Asthma and athletics may seem like they don’t blend. Most sports oblige strength and endurance, whereas asthma — a respiratory condition that causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing — can make exercise difficult.
But there are some athletes who have overcome asthma on their way to victory. Some have had asthma since they were children; others were already at the top of their game. Either way, asthma didn’t stop them from achieving success on the field. In conjunction with World Asthma Day on May 1, let’s check out some athletes who have overcome their asthma to play sports.
This four-time French Open tennis champion was diagnosed with asthma quite late in life, at the age of 25. At the time, she was the top-ranked player in the world. Her asthma symptoms were worsened by a case of bronchitis that was triggered by asthmatic infections.
In 2007, she made an announcement that she may not defend her gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of concern over the city’s high pollution from traffic exhaust and other airborne irritants, which can worsen symptoms and trigger asthma attacks. Henin never made it to Beijing, and she surprised the tennis world by announcing her retirement in early 2008.
This heartthrob of Manchester United has had the illness since childhood but was never seen in public using his medication until one Cup final in the United States. Beckham had a puff during half-time, drawing on an asthma inhaler and revealing to the world that he has the condition. Although suffering from a mild form asthma, he has always proven that asthma did not stop him from competing at the highest level in his career.
Asthma didn’t stop him from playing 14 seasons in the NBA, winning five championships and leading the League in rebounding for a record seven straight years. His accomplishments are especially remarkable because sports such as basketball involve endurance and sustained exertion with few opportunities to rest, and this tends to be more challenging for asthmatics.
In the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Vanderkaay won a gold medal in the freestyle relay and a bronze medal in individual swimming. He has been swimming competitively since the age of seven despite having his first asthmatic symptoms at the age of 10. For Pete, it is important to work closely with the doctor to keep the symptoms under control. He believed that people don’t have to be limited to anything because of their asthma. Asthma doesn’t have to stop anyone from achieving one’s goals. He is living proof of this.
By Harrish Emmanuel Justine, 16, Kuala Lumpur