Take Coronavirus More Seriously, Say Olympic Rowers Who Got It

“One day I tried to go for a walk and I made it maybe 30 seconds out the door before turning around,” she said. “I just couldn’t do it. The sun hurt my eyes so much that I couldn’t take it.”

Some host families asked rowers to move out of their homes, even if they had no symptoms. Chase’s hosts were nice enough to let her stay as long as she wore a mask and gloves and promised not to breathe on anyone or “lick any doorknobs,” she said with a laugh.

As Chase recovered, Regan was living in her condominium in Princeton, N.J., and thought she had avoided getting the virus. The day the Olympics were postponed, she felt uncharacteristically short of breath while rowing on the ergometer on her porch, but she blamed it on the cold weather and her disappointment about the Games.

It wasn’t until a full 12 days after the team had been exposed that unmistakable symptoms hit her. First it was exhaustion and a slight fever. Two days later, breathing became painful and her entire body hurt. Her fever rose to 101.7 degrees.

For two days, Regan was in agony, unable to move and struggling to breathe. She tried to go for a light jog once she felt a little better a few days later, but didn’t last 20 minutes, even when walking, because her heart rate was so high and she felt like she was walking through water. She felt a sense of panic: she was used to training up to two hours straight and now she couldn’t even walk 20 feet without feeling like she would collapse.

As she ramped up her workouts, Regan continued to feel faint and shaky and described her performance on the ergometer as “the pace of an average high school girl.” After a month of feeling like she was dragging around a 50-pound weight wherever she went, she felt like herself again.

Regan spent some time with her family outside Buffalo before returning to Princeton this month to join about a dozen other rowers on the team. Many other rowers, though, have remained with their families in their hometowns. Matt Imes, the director of high performance at U.S. Rowing, said the athletes have been encouraged to return to training with the team whenever they feel comfortable. They are rowing out of a boathouse on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., the team’s second home in the Princeton area. No one on the team has shown serious lingering effects from the virus, Wenger said.

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