James Parker has been in the medical tent at the Olympic Trials before, but this week as he heads there again, it will be in a different role.
The Layton resident and former hammer-throwing track and field Olympian will be working as a chiropractor for the competing athletes at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.
As one of 25 medical professionals chosen from hundreds of applicants across the country, Dr. Parker, D.C., is volunteering his skills and expertise this week to ensure that athletes are healthy and ready to go heading into competition.
"I'm excited to work with athletes and to try to help them just give the trials their best shot. This is the only time, especially for track and field athletes, to make the team," said Parker. "It's one shot, one deal, and if I can help them to better their performance or just stay healthy, that's going to be real exciting."
Parker has been practicing in Syracuse at Rawlin Chiropractic for about a year and said he was probably chosen to help at the Trials because of his previous experience as an athlete at the Olympics.
The Northridge High School graduate and nine-time All American at Utah State University, won the 2004 Olympic Trials and earned his spot on the team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he was 20th overall.
"Walking down the track when we went to compete was just a dream come true," he said of the Olympics.
He knows the difference that a chiropractor can make in an athlete's performance, crediting a chiropractor for keeping his college career and later Olympic bid in focus.
"I got back off my religious mission and was training again and hurt my back," he said. "I went through a slew of medical therapies and did physical therapy and never got any better. I begged the trainer to send me to a chiropractor, and I got better quickly and back to training. That was pretty significant because I'd been out four months. So that exposed me to chiropractics."
Parker, 36, served six years in the Air Force and then voluntarily separated when there was a reduction in force and headed to chiropractic school.
He said he feels privileged to be able to come full circle in the sport that has given him so much.
"The way I see it, as an athlete, you have to be very selfish, it's all about you. If it's not, you're not going to do the best you can," he said. "But as somebody who is treating the athletes, I'm helping them. Instead of being selfish, this is just the way I see it, I'm actually helping somebody achieve their dreams."
The Trials begin on Thursday with Parker's specialty, the hammer throw, and end on July 1 with the men's 200 meters.