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Mormon athletic trainer Dustin Williams fulfills an Olympic dream

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Dustin Williams received the good news in the spring.

After years of volunteering his talents and skills, the U.S. Olympic Committee named the native of Arco, Idaho, as head athletic trainer for the U.S. track and field team for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"You just can't explain it, it's like nothing else," Williams said of going to the Olympics. "It's going to be great to be a part of that atmosphere."

The opportunity, a dream come true for Williams, was years in the making. In addition to earning college degrees and gaining the experience to make a living as an athletic trainer, Williams also volunteered as a trainer at various sporting events for more than a decade. In the process of being a trainer, he met the athlete who became his wife. The returned missionary also believes his reputation as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a factor in being chosen to oversee the care of America's top track and field athletes.

"Part of it is how we conduct ourselves. It helps people trust us," Williams said. "They know I have high morals and good ethics. They know I am an honest and trustworthy person. If I tell them how to take care of their injuries, there is a level of trust there because of how I conduct myself."

After serving a Mormon mission to England from 1997-1999, Williams' path to Olympic athletic training started as a student at Ricks College (now Brigham Young University-Idaho). After earning an associate degree, Williams continued his education at Utah State University, where he obtained his bachelor's (2003) and master's degrees (2005).

While working on his graduate degree in 2004, Williams first volunteered with U.S. track and field at the Olympic trials in Sacramento, California.

After completing his master's at USU, Williams received a year-long fellowship for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Olympic training center at Lake Placid, New York. During that time he worked mostly with winter sports such as the bobsled and skeleton athletes. That experience opened more doors for Williams, he said.

"That's how I got my foot in the door with the U.S. Olympic Committee," said Williams, who attended the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. "After that I got hired full-time at BYU, but continued to be involved with various Olympic sports over the next few years."

It was during his five years at Brigham Young University that Williams met and married his wife, Jillian Camarena, who would go on to compete in the 2012 London Olympics in the shot put event.

The two met at the 2008 Olympic trials when Williams treated Camarena for some injuries. A former USU coach Williams knew was then coaching Camarena and helped make an introduction. They found they shared a passion for track and field as Williams also has a hobby of long-distance running.

They began dating a short time later when Camarena moved back to Provo to finish her master's degree. The couple was married shortly after the 2009 world championships in Berlin.

"It's funny how certain things bring people together," Williams said. "That's how track and field has been for us, it brought us together."

Williams was hired as an associate athletic trainer at the University of Arizona in 2011. That same year the couple traveled to South Korea for the track and field world championships.

In 2012, Jill threw the shot put for Team USA while Dustin was on the medical staff. Being together on that occasion has become a special memory for the young family, Williams said.

"For us to be able to walk together as husband and wife in front of thousands and millions more watching on television, to represent our country in the closing ceremonies, is something we are proud to tell our kids about," Williams said.

Camarena-Williams finished fifth at the USATF Olympic trials a few weeks ago in Eugene, Oregon, and didn't make the Olympic team this year. She will remain home with the couple's 2-year-old daughter.

But she was the first to notice a press release from the U.S. Olympic Committee naming her husband as the head athletic trainer for Team USA's track and field squad, Williams said.

"I knew I was nominated but didn't know it had been approved by the USOC," Williams said. "I was honored and excited for the opportunity to represent my country and the challenge to lead the medical staff."

Williams filled a leadership role with USA track and field in 2013 and credits mentor Jack Ransone, the head athletic trainer for USA track and field at the London Games, for preparing him for this opportunity, he said.

As head athletic trainer, Williams will oversee the medical treatment for 130 American athletes. Most of his time will be spent coordinating schedules and services provided by medical practitioners, chiropractors, sports psychologists, nutritionists and team physicians, he said.

While Williams is thrilled to work with Team USA's track and field athletes behind-the-scenes, he is also proud to be an example of Latter-day Saint values, especially the health code known as the Word of Wisdom, he said.

"Because of my faith and the decisions I've made in my life, I feel like I have been in a mentoring role, especially to the younger athletes. I try to let my actions speak louder than words," Williams said. "If you avoid putting bad things in your body, your body will perform at a high level. I tell them you can still have fun, but sometimes it's a challenge for them."

Outside of his athletic training duties, Williams has delighted in interacting with LDS Church members in the different countries where he's traveled. While time is limited, Williams does his best to attend local church meetings on Sundays, he said.

Although he'll miss having his wife nearby this time, Williams knows the Olympic experience in Rio de Janeiro will be memorable. Expenses are paid, but the head athletic trainer is an unpaid, volunteer position. Williams is most looking forward to serving the athletes in the Olympic village.

"To have that many talented athletes in one area is unbelievable," Williams said. "They have all worked so hard to accomplish their goals. They all have different stories and backgrounds, but all share the goal of representing their country and winning an Olympic medal. Just to be a small piece of that puzzle, helping the individual athletes in that aspect, is very rewarding."

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