Going for the Gold

Three women holding medals on podium at the Olympics

Nurse and family pack in a hurry after daughter lands Olympic roster spot

When Valerie Thrasher encouraged her daughter Ginny to compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trails for Smallbore rifle shooting in April, she thought it would be good experience and prepare her for a shot at the 2020 Olympic team. Instead, Ginny outshot the field, placed first and made the U.S. team for the Rio Olympics, where she won Olympic gold on Aug. 6 in the Women’s 10-meter air rifle event, setting an Olympic record along the way.

“We were looking at 2020 and thinking about a nice family vacation in Japan,” says Thrasher, who is the night shift nursing supervisor at StoneSprings Hospital Center in Dulles, VA. “We told her to go as far as she could, but there were 16 people going after only one slot, and there was a world national champion and two former Olympians competing. She outshot them all, proving you never know what’s going to happen on any given day.”

Ginny’s performance shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Growing up with two older brothers, she was a hunting companion to them, her father and her grandfather. Her father was in the U.S. Air Force and so the family moved a lot, and when they relocated to Virginia, Ginny’s new school had an air rifle team. She tried out, loved the sport and has been shooting ever since. She is the 2016 NCAA Smallbore and Air Rifle National Champion and a member of the West Virginia University rifle team, and at 19 was one of the youngest members of the entire U.S. Olympic team.

After the trials, she made a couple of visits to Germany for training while her mother began the business of planning a last-minute overseas trip.

“We all went, so it was passports for everyone and a lot of other preparation work,” Thrasher says. “She shot in two events and we had tickets to them both. They weren’t back to back, so we got in some sightseeing as well.”

Still, she was a mother with a child on the world’s stage, so there was some anxiety as she prepared for the games.

“The trials were nerve-wracking, so I couldn’t even imagine what this would be like,” Thrasher says. “But she’s always so calm, so I tried to be, too.” Mother with daughter holding Olympic gold medal

Champion rower’s near-miss for Rio only fuels family’s determination for 2020

A broken ankle led Benjamin Davison to a rowing machine not long after he and his family relocated to the United States from England, and the oars have seldom left his hands since.

Davison’s many honors and championships include high finishes and wins at rowing competitions in the United States and abroad, including winning the single sculls at the 2015 Under 23 World Championship Trials, as well as the quadruple sculls at the 2013 Junior World Championship Trials. The 20-year-old won’t be headed to Rio, however, as his team finished a heartbreaking two-tenths of a second short of the time needed to qualify.

He will, however, be competing in Rotterdam for a World Championship, and wherever he rows, he’ll be cheered on by his mother Sarah, a cardiac-cath lab nurse at Citrus Memorial Hospital, and brother Joe, a paramedic at the facility. The two, along with his father Terry, who also has served as his coach in the past, make up a three-person cheering section since the family immigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago.Male Olympic rowing team

“He was around 10 when we came here and while his brother rowed, he’d been more of a soccer player,” Sarah Davison says. “He’d always rowed some, but when he broke his ankle and did it more consistently, he realized he was very good at it and soon was winning state and national championships.”

Davison eventually found himself at the Seattle Rowing Club, and then began studies at the University of Washington. He continued to rack up medals in the run-up to this year’s Olympic trials in Lucerne, Switzerland, which his mother says were referred to as the “regatta of death.”

“A lot of boats had got through, so there were just two places left,” she explains. “He and his team were just that little bit short, but he’ll knuckle down and since he’s qualified as a representative for the Under 23 world championships in Rotterdam, he’ll be heading to that, as well as some other competitions, and then going back to finish out his biology degree and then train toward the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.”

The globetrotting rower will have his family in the bleacher seats, she adds, no matter where he goes.

“We do go to as many of the competitions as we can,” she says. “We enjoy the traveling, and I want to see him race as often as I can.”

Hammer time: Florida surgeon made headlines during the 1984 Olympics

There is more than one way to achieve fame at the Olympic games. Some make their way into the record books for an outstanding performance, while others achieve notoriety for slips, falls and other mishaps. Dr. Declan Hegarty left the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles having achieved both.

Dr. Hegarty is a general surgeon at Inverness Surgical Associates in Inverness, Fla. He competed in the hammer throw for his native Ireland in the 1984 games, and points out that although his Olympic run ended early, he made his mark.

Man competing in hammer throw at the Olympics“When you’ve made it to a contest with the best people in the world, you’re not too bad at all,” he says. “But I kept hitting the safety cage; I even knocked it over a couple of times. That created quite the media storm — I became famous as the ‘cage wrecker from Ireland,’ and to read things you’d think I was destroying the stadium. There were even cartoons making fun of the Irish hammer thrower wrecking the Olympic Village. It was pretty funny, actually.”

The coverage overshadowed his serious skills with the hammer. True, he did destroy the safety cage that stands behind the throwers, but one of his throws — 70.56 meters — still stands as the record distance for an Irish hammer thrower at the Olympics. That throw was six meters off his personal best, and reflected the 23-year-old’s skill. He’d also set the Irish hammer-throwing record in 1983 and 1984, and would do so again with a 77.80-meter throw in 1985, which still stands today.

He eventually retired ranked 23rd in the world. After finishing his physical-education degree at Boston University he returned to Ireland to study at the Royal College of Surgeons, National University of Ireland, School of Medicine. He followed that with a residency at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Lahey Clinic.

And even though he didn’t make it to the medals podium, Dr. Hegarty’s Olympic memories are good ones.

“Los Angeles did an awesome job,” he says. “There had been problems at the previous few summer Olympics, and so they’d gotten a speckled history. Everything went well in Los Angeles, and we all had a good time.”

Missouri medical team keeps volleyball teams in top shape as they head to Rio 

Sports-medicine physicians and trainers strive to keep all athletes in top shape, regardless of skill level. When those athletes are headed to the summer Olympics in Rio, however, there’s an amped-up level of care.

Happily, both the men’s and women’s USA Volleyball National Team were in great hands, thanks to the hard work of Dr. David Dyck and Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill, who is also a USA Boxing physician. The two are with Midwest Sports Medicine and Midwest Occupational Medicine in Independence, Mo., and both are affiliated with Centerpoint Medical Center.

Although he wasn’t in Rio cheering the teams on, Dr. Dyck says that it’s been quite an adventure caring for these high-level athletes as they compete at the national and international level.

“There’s a cadre of doctors, and Dr. O’Neill travels with the women’s team while I travel with the men’s team,” Dr. Dyck explains. “She recently went to Thailand with the women, and I traveled to Brazil with the men’s national team, and I also travel with the High Performance team, which is the youth team that feeds players into the national team over time. I also head up the program for the physicians who handle the coverage for the High Performance team.”

Dr. Dyck has been working with the teams for more than 10 years, and says while he missed the excitement of Rio, he will hear all about it through his frequent interactions with the players.

“We work with them throughout the year to keep them healthy, and so there’ll be lots to talk about when we start working with them on the next round of competitions,” he says. “They all live in California during the USA competitions and then are all over the world in professional leagues the rest of the year, so they are a well-traveled group. I get involved during the run-up to the really big events, and so we catch up pretty often.”

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

Recent articles