Ask any athlete to describe an athletic training room, and visions of taping tables and cold pools are instantly conjured. But for BYU athletes, the training room was synonymous with one image – that of Ollie Julkunen’s smiling face. An athletic trainer at BYU for 25 years, Julkunen was best known for his quick humor and easy-going manner, helping hundreds of athletes recover from injury with an arsenal of knowledge and more than a little laughter.
A native of Finland, Julkunen came to BYU as a student in 1968, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1971. He joined the Cougar training staff in 1975 and quickly went to work, serving as a trainer for the football, track and field and wrestling teams. Throughout his tenure, Julkunen had the opportunity to train world-class athletes and was responsible for keeping them on track for championship performance.
Considered by many to be the best trainer in the world in regards to lower extremity injuries for runners, Julkunen’s wealth of knowledge and experience proved invaluable in helping athletes recover from injuries large and small. He was known for doing anything and everything possible to help his athletes achieve and maintain top physical performance. With his incredible insight and reassuring manner, Julkunen was a tremendous asset and friend. He had the opportunity to work with athletes such as former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, Super Bowl MVP Steve Young, world-class sprinters Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson, Dennis Mitchell and John Drummond, 13-time BYU All-American and Olympian Frank Fredericks and many others.
In addition to the time he spent working in the BYU training room, Julkunen was also asked by many of his athletes to accompany them in their professional pursuits. He served as a personal trainer to several athletes at the 1984 Olympic Games and helped prepare athletes for World Championships, Pan-American Games and Goodwill Games. His involvement with the Olympics continued in 1988 when he served as an athletic trainer for the United States before working as the head athletic trainer for Namibia at the 1992 and 1969 Olympic Games. Julkunen was also the head trainer for the USA Track & Field Team at the 1993 World Indoor Championships and several other events.
Julkunen’s passion for the sport did not end at the training room door. He worked diligently to improve his profession and share his expertise with others. He spent several years as a clinical instructor for the BYU Athletic Training program and was a prominent teacher and speaker in his native Finland. His passing in 2000 was felt not only by athletes and coaches at BYU, but also by champions nationwide and half a world away. His indelible image is forever imprinted not just on the BYU training room, but on the athletes he helped to the top.