CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Former Olympic swimming champion Cameron van der Burgh has said he has been battling the new coronavirus for the last two weeks and that athletes who continue to train for the Tokyo Games are exposing themselves to “unnecessary risk”.
South African Van der Burgh won gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics and silver in Rio four years later before retiring in 2018.
He said that while the most severe symptoms from the virus had passed he was still exhausted by any physical activity.
“I have been struggling with COVID-19 for 14 days today,” he said on Twitter.
“By far the worst virus I have ever endured despite being a healthy individual with strong lungs (no smoking/sport), 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.”
More than 14,600 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Van der Burgh, 31, said athletes who contract the virus will struggle to get back in peak condition for the Games, which are scheduled to start on July 24, though there have been growing calls for the Olympics to be postponed.
Canada became the first country to boycott the Games due to the coronavirus pandemic and Australia on Monday told its athletes to prepare for the Olympics to be postponed to 2021.
“The loss in body conditioning has been immense and I 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,” he said.
“Athletes will continue to train as there is no clarification regarding the 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.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)