You wouldn’t have known from his performance, but 2018 Brazil Trophy 200 fly champion Leonardo de Deus was suffering from a bout of Coxsackievirus for the duration of the competition, Globo Sport is reporting.
The virus, also known as “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease,” mostly affects children. De Deus believes he may have caught it when visiting his nephew’s school, or at a recent meet, he told Brazilian news site Globo Esporte.
Symptoms began just two weeks out from the Brazil Trophy with a fever, then came itchiness, then tingling in de Deus’ extremities — he thought he might have been having a heart attack. Then came sores in his mouth, which meant he could only eat soup.
De Deus trained through the virus until he was forced to go to the hospital in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“I have not been to a hospital for 15 years. There, I took tests for syphilis and mononucleosis, I went through two general practitioners and two otolaryngologists, and no one thought I was right,” he said (translated from Portuguese). “Then they called a pediatrician, who finally identified the virus. At the time I thought ‘it’s over, I’m not going to be able to swim the Maria Lenk.'”
Despite receiving medication at the hospital, the virus progressed, causing a “resurfacing” (blistering) of the palms of his hands and soles of his feet. A doctor prescribed him an ointment, but it contained corticoid, a banned substance. As the blistering dried and became painful, he had to cut out dryland workouts and instead doubled-up in yardage in the water, despite doctors’ orders to take a week off entirely.
You can view (graphic) images of the blistering here.
Desperate in the days before competing, de Deus began to pull the bubbling skin off, creating areas of “raw meat,” he said. At the meet, he requested to put a towel over the starting block to ease the pain, but was denied.
It didn’t seem to matter, as he won went a best time in the 100 fly (his off event), and won the 200 in 1:55.05, only .14 off his best time. He was brought to tears after his 200 win.
“I’ve never been there before, so I was quite moved,” he said. “There was a movie in my head from the hospital and how much I cried.”