Olympic Champion Swimmer Diagnosed With Coronavirus Calls It 'Worse Virus I Have Ever Endured'

Cameron van der Burgh is about as fit as an athlete gets. The 2012 Olympic breaststroke champion has remained among the top swimmers in the world. But after contracting COVID-19, or coronavirus, he said even the strongest of the strong can become weak, feeble and out of breath.

Van der Burgh, who is from South Africa, sent out a series of tweets Sunday that follow his health in the 14th day of his battle with the virus that has been labeled a global pandemic. He gave his thoughts on how it affects not only a finely-tuned athlete, but how it could affect fellow athletes' training for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to begin July 24 in Tokyo.

"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/sport), living a healthy lifestyle and being young (least at risk demographic)," he tweeted.

"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."

Cameron van der Burgh, 31, won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics when he swam it in 58.46 seconds. He followed that up with a silver medal finish at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

He retired in December 2018 after winning gold in the World Short Course Championships in Hangzhou, China. Though it's been just 15 months since his retirement, he considers himself to still be in good shape. But even this elite athlete has dealing with coronavirus.

1/ Some personal thoughts/observations for athletes health,The summer games & my own experience with contracting Covid19.

— Cameron van der Burgh OIS (@Cameronvdburgh) March 22, 2020

"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," he wrote.

He urged his fellow athletes to use caution when training to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

"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!"

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday announced it will not consider canceling the Tokyo Olympics, but rather take into consideration the remarks from national olympic committees (NOCs) and Tokyo organizers.

Chief officers in both USA Swimming and USA Track and Field have urged the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to advocate for postponing the Tokyo Games until 2021.

The novel COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan, China, and the virus quickly spread in China, then South Korea, other eastern Asian countries and eventually around the globe.

As of Sunday afternoon, there have been more than 340,000 coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 14,500 deaths and 97,500 recoveries.

China has the most cases with 81,000, and Italy has the most deaths with 5,560, according to worldometer.com. The United States has 14,550 new cases, which is the most in the world.

Cameron van der Burgh
Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa celebrates after winning the Men's 100m Breaststroke on day five of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Optus Aquatic Centre on April 9, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images