My sister Wendy Braybon’s career reached its peak at the London Olympics in 2012, when she was the first woman to head the Australian team’s sports physiotherapists. Wendy, who has died of cancer aged 65, had been a member of the Australian medical team at four previous Olympic Games: Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008. In 2013 she was appointed to the Australian Olympic Medical Commission.
Doctors, coaches and athletes recognised Wendy as an excellent clinician, determined to solve complex problems and achieving such positive outcomes that some referred to her as “the body whisperer”.
Wendy had worked as head physiotherapist with the Australian women’s gymnastic team from 2002 until 2017, seeing generations progress, compete and retire. She could be formidable, making sure that she got the best for her athletes; but she was tender and caring towards the youngest girls facing their first overseas tours and competitions.
Wendy was born in Brighton, East Sussex, daughter of Dick Braybon, a building contractor, and Barbara (nee Arnold). Our parents met during the second world war at an army sports event, and sport was an important part of life for Wendy, our brother, Dave, and me.
On leaving school, in 1971 Wendy joined the School of Remedial Gymnastics and Recreational Therapy at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and lived in a nearby mining village. The course included residential work leading exercise programmes with injured miners at Firbeck Hall, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation rehab centre near Rotherham. Wendy used a small black and white snapshot of the miners to explain her choice of career.
After graduating, Wendy moved to London. She converted her remedial gymnastic qualifications to become a physiotherapist at King’s College hospital and ran the outpatients’ gym. She developed a particular interest in manual therapy and was an early advocate for exercise in recovery. She began voluntary work in amateur sport with West Ham girls’ football team and, briefly, with the British luge team.
Wendy married Mike Ranger in 1977 and, with a view to his setting up an architectural practice with a friend in Melbourne, they left London in 1980 to travel to Australia, slowly, via the US. In Melbourne Wendy worked in private practice but her interest in sports physiotherapy was unwavering. In 1982 she was invited on tour with the Australian women’s softball team, and continued to work with them at national and international competitions until 2000. Wendy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. Her expletive when she heard the prognosis was typical of her indomitable spirit.She is survived by Mike, their sons, Tom and Charlie, and granddaughter, Florence, and by Dave and me.