Michelle Barnhart, owner and operator of Summit Orthopedic Sports Massage in Heber City recently found herself at the service of two world-class athletes by merely having her business in Wasatch.
Back in December, with the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships about to take place at Soldier Hollow, Barnhart was introduced to Caitlin Gregg, a former Olympic Nordic participant hoping to make the team again for this year’s games in Sochi.
Gregg was in town for several weeks and was in need of a massage therapist she could count on to keep her fit for the hard hours of training. It was an exciting opportunity for Barnhart, who, although having the experience and expertise to handle the job, had not yet performed her magic on such a top athlete.
There was a catch, however. Barnhart would have to do double-duty, since Gregg’s husband, Brian, was also in town to train in hopes of making the Olympic team. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding professional experiences of Barnhart’s career.
“It was really cool to get to know them while working with them,” stated Barnhart. “It’s not often you get the chance to work with such great, world famous athletes, but to have them praise your work on top of it was just really rewarding.”
Barnhart, a Michigan native, who made her way to Heber after earning her degree in New Mexico, works with all types of patients in need of orthopedic relief. “I have runners, like long-distance types, as clients,” added Barnhart. “I had a table set-up at Ragnar last year and it was just crazy. There was like six of us and that was not nearly enough for the line of people waiting to get treatment. It was kind of stressful, but a lot of fun.”
Sports massage therapy is not just for the athletic type. It has become increasingly useful for people who suffer from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is a condition that could stem from a lot of work on the computer. “I see a lot of that,” said Barnhart. “Its basically a tension, stress kind of thing that is really common these days. Treating things like that is as much as what I do as working on athletes. It’s really just a personal choice—finding someone you’re comfortable with.”
Obviously, the Greggs—or better known in the cross-country ski community as Team Gregg, were comfortable with the working hands of Barnhart. Caitlin, who outdistanced the field on the final day of competition at the U.S.C.C.C by four minutes, credited the massage therapist on her professionalism, talent and availability.
Barnhart was actually present the final day of competition for the Greggs, working on Brian, who took the Silver medal in his event, while his wife was taking Gold in hers. “It was pretty funny,” recalled Barnhart. “Brian is supposed to be relaxing for his cool-down treatment and he’s popping up to look every time Caitlin went by the starting line.”
Immediately following the event, the Greggs boarded a plane for the Czech Republic to finish their try-outs for the Olympics. Brian was selected a member of the men’s team, but Caitlin fell short of making the very competitive women’s team.
“I was bummed when I read that,” said Barnhart. “I really wanted to see them get the chance to compete together. But they are such awesome people… very supportive of each other. I’m just so happy I got the chance to get to know them.”