Swimmer overcomes Crohn’s Disease to win silver at the Olympics: ‘I thought my swimming career was over’
An athlete who believed her hopes of a competing in the Olympic Games were dashed when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease has been awarded a silver medal in Rio.
Silver medallist Kathleen Baker (19) was diagnosed with the chronic inflammatory disease, which affects the intestines, when she was 14 and believed it would end her dream swimming career.
The athlete, from North Carolina, opened up about her disorder to The New York Times.
“It was the worst feeling in the world,” she said.
“I love swimming more than anything in the entire world, and I thought my swimming career was over.”
The swimmer revealed that her high school years were a “blur of doctors’ offices and medical tests” and her weight dropped significantly as she coped with the extreme symptoms of Crohn’s.
However, Kathleen said it was finding a doctor who believed she could overcome the illness that set her on her dream path to Rio.
“I found doctors who weren’t going to be just like, ‘You’re Kathleen with Crohn’s disease.’ I need to be Kathleen the swimmer with Crohn’s disease.”
To tackle her illness, the teen began intravenous infusions to help manage the disorder, and limited her training to just one pool day a week much to her reluctance.
Despite her limitations, Kathleen began to succeed in the sport and qualified for the Olympics in March.
Yesterday, the athlete was awarded a silver medal and stood on the podium with gold medallist Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and bronze medallist, Canadian Kylie Massee.
“There’ve been times where I’ve said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to go on an international team,’ but somehow it’s worked out,” said Baker.
“I’ve gotten healthy enough to swim well.”
“What this means to me is on a whole ’nother level.”