Ryan Chartrand

You won’t see him flying around campus in a red cape, but those who know Mihail “Mike” Dincu still call him “Super Mike.” The Romanian masseur has traveled far throughout his career, working with some of sports’ biggest names, and is now using his magic hands and big heart to help Cal Poly athletes.

Since arriving in North America almost 30 years ago, Dincu has worked with many elite athletes including the 1984 Canadian and 1988 United States Olympic track and field teams and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks. He also served as Canadian Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson’s personal athletic therapist, and more recently, personal therapist to former UFC light heavyweight champion and Cal Poly alumnus Chuck Liddell.

“I’ve been blessed with good eyes and strong hands,” Dincu says. “I understand sports and athletes. People feel that.”

As of 2006, Dincu dedicated himself to alleviating the stressed muscles of Cal Poly sprinters, wrestlers and soccer players. The secret lies not only in his therapeutic hands, but also his witty and charismatic personality. Dincu not only soothes athletes’ aches and pains physically, but offers some mental comic relief of his own.

“Mike’s a fantastic character. He’s always smiling and has a good joke to tell,” said Cal Poly men’s soccer head coach Paul Holocher. “We love having him around and feeling his sense of humor. He’s a very special person.”

Cal Poly head wrestling coach John Azevedo shares Holocher’s opinion of Dincu.

“Mike is awesome, and not only for therapeutic reasons,” Azevedo said. “When he works with athletes he’s building them up, physically and mentally. We’d do anything for him.”

Dincu entered the world of sports early as a professional soccer player in Romania, and later as a graduate sports therapist from the University of Bucharest.

At age 28, while serving as trainer for the Star Bucharest soccer team during the 1977 European Cup in Barcelona, Dincu defected to Spain, leaving behind what he felt was an oppressive social and political climate in Romania, which he retrospectively calls an “army state.”

“I’m a guy who doesn’t need a speech to get motivated or get things done,” Dincu said. “There’s no substitute for hard work. I believe given a chance anyone can succeed as long as they do their best.”

Not satisfied with the prospects Spain had to offer, Dincu came to Canada in 1979, and then to America. Arriving with virtually no money, no contacts and unable to speak English, the stocky, powerfully built Romanian relied on his hands to speak a language all their own.

“I had strong hands. My massage was my passport,” Dincu says. “America is truly the land of opportunity. You can really become the best at what you do through hard work.”

A registered massage therapist and certified athletic therapist in the United States and Canada, Dincu earned his master’s degree of sports science in sports medicine from the United States Sports Academy after acquiring a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from the University of Nevada.

According to Dincu, the body’s muscle tissues shorten when they are worked. By elongating the tissue fibers after a workout, he is able to create a condition for the body to recover more quickly and efficiently.

But Dincu, who is fluent in six languages, is also big on communication with his athletes.

“Athletes don’t care how much you know; they care about how much you care,” Dincu says. “Talking to the athletes is important. They are their own best doctors.”

In November, Dincu’s talents caught the attention of Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell when Liddell came to campus and noticed him working with athletes. The very next day Dincu was hired by Liddell to start working with him on a daily basis up until his fight in December.

“If the sport is taken seriously, then there is a place for massage,” Dincu says. “Helping the body recover is just as important as the workout.”

How did “Super Mike” get his nickname? Apparently during the 1984 Olympics, Dincu worked tirelessly to relieve Canada’s track and field team. Astonishing people with his level of energy and expertise, athletes started referring to him as “The Machine” and “Super Mike.” The latter moniker stuck and remains to this day, just as applicable now as it was back then.

“Mike’s very caring and always willing to help,” said junior Cal Poly wrestler Chase Pami. “Whether it’s with an injury or a sore muscle, he goes above and beyond what you need. That’s just who he is.”

Even now at 58, Dincu maintains a passion for sports and athletes. These days his favorite sport is wrestling.

“In a past life I was a wrestler,” he says. “Wrestling was one of the first Olympic sports, and I’m very impressed with its athletes. I love how a wrestler can keep going even after they’ve reached a point when you think they can’t go any further.”

After living in so many places, Dincu admires San Luis Obispo’s attractive scenery, mild climate and strong sense of community.

“San Luis Obispo is like a forgotten place,” he says. “It’s the diamond in the crown of California. I congratulate the city hall on a job well done.”

Ask anyone who has experienced the rehabilitation of Dincu’s massages, and they’ll tell you it’s a much-needed part of their workout.

“He’s an excellent masseur. He’s careful and aware of what he’s doing,” says Trevor Dardik, a sprinter and Cal Poly graduate. “I look forward to my time with him after training.”

It would appear the feeling is mutual and that the selfless Dincu benefits from his therapy as much as his athletes.

“Helping others is my passion,” Dincu says. “My biggest need is to be needed.”

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