During Spain’s tough shutdowns, Paralympic triathlon champion Susana Rodriguez trained furiously at home and helped fight the coronavirus in her job as a doctor.
Rodriguez – who swam, biked and sprinted to gold in Saturday’s PTVI race for visually impaired athletes – said working in a hospital meant she “knew Covid was very serious, ever since. very beginning “.
At the start of the pandemic, when she was on the phone assessing people with symptoms, her boss held a meeting every morning.
“He gave the new data, and things were really bad,” the 33-year-old told AFP ahead of her competition at the Tokyo Paralympic Games postponed by the virus.
“Last year I realized the Games wouldn’t be possible, before they said they wouldn’t be in 2020.”
She then put her specialization in physical medicine and rehabilitation to good use by helping patients recover from the most serious infections – all while settling down on her treadmill and exercise bike between shifts in a matter of hours. .
“I was also scared of catching Covid,” said the athlete, who has albinism and is visually impaired.
“For a blind person, you rely a lot on touching things, and when (the pandemic) started it all turned to distancing, and touching wasn’t the best idea. So it was difficult, especially at the beginning. “
Rodriguez, who has been practicing para-athletics since he was a child, finally took a break from his medical career to focus on preparing for victory.
She will become the first Spanish Paralympian to compete in two disciplines at the same Games when she takes part in the women’s 1500m T11 on Sunday.
– ‘Stressful schedule’ –
According to the Spaniard, the best way to keep stamina for back-to-back events is to take things day to day.
“I’ve really been used to a very stressful schedule last year between Rio and Tokyo, so I used to focus on one day, then rest, then the next. “
“I’m better at triathlon… but I really like the track,” said Rodriguez, who finished fifth in his triathlon class at Rio 2016.
His guide Sara Loehr also received a gold medal on Saturday, with the pair holding hands and smiling triumphantly on the podium.
Rodriguez says his athlete guides are “my eyes during the competition” and “they know me very well. We don’t need to talk because they know if I can push harder or not ”.
They also help him in the Paralympic Village.
“For example, when you go to dinner or lunch, they tell you what food to take. At the end of the day, they are my friends. “
Rodriguez faced another challenge in early 2020 when she was diagnosed and underwent treatment for genetic heart disease.
“I didn’t know if I could continue to play sport at a professional level,” she said.
But “the cardiology team at my hospital have been very kind to me, helping me make decisions… so that I can be here in Tokyo, safe and happy. “
Spectators are banned from most competitions at the Games and athletes must adhere to strict virus rules.
Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, Rodriguez sees a light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines help reduce the number of critically ill patients.
“It takes so long, we’ve put our hopes in a lot of things and it’s getting difficult,” she said.
“But we say hope is the last thing to lose, and I hope that in 2022 we can get back to normal life. “
© 2021 AFP