With the AUS wheelchair basketball team, 2004.

With the AUS wheelchair basketball team, 2004.

October 2002. I receive an e-mail from David Martin, Senior Physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport: “We are advertising a two-year Senior Physiologist position at the AIS. Would you be remotely interested?”

My answer: “I could be interested. Please, tell me more about it.”

That night I went to see a film (looking at the dates, it could have been Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist”, Cédric Klapisch’s “L’Auberge Espagnole” or Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Le Fils”), and when I got home I had a message from David in my answering machine, telling me about the position, the Department of Physiology, the colleagues I would be working with, the projects leading up to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, etc. I was being offered a dream job in the world’s best “medal factory”, the opportunity to work side by side with some of the world’s best sport scientists and athletes in preparation for the Olympic Games, and I was going to get paid for it. Who could have resisted?

On December 30, 2002 I left the Basque Country for Australia for two years. I arrived in Canberra in the morning of January 1st, 2003. I dropped my bags at the residencies of the AIS and headed to Canberra Civic Center. It was hot and deserted, and I was severly jet lagged. With not much else to do, I went to see Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” at Electric Shadows, the cinema that would become my second home for the following two years. When I was heading back to the AIS after the film, I remember thinking “What am I doing here?”. It was the first and only moment of doubt. I went to the office in the department of physiology the very next day, and I immediately realized I had made the right decision.

The next 24 months were pure fun: I was the physiologist in charge of servicing football, water polo and tennis, but had the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues in charge of swimming, athletics, cycling, basketball, triathlon, rowing, etc. And who were my colleagues? Allan Hahn, David Pyne, David Martin, Tony Rice, Hamilton Lee, Shona Halson, Sally Clark, Louise Burke, Greg Cox… A real dream team, the best among the best! The Ph.D. students working in the department included now successfull and well known sport physiologists Philo Saunders, Gary Slater, Marc Quod, Megan Anderson, Tammie Ebert, Scott Gardner, Grant Duthie, Eric Drinkwater…

I worked hard, like everyone else in the SSSM (Sports Science Sports Medicine) building, but it was great fun. We designed testing and research protocols for water polo, tennis, rowing, cycling and other sports; introduced the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test in various team sports; designed cooling garments and recovery strategies for the expected heat of Athens 2004; attended training camps all over Australia; tested elite rowers during the Australian National Championships in Tasmania, tennis players in hard and clay court tournaments, swimmers, triathletes, football, basketball and volleyball players, etc. To add to the fun, I was involved as a voluteer in many of the studies we carried out; I became team selector for Triathlon Australia alongside Jackie Gallagher (now Fairwheather) and Bill Davoren for World Championships 2003 and Athens 2004; I was a physiologist for the Australian Paralympic team in Athens 2004, attending camps with athletics, swimming, cycling and wheelchair basketball in Australia and Europe, and servicing the teams in the paralympic village. What an experience that was! Last but certainly not least, during my two-year stay in Australia, I realized that I was born to surf!

I flew out of Canberra to return home on December 24, 2004 (using all the charm I was capable of to convince Qantas airport staff to allow me to check in 76 kg of luggage and a surfboard all the way to Bilbao for free… I succeeded!). I deeply cherish the time I spent working at the AIS, and I am fortunate to have continued my friendship and collaboration with many of the people I have mentioned in the lines above.

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  1. Aupa Inigo!

    Great blog post – it reminded me of the time I have spent working at the AIS with those exact thoughts on how great my time there was. Great place to work but most of all great people to work with! You must be up for a visit to Canberra soon!

    Catch you,


    January 24, 2013
  2. Eskerrik asko Naroa! 2007ko azaroan izan nintzen Canberran azken aldiz, eta zu eta David ezkondu zintuztedanetik ez ditut hango lankide gehienak ikusi… Bai, bada garaia handik bueltatxo bat emateko!

    January 25, 2013
  3. Oui-M

    I like the story, it makes me dream… You’r very lucky

    January 25, 2013
  4. Clare Wood

    Thanks Inigo, for refreshing my memory, of my time also in Canberra over the same period. It was a great place to be and work, and the people were fabulous and inspiring to be around. One of my favourite things were the research meetings for brainstorming ideas, where you could see the amazing minds at work within the institute!
    Nice one,

    January 26, 2013
  5. Thank you Clare, I am glad you liked it, especially because you were part of the whole thing too.

    January 26, 2013