Local doctor worked behind scenes at first Titan Games

Local doctor worked behind
scenes at first Titan Games

Dr. Ira Shapiro and Shane HammanDr. Ira Shapiro and Shane Hamman

It’s almost safe to say that where there are Olympic games or even athletes training for them these days, one may expect to find Dr. Ira Shapiro, the owner of Plaza Chiropractic Center on Englishtown Road, Old Bridge.

Less than a year after he finished supervising the chiropractic clinic at the Winter Olympics 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Shapiro, a resident of Manalapan, found himself in San Jose, Calif., helping numerous Olympic-bound athletes at the inaugural Titan Games.

The games, which took place in February and were recently broadcast on ESPN2, featured 184 athletes from 19 countries in boxing, fencing, judo, karate, tae kwon do, track and field, weightlifting and wrestling. It was the first step for many of the athletes on the road to the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece.

Shapiro, who volunteered for the job (travel, food and lodging expenses are paid by the organizers, as with the Olympic Games), was the only chiropractor selected to work at the Titan Games, and worked on a team with six other medical doctors.

The fierce competition and the non-stop action — events took place simultaneously in four "zones" set up in the same arena — resulted in injuries often related to over-use of athletes’ bodies, Shapiro said, explaining the kind of physical problems he would address as a chiropractor. There were also traumatic injuries such as fractures or dislocations.

Shapiro helped athletes such as wrestler Rulon Gardner, who won the 2000 Olympic gold medal, and Shane Hamman, a 2000 U.S. Olympic team member who is considered to be the strongest man in America. Hamman, in fact, closed the Titan Games with a memorable moment in which he reluctantly responded to chants of "500" by hoisting 500 pounds over his head. (He had planned on a 485-pound clean and jerk.)

Shapiro, a member of the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians who has worked with athletes on the local, national and international levels, said he would like to serve athletes during the 2004 Olympic Games, but he knows it is very difficult to achieve selection by the Olympic Committee.

"At this point, it is just an honor to be selected to do the Titan Games," he said. "I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had."