Chicago Massage Spa Owner is Destined for Success:

Former Olympic Silver-Medalist Laima Baikauskaite has Thriving Massage Business in Lincoln Park Neighborhood

Laima Baiskauskaite, raised in a simple home in rural Soviet-occupied Lithuania, was aptly named after Laima, the Baltic goddess of destiny. Destined for success, not from birth, but rather true determination, she has built a thriving business here in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Laima is a powerful yet gentle person, driven to perfection, and full of enthusiasm for others. After living a very colorful life as a professional athlete, Laima chose to settle down in Chicago in 1996. In 2002, Laima opened the doors to The Bodywork & Massage Source, a friendly and relaxing place for massages, facials, and body scrubs. "It is not very fancy, but my dream came true," Laima says. Her place is soothing, yet minimal, a reflection of herself. Laima is continually connected to nature. The roots that she grew many years ago in her rural home place spill over throughout the interior of the Bodywork & Massage Source. She keeps many live plants, green and flourishing. Her products are all natural, and so is her sincerity. "Massage relaxes the nervous system and muscles," Laima says. "It is not just physical, massage relaxes your soul."

She knows this first-hand, and she attributes her success to a very special mentor that brought her through 15 tough years of training as a professional runner. "I became a massage therapist because I got the best massages in the world," Laima says, describing Zigmas Zivoitkauskas, a very renowned Lithuanian massage therapist hired by many Olympic athletes over the years. And Laima is one of them. Her career took off in 1974 when she became the fastest runner on record in the U.S.S.R. Soviet officials, however, continually denied her permission to compete internationally. There was always an excuse; she didn't have the right papers, or her passport was not validated in time. Still Laima persisted. She knew that running in the Olympics was her destiny. After ten years struggling to prove herself, Laima was disappointed when the U.S.S.R. failed to participate in the 1984 Olympics. Disheartened, she still did not give up on herself and her dream.

Four years later in Seoul, So. Korea at the age of 32, Laima won the silver medal in the women's 1500 meter race. It was an upset victory for the crowd, but not for Laima. The winner, Paula Ivan, was a Romanian runner well known as the best in the world. Laima's teammate, Tatyana Samolenko was another medal favorite. Paula shot ahead like a bullet when the gun sounded. The other racers, including Laima's teammate, followed suit. Laima stayed behind, knowing that she needed to preserve her energy. With 500 meters to go, Laima came to her senses. "What am I doing here?" She thought. Her whole life she worked for this one moment in time, now she found herself playing it safe and in the bottom three of her heat. "You have to be the best!" Laima told herself. It was her destiny. She lengthened her strides and gained momentum. With 200 meters left she was now in 6th place, and pushing hard. In the final seconds she outwitted her teammate by a hair when she fell into the finish line rather than taking that final step. This awarded her the silver medal.

Laima came home from Seoul to a revolution. After the fall of the Soviet Empire it became Laima's dream to represent Lithuania in Barcelona in 1992. But her dreams were crushed when a spinal disc injury made that impossible only one month before the games. Just prior to her injury Laima had spent some time in America training and competing. She was made an honorary citizen by the Governor of New Mexico after winning an 800 meter race and clocking a new record that still holds today. She applied for permission to visit the States in 1996 for the Atlanta games. To her surprise she was awarded a green card. "I believed it was my destiny to come here," Laima says. "America is a generous step-mother. She will not just spoil you by giving you things, but if you work hard, she will let you do anything you want to do. She will not hold you back from your dreams."

Laima has made many friends here in Chicago. She will tell you her stories about the Olympics if you ask, but it is not Laima's way to boast about her life. Instead clients will often find that she is much more focused on them. Many have searched about her on the internet when they hear about her accomplishments. Two of her clients, Angie & Ted Narons, were very moved when they learned that Laima did not have a video-tape of her Olympic race. They found and delivered one to Laima after a long search, and she is truly grateful. Laima's drive for perfection spills over into her business. She is well known for her hard work and dedication, and some of her special clients are well known to Chicagoans: Cubs right-fielder Jacque Jones and former catcher Michael Barrett are just two of her regulars. Laima works with Dr. Alden Clendenin of the Chicago Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center to keep athletes in top condition.

"Zigmas always put us back on our feet," Laima says softly, thinking about her days as an athlete. Life has come full-circle now for her. She now gives back the way her mentor did, with everything she has to offer. Come for a massage or facial and take your mind off your worries. Visiting Laima is like coming home to see an old friend. She will relax your muscles, ease your mind, and put you back on your feet again.

by Caryn Talty

October 7, 2007 – Chicago, USA