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From Cookstown to Rio... Dr Phil has big Olympic role

Ulsterman relishing looking after major stars as Chief Physio of Team GB

By Steven Beacom

Published 20/07/2016

Healing hands: Dr Phil Glasgow has a crucial role in the Team GB set-up at the Rio Olympics
Healing hands: Dr Phil Glasgow has a crucial role in the Team GB set-up at the Rio Olympics

As a sports mad boy growing up in Cookstown, Phil Glasgow dreamed of competing at the Olympics.

One of his childhood heroes was legendary decathlete Daley Thompson who won gold medals in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984.

Phil never got the chance to race around the track at the Games or play hockey, despite being good enough to feature at Ulster and Irish schools level in that sport.

He has represented Ireland (Beijing 2008) and Great Britain (London 2012) at the Olympics, however, and is currently in Rio, complete with Team GB uniform, preparing for the latest installment of the most watched multi-sports event on the planet, which begins next month.

Glasgow's area of expertise is sports medicine and out in Rio the affable 42-year-old will have an extremely important role as Team GB's Chief Physiotherapy Officer.

Already in Brazil, the Head of Sports Medicine at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland at Ulster University in Jordanstown is preparing the best set-up possible for the athletes from the different sports soon to descend on South America.

They could be virtual unknowns or huge stars like Jessica Ennis-Hill (below) or Andy Murray. Glasgow is determined to do his utmost for them all.

Overseeing every aspect of physiotherapy and offering support to all in a Team GB vest, Dr Phil will also hand out advice where it is required.

"To be Chief Physio for the British Olympic team is probably the top job in my sphere and I was delighted to get it," says the father of three.

"I had to go through a rigorous selection process and since being appointed last May a lot of preparation work has been going on. The Games will be the end product of that hard work.

"In my role I sit alongside the Chief Medical Officer, Niall Elliott, from the Scottish Institute, whose father is originally from Northern Ireland. We will work together to provide support across the whole GB team.

"Some sports are very self-sufficient with people they employ throughout the year and they will bring that support staff with them.

"Our role is to support them and create the optimum environment for team members to compete. The Olympic Games is different to anything else and anything can happen. We have to be prepared for that.

"I want to ensure that the physiotherapy service is the appropriate standard right across the board.

"We have liaised with the different sports and their team leaders to see what their needs are and have put together a plan from there.

"We will have some of the biggest names in sport in Team GB such as Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray (below) and so forth. Our job is to make sure that they and all the other athletes are able to perform to their best and have what they need to do that.

"My role on the ground will be a floating role whereby I go in and fix problems or provide consultation. I feel lucky to work in this rarified atmosphere of high performance, high pressure and high drama."

Glasgow believes that his work at the Sports Institute at Ulster University will help him in Rio.

"I head up the Sports Medicine services and interact with a range of sports day in day out and those skills are very transferable to what I'll be doing at the Olympics," says the Doctor who worked with the Northern Ireland squad at the last two Commonwealth Games.

"Knowing about performance and what it takes to win will help me in Rio. You can sit in a room and treat people but that is different to being trackside or pitchside when the pressure is on to make the right decisions."

Married to Heather, from Ballinderry outside Lisburn, Dr Phil has three children; Sam 8, Charlie 7 and Isabella 5. Over the next five weeks Skype and FaceTime will become a friend to the family.

"We are used to me being away with my work but this is the longest time. I'm out in Rio for nearly three weeks before the Games start," he states.

"That is not without its challenges but we will Skype and FaceTime as much as possible and when the Games begin the kids can watch on television and see where daddy is."

While Glasgow, who worked for Ulster Rugby between 2000 and 2004, has to remain on call there are certain events he would love to attend in Rio.

The 100m Olympic final, which he witnessed in Beijing and London, is an obvious one.

He adds: "Rio being Rio there are some events taking place at iconic venues.

"The rowing will be amazing because the Christ the Redeemer Statue will be behind where the teams are competing on the water and the Beach Volleyball is on Copacabana beach so that would be fun to see too. I think visually on television it will be striking."

Proud of his roots the former Cookstown High pupil, who went on to Jordanstown to complete his Physiotherapy degree before starting his working life at Whiteabbey Hospital, is delighted that two players from his hometown, David Ames and Ian Sloan, are in the GB hockey team and that fellow Cookstown men Aaron Hughes and Stuart Dallas played so well for Northern Ireland in Euro 2016.

His mum Jean still lives in the county Tyrone town. He recalls: "When I got the role, we went to see my mum and Heather asked her if I heard the news about the job. When Heather told her my mum said 'that's great... now what do you want for your dinner?' which put it in perspective. In my wee world of sport and the Olympics it is a big deal but I'm sensible enough to see what it is.

"I'm relishing the experience. Sport gives you emotions that nothing else can give you. It gives you the joy of victory and the pain of defeat and everything in between. I'm sure the Rio Olympics will be incredible."

Belfast Telegraph

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