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Richmond physician assists with COVID-19 protocol at Tokyo Olympics

Published: Aug. 8, 2021 at 1:44 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As a practicing Physician, James Millers’ job has taken him to some faraway places, but few s far as Tokyo, Japan. For the past three weeks, he’s temporarily traded in his office at Family Practice Specialists of Richmond to practice sports medicine on the world stage in the 2021 Olympics.

“I mean how many people can sit on a pool deck like I am with the Olympic Rings over their shoulders?” James said.

Miller is a national team physician for USA swimming and one of ten doctors working to keep athletes safe during this pandemic. For over a decade Miller has been part of an international sports medicine committee known as Fédération Internationale de Natation or FINA. These doctors are tasked with overseeing all aquatic sports in major competitions like the Olympics.

“Diving, artistic swimming, open water swimming regular swimming, water polo the whole deal,” Miller said. “For any major competition, just one of us has to be there, except if it’s the Olympic games and the World Championships, then we all come together to run or organize those events.”

Miller says keeping athletes safe during events like the Olympics is always challenging, but this year has been even trickier due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It’s a little different because of course, we have COVID, so there are four of us on the FINA Sports Medicine Committee that has been designated as COVID Liaison Officers or CLO’s,” Miller said. “We’re overseeing the testing of everybody on a daily basis along with about 3000 other CLO’s that are present in the organizing committee within the Olympic Games and there are about 95,000 people that are being tested on a daily basis right now.”

Miller and his team share a component of the 95,000 people who are tested daily specifically those who are in aquatic sports. Part of their job includes providing tutorials for different swimming groups about how to complete and submit daily COVID tests. From there he says symptoms and results are reviewed of the individual. The final part of Miller’s job is producing for each country a document for the athlete or an official to get back into their country after leaving Tokyo.

Miller admits agreeing to do the job this time wasn’t easy and that due to the severity of the pandemic he and the other doctors were given the choice to opt-out of working during the Olympics.

“Each one of us had to wrestle with, what are we stepping into, should we be there, is it smart for us to be coming into Tokyo?” Miller said.

In the end, Miller says ensuring the health of the athletes going for the gold, is what he strives for.

“We’re here for the safety of our athletes, they are our primary charge and we’re in a unique position of working with them through all world events of being able to keep them safe,” Miller said. “So far at least from an aquatics standpoint, we’ve been doing a pretty good job.

Because swimming events are one of the few Olympic sports that last through the entirety of the Olympic Games, Miller has been in Tokyo since before the games began. Miller says he will be on a flight back home by Monday.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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