four years before getting hired by a sport practice.

Thanks to that experience Biermaier opened his own practice in Bavarian Bad Abbach. In 2005/06 US Biathlon High Performance Director Bernd Eisenbichler, who knew Biermaier from back home, needed a physiotherapist for the Torino Olympic Winter Games – a job that was perfect for Biermaier and continues to be until today. “I love that sport, I always have. Since my days as competitor I think it is a fascinating sport. Right now I feel really comfortable in my job; I simply adore those people I am working with. It is a great environment!” 

Biermaier still runs his practice but in the winter time his colleagues mostly have to take over. “Without my people back home I couldn’t do it. I am traveling to five, six World Cups and the World Champs or OWG, so I can’t close the practice half the winter!” When he’s on tour with the team Biermaier often is the one working until the middle of the night: “If there are evening races you have to take your time to treat each athlete so it can be a very long workday. But nevertheless it’s an amazing job!” Before or during the competition Biermaier is helping out with ski testing or he supports the athletes during the immediate preparation for the race. “They need to concentrate on their race so it’s good to have someone around who’ll take care of small chores, motivate you or just be there for you.”

In his work, Biermaier is never done learning new things. He continues educating himself, always looking for new or better ways to treat his athletes. “Just as the athletes I want to know at the end of the day that I gave everything I could possibly give!”

Especially in the next weeks that attitude will be crucial. “I think we are looking forward to what will be the most amazing Winter Games ever. Not just because of the beautiful surroundings and a great organization but also because our team has the greatest shot ever to go for Gold. I will do everything I can to help them with it … but I am sure, our athletes are on top of their game anyway!”