Former York therapists make their mark in Rio

In Rio Seb

Several graduates from York University's athletic therapy program spent the last two weeks representing their country with various teams at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

See below to read about their experiences at one of the world's largest sporting events!


Seb Hartell completed his athletic therapy certificate at York in 2011 after studying sport and physical education at Laurentian University. While with the Lions he worked with the men's volleyball team and the men's hockey team, as well as the Toronto Argonauts during their 2010 training camp. Prior to beginning his role with the Canadian men's volleyball team, he was in Vancouver serving as the sports safety coordinator and then manager of sports safety and event services at SportMedBC.

What has the experience in Rio been like?
The games are massive! I have worked Ontario Winter Games, Canada Summer Games as well as the Pan Am Games but nothing compares to the Olympics. The shear number of athletes and countries participating in these games is incredible.

Compared to other big volleyball competitions, the Olympic Games have many more distractions than usual, so there is definitely an adjustment period. Within the first few days we had Team Outfitting where you receive your official Canada Olympics gear, a Canadian flag raising ceremony and the opening ceremonies. You are also among celebrity athletes and could find yourself eating lunch next to an NBA pro or one of the best tennis players in the world. As a big sports fan, I found it very exciting to get to meet, talk to and have access to athletes I follow religiously. Each event was great but it can definitely take your attention away from your performance goals so you need to create a balance fairly quickly.

What is the most exciting moment you have experienced?
Marching into Maracana Stadium with the Canadian Olympic delegation was a dream come true for me, as I have been watching Olympic opening ceremonies my whole life. The atmosphere was incredible and I could never have imagined the goosebumps I would feel as they called our country.

As amazing as that was, beating 5th rank USA in our opening match was the most exciting. The support from friends and family back home who finally had a chance to watch is something I will never forget nor take for granted.

How does it feel to represent your country on the world stage?
It is a huge honor for me. I realize and appreciate that this is a rare opportunity that not many people get to do.

Anything else you want to share?
I want to thank the faculty and my classmates from the athletic therapy certificate. They gave me guidance and knowledge that helped get me to Rio. A big thanks to Michael Boni, Frances Flint, Tracy Meloche, Cindy Hughes, Andrea Prieur and Gus Kandilas.

Andrea Prieur graduated from the University of Ottawa with a bachelor of science degree in human kinetics and went on to specialize in athletic therapy at York University. She has participated in many major games as a member of the Canadian Health Services Team including the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 1999, 2003 and 2015 Pan American Games. She currently travels as team therapist for the Canadian diving team.

What has the experience in Rio been like?
Rio has been a gracious host and the people have been nothing but helpful. Having been to London Olympics; I did not have the exact same expectations but our accommodations and the venues are fabulous.

What is the most exciting moment you have experienced?
So far – it is every game that I have been involved in.  Beach volleyball is a huge sport in Brazil and stepping into a full house at the venue on Copacabana beach where there are 12,000 cheering fans is something to see and be a part of.

How does it feel to represent your country on the world stage?
I am very fortunate to represent the world of athletic therapy at my second Olympics. We work hard, volunteer tons and make it a priority to represent Canada! We want to make sure that all athletes are well taken care of at an international stage.

Danielle Dobney graduated from York in 2006 and is an athletic therapist with the Canadian women's basketball team. She previously worked with the junior team in 2014 and moved up to the senior team for the Olympic Games.

What has the experience in Rio been like?
This is my first major games so it has been eye opening. It was overwhelming at first - so many people, the village is enormous and everything is on such a grand scale! Walking through the village you see athletes from every sport, race walking through the village, rugby players on the tennis court playing "rugby volleyball", cyclists on their road bikes, boxers sparring, and athletes/staff from different sports getting to know each other. It is surreal to be here!

What is the most exciting moment you have experienced?
It's been exciting to share this experience with the people in my life - they are a big part of my journey. Telling your friends and family you are going to the Olympics is so fun! I've had some pretty great reactions! Also, my best friend and colleague Helen Holubec is here too. When her team qualified and I knew we would both be at the Olympics it was very exciting.

How does it feel to represent your country on the world stage?
It's an incredible honour. It makes you think a lot about the different experiences and moments that have led to this moment. I am so thankful to the teachers, professors, and therapists who have guided me along the way.