Learning Russian this summer
The 2014 Winter Olympics are less than a year away and there is at least one valley resident that will be heading to Sochi, Russia to participate. Crested Butte’s Dr. Gloria Beim has been appointed as the chief medical officer for the U.S. team at the event that will take place next February.
For Beim, it is the pinnacle of her profession as a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon.
“I almost never dared to dream that it would go this far. Just going to the Olympics was a dream,” she said. “I’d have been happy to go there and carry someone’s bags. It’s something I always dreamt of but didn’t expect to happen. When I got the phone call, I wanted to cry and scream at the same time. It is such an honor.”
Beim has broad experience as a physician at major athletic events on the world stage. She was in London at the 2012 Olympic Games as the venue medical director and team physician for the United States. She was the chief medical officer for the 2012 BMX World Championships, the 2011 Pan-Am Games and the 2005 Summer World University Games. She was the team physician for the cycling and Taekwondo teams at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Beim has been invited to help at four Olympic Games but had to decline going to Beijing because she was giving birth to her son. This will be her first visit to a Winter Olympics.
“For someone in my field, it’s the pinnacle,” she explained. “I worked my whole life to go to the Olympics. Getting to this level is beyond a dream. I can’t really explain it. The excitement is overwhelming. Even to be a small part of the Olympics is awesome.”
Being in charge puts a special onus on her. She is already studying Russian and hopes to be fluent by the time she makes a site visit to Sochi in late September.
“I’ll be going with various team leaders for a week in the fall,” she said. “We will check out the three villages. There is the coastal village where events like hockey will be staged, the alpine village where most of the ski racing will take place, and the endurance village where cross country and ski jumping athletes will live. I’ll check out the local hospitals in the area. The advantage of that is that I’ll meet the local doctors, nurses and liaisons who will be there during the games. If we get to know them on a personal level, hospital visits will go much more smoothly.
“We will check out everything from the housing in the village, and transportation to the sport venues, the hospitals and emergency action plans,” she continued. “There are lots of details to figure out way before the games start. We want everything well oiled and ready to go before the athletes arrive.”
Even now, while working at her practice in Colorado, Beim is preparing for February. “The United States will have its own medical clinic in the Olympic Village so I am putting together equipment lists right now,” she said. “We bring our own pharmacy over there as well as sports performance equipment for recovery and rehab. It is a huge advantage for the U.S. athletes to have immediate care from our medical staff.”
Beim will lead a team of physicians, chiropractors, athletic trainers, massage therapists, physical therapists and nutritionists, totaling about 50 people. Having performed a similar role as chief medical officer at the Pan Am Games in 2011 and at the Summer World University Games in 2005 in Turkey, Beim is confident she is ready for the position.
“I love these types of events and the Olympics is the biggest one in the world. A great deal of my life has been training and studying to be a sports medicine doctor. The idea to help athletes and non-athletes is part of it. But to be able to help people at that level is over the top exciting for me.”
Not that her practice in Crested Butte, Gunnison and Telluride is boring. “Frankly, a lot of the people I treat in Crested Butte have a similar attitude and mind set as the Olympians,” she said. “One difference treating Olympians is that at that level, many of them might have trainers and personal doctors. But just like the people I treat in Crested Butte, they are incredibly motivated. They have overuse injuries and know their bodies. In Crested Butte, just about everyone I treat is motivated to get better, to do the therapy and take the steps necessary to return to their sport or activities. Olympians are not terribly unlike the people I’m used to treating here.”
Beim will head back for the Olympics in mid-January and likely stay for about a week after the closing ceremonies. Her family is planning to be there during the games for a three-week trip to Russia. “It will be a great experience for my kids, Skylar and Jakob,” she said. “I’m trying to teach them a little Russian now to prepare them. It will be a wonderful opportunity for them. They will be able to go to a lot of different events and will be close enough for me to grab hugs here and there.”
Overall, there isn’t much more of a dream trip for Beim. She is using her professional skills at the pinnacle of the world venue and she can share some of that with her family.
“I’ve been very fortunate to keep being asked to help at these events,” she summarized. “It is so much fun and so exciting for me. I’d do it as often as they asked. It’s pretty much as high as I can go with this position.”
Let’s see…the 2016 summer Olympic Games are in Rio de Janeiro.