August 1, 2008

Trainer set to get his kicks with U.S. taekwondo team

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Vanderbilt’s Jasper Richardson will serve as a U.S. taekwondo team trainer at the Olympics. (photo by Neil Brake)

Trainer set to get his kicks with U.S. taekwondo team

Jasper Richardson, a certified athletic trainer in the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute Fitness Center, never knows when he might get the call.

In 2002 it was for Malaysia. In 2003 the destination was the Dominican Republic and in 2004 it was Greece.

This summer it's off to Singapore and then on to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games to serve as a certified athletic trainer for the U.S. taekwondo team.

“Athens was my first Olympics, but I have been a member of the medical team for the Paralympic Powerlifting World Championships and Pan-American Games respectively,” said Richardson.

“I've been very lucky. It's a privilege to be asked and chosen for these events,” Richardson said. “Being able to go speaks volumes about the staff I work with now and in the past. I can't just get up and go if I didn't trust the staff to step up and take care of my patients. Having that level of trust will allow me to focus on my job while I am with the team.”

Richardson, 33, came to Vanderbilt in 2005. He was a clinical athletic trainer at the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine. While at Tulane he got his first taste of the Olympic Games.

“Being an athletic trainer for the games would have never crossed my mind when I was finishing school,” said Richardson.

“But I had the opportunity to complete a one-year fellowship with the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

“Even then, I thought it would be neat to be able to go to these events someday.”

Not only has Richardson been asked by the Olympic Committee to serve as a member of the official U.S. medical team staff, but individual teams have requested that he travel with them, like this year.

“Because I worked with taekwondo at the 2004 games and earlier this year, the team contacted me to attend the pre-game competition in Singapore and continue on with them to help in Beijing,” he said.

Although Richardson won't be on the mat serving as the primary medical provider, he is responsible for assisting the U.S. medical team staff as well as preparing the athletes for matches.

“There will be a lot of attention on this year's taekwondo team because of the Lopez family — two brothers and a sister,” said Richardson. “Actually, all four siblings will be present because the oldest brother is the coach.”