31-year-old Olympic gold medallist shares brutal Covid-19 experience
"I have been struggling."
We have already seeing the Coronavirus pandemic have far-reaching and disastrous effects, over the past few weeks and months, and many of the world's top sports stars are not immune. Cameron van der Burgh is the latest sports personality - following the likes of Paulo Dybala, Rory Lawson, Mike Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi - to confirm they have tested positive for the Covid-19 disease.
While the mortality rates for Covid-19 sufferers have been exponentially high among those aged over 70, it does not mean that people younger than that are immune.
Governments the world over are stressing to the public that physical distancing and staying at home remain two of the best ways to battle the virus outbreak, yet it may only be when healthy athletes are infected that many individuals sit up and pay attention.
Van der Burgh, who won Olympic gold for swimming (100-metre breast-stroke) in 2012 and silver in 2016, says he has been battling the virus for the past fortnight and it is 'the worst I have ever endured'. The South African is 31 years old and retired from competitive swimmer in December 2018 but still remains active in various sporting pursuits.
Van der Burgh opted to share his experience via social media in order to give his followers a better understanding of how severe the virus can be, even with someone in good physical condition. He wrote:
'I have been struggling with Covid-19 for 14 days today. By far the worst virus I have ever endured despite being a healthy individual with strong lungs (no smoking/sporty), living a healthy lifestyle and being young (least at risk demographic).
'Although the most severe symptoms (extreme fever) have eased, I am still struggling with serious fatigue and a residual cough that I can’t shake. Any physical activity like walking leaves me exhausted for hours.'
The six-time world champion also used the opportunity to explain how athletes and Olympic hopefuls could be floored if they continue to train themselves hard for Tokyo 2020, which has not yet been postponed, and contract the virus. He wrote:
'The loss in body conditioning has been immense and can only feel for the athletes that contract Covid-19 as they will suffer a great loss of current conditioning through the last training cycle. Infection closer to competition being the worst.
'Athletes will continue to train as there is no clarification re summer Games and thus are exposing themselves to unnecessary risk - and those that do contract will try rush back to training most likely enhancing/extending the damage/recovery time.
'Please, look after yourself everyone! Health comes first. Covid-19 is no joke!'
At a time when most other major sporting bodies are postponing events and ending seasons early, the Tokyo 2020 committee has yet to announce it will be putting the Olympics off until a later date. Committee head Yoshiro Mori has admitted that the postponement of the games - most likely until the summer of 2021 is 'possibly inevitable' but no firm decision has been made.
So, as it stands, many Olympic hopefuls will keep training and expending energies - both mental and physical - that could be better used elsewhere.
The Cameron van der Burgh case, meanwhile, should be another bright red flag to younger people that think this virus is confining itself to the vulnerable and elderly.