Heartbreak as Zola forced to pull out of Comrades

2013-05-31 00:00

AFTER the emotional high of last year’s Comrades, Zola Budd has experienced heartbreak days before this year’s edition.

Having finished comfortably last year in her debut run, crossing the line with nine-time winner Bruce Fordyce to earn a Bill Rowan medal, Budd had set her sights on a silver medal this time around.

However, it was not to be as she pulled out of the race yesterday for medical reasons. Already in South Africa since last weekend, Budd developed mild flu symptoms over the past few days. Things got worse as fever and aching muscles saw her condition deteriorate and her hopes of being on the start line evaporate.

At an emergency clinic, blood tests confirmed a viral infection and the end of her Comrades dreams for 2013.

Dr Graham Monteith, who examined Budd and strongly recommended she pull out of the race, said: “Common flu symptoms are the sniffles and a sore throat, but the virus also infects muscle tissue. The heart muscle can also be affected and running something as gruelling as Comrades could cause heart muscle damage and lead to myocarditis. This can cause sudden cardiac arrest and decreased efficiency in the heart’s blood pumping capability.”

Monteith said he had seen sportsmen compete with the same symptoms and pay the price. “Some have died and others, despite recovery, have never reached their full potential again. Myocarditis can put you out of action from six to 12 months,” he said.

As for Budd, it was a hard blow to take, but she remains positive while looking ahead. “I had trained hard and spent many lonely hours on the road in search of a possible silver medal,” she said. “My fitness levels and preparation were all on track and to travel here and get so close to starting the race is frustrating.

“On the positive side, if I wait three years and take on Comrades again, I will be in a new age category and that could be an exciting challenge.”

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