COVID-19 has infected many people from every demographic – including some world-renowned athletes. The virus is known for its extreme physical effects on the human body, including shortness of breath, muscle weakening and decreased cardiovascular strength, which can greatly affect athletes. Wenda Nel is a South African athlete specialising in the 400 m, and a former University of Pretoria Dietician student, also won her first national title in 2010 and thereafter seven other national titles. Additionally, she has participated in five world championships and received a bronze medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

With regard to COVID-19, Nel stated that when she contracted the virus, she did not experience any extreme symptoms, but did have an ongoing headache and realises the importance of resuming training slowly to allow her body to get stronger. After four months, she has fully recovered and can resume training, with her best time in 2015 of 54.37 seconds still standing. However, she states that because her heartrate was slightly higher than usual while training, she plans to relax into training for the next few weeks as she has no important races to train for.

COVID-19 has made her exceptionally thankful for everything she has, and she realises the importance of her passion possibly being taken away from her. Nel, who turned 32 this year, plans on racing at the Tokyo Olympic Games in the near future, although the current climate causes uncertainty with regard to when. Nel also shows that athletes are able to rise above the pandemic and, with enough rest and perseverance, will enable themselves to stay on track with their goals. The virus has affected many people, but Nel believes she has come out of it stronger with a better perspective of her passion. She does not plan to stop running within the next twelve months, and will continue training to reach her new best time.

 Photo: Reg Caldecott

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