The 31-year-old won gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and is now "struggling" with the virus

By Jason Duaine Hahn
March 23, 2020 02:39 PM

South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh is “struggling” after being diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this month— and he hopes to convince others to take safety precautions seriously.

The 31-year-old retired swimmer, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, said he tested positive for coronavirus two weeks ago and is still experiencing extreme fatigue and a residual cough while most of his symptoms have subsided.

“I have been struggling with Covid-19 for 14 days today,” Van der Burgh explained in a series of tweets on Sunday. “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,” he continued. “Any physical activity like walking leaves me exhausted for hours.”

In his tweets, Van der Burgh encouraged the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, explaining that any athlete diagnosed with the virus would have missed out on ample time to recondition themselves into Olympic form.

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Cameron van der Burgh
Clive Rose/Getty

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“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,” Van der Burgh explained. “Infection closer to [a] 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,” he added.

On Monday, it was announced that the 2020 Toyko Olympics would be postponed, according to International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

It is unclear when the games will be rescheduled for, but Pound suggested 2021.

“It will come in stages,” Pound said. “We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”

Neither the U.S. Olympic Committee nor the IOC immediately responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.

Pound’s statements come after the IOC said in a press release over the weekend that it would “step-up its scenario planning” relating to the games, and make a decision in the next four weeks. It also follows news that Australia and Canada would not send athletes to the games unless they were postponed.

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As of Monday morning, more than 367,000 people have confirmed cases of the virus, and at least 16,113 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

A growing number of athletes have been diagnosed in the United States, largely in the NBA, where stars like Rudy Golbert, Donavan Mitchell and Kevin Durant tested positive. Five other NBA players have also been diagnosed in the last two weeks.

“Please, look after yourself everyone!” Van der Burgh said. “Health comes first — COVID-19 is no joke!”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.

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