On his way to Tokyo to compete in the Olympic Games, Ronnie Baker spoke with MASSAGE Magazine about the role massage therapy plays in his athletic accomplishments
When the track-and-field events begin in Tokyo, Japan, at the XXXII Olympic Games, Ronnie Baker, 27, will be competing for Team USA in the men’s 100-meter race.
At the last competition before Tokyo, the Diamond League event held July 9 in Monaco, Baker claimed first place in the 100-meter race with a time of 9.91 seconds. (Watch that race here.) In high school, Baker was twice named the Gatorade Kentucky Track and Field Athlete of the Year. He ran collegiately at Texas Christian University, winning the national championship in the 60-meter dash twice, and becoming a 12-time All-American.
Now on his way to the Olympic Games, Baker believes he has a chance of earning the title “world’s fastest man.”
And what is one important part of his success? Massage therapy.
“I think that if you’re going to be an elite athlete, especially competing at a level that I am—on world stages, big meets, such as the Diamond League and stuff all around the country, massage is definitely a vital part of what I do and who I am,” said Baker, “It just allows me to perform at the highest level.”
Along with such benefits as relief from pain, enhanced flexibility, injury recovery and increased range of motion, Baker said he appreciates how massage calms his central nervous system.
“As a sprinter, as a high-level athlete, it’s like 24-7 go, go, go,” he said. It’s good, you know, when you have those massages and you’re completely relaxed. I usually get really good sleep during that time, which I think helps my central nervous system to calm, to reboot and everything, and it feels great.”
In Tokyo, Baker hopes to receive massage from sports massage therapist Benny Vaughn, LMT, BCTMB, ATC, LAT, CSCS, MTI, who will be at the Olympic Games as part of the U.S. medical team. Vaughn was instrumental in getting massage therapy accepted as a regular part of medical care at the Olympic Games, back in 1996 in Atlanta. [Follow Benny Vaughn at the Tokyo Olympic Games via photos and videos on his Instagram channel.]
Baker completed an internship at Benny Vaughn Athletic Therapy Center when Baker was earning his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.
“Benny definitely knows what he’s doing,” said Baker. “I’m sure I’ll be, you know, using him and talking to him a lot more about my body and what needs to be tuned up in order for me to run the best at the Olympics.” (Watch this NBC Dallas-Fort Worth news report on Vaughn’s role at the 2021 Olympics.)
Baker also praised the massage he received from one of Vaughn’s staff therapists, Cassandra De Anda, ATC, LMT.
“I’ve worked with her in 2018, a fabulous massage therapist, pretty much my whole 2018 season—which is one of my best seasons I’ve ever had,” Baker said, adding that he doesn’t think he would be ranked top-five in the world and going to the Olympics if he didn’t have massage incorporated into his weekly, sometimes daily, routine.
“I don’t know where I would be without regular massage therapy,” said Baker. “If I didn’t have massage therapy, I don’t think that I would be the kind of athlete that I am today.”
About the Author:
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE MAgazine’s editor-in-chief, print and digital. Her recent articles include “Improve Your Sleep by Syncing Up with Circadian Rhythm” and “The Massage Magazine Interview: Benny Vaughn.”