One the world’s most dominant swimmers of the past year, Spain’s Mireia Belmonte, has been notably absent from the last few elite meets leading up to the 2015 FINA World Championships. As we reported in early June, following their medical staff’s recommendation, Belmonte and her coach of the past five seasons, Frederic Vergnoux, pulled out of the Mare Nostrum Tour, as well as the 2015 Sette Colli Trophy in Rome, which took place June 12-13th, due to an injury.
At the time, the injury was described by the media as ambiguous shoulder pain, but in an exclusive interview with Vergnoux, SwimSwam has learned that Belmonte suffers from bursitis, which is a painful condition affecting the small, fluid-filled sacs, or bursae, that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near one’s joints. Typically due to repetitive motions or positions that irritate the bursae around a joint, the sacs become inflamed causing stiffness, aches and general pain. (Mayo Clinic).
Vergnoux describes Belmonte’s bursitis as a “small one”, which does not require surgery, but indeed does cause the two-time Olympic silver medalist pain. As such, she pursued the unconventional, yet popularly-growing treatment involving stem cells. Vergnoux says Belmonte pursued a specific type of stem cell treatment called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), a process in which a patient’s blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge that then spins the sample at high speeds to separate the platelets (healing cells) from the other components. This process produces higher concentrations of platelets and a much more pure concentration of the beneficial blood components. The PRP is then injected into the patient’s injury with the purpose of jump-starting and significantly strengthening the healing process.
Because of the size of her particular case of bursitis, just one treatment will be needed, according to Vergnoux. Still, as a result, Belmonte was out of the pool for a week in May and “has to do a lot of physio work every day.” Vergnoux says she is “slowly building up her training, with the plan being for her to be fully recovered by next week [week of June 22nd].”
If all appears to be continuing on the positive trajectory towards pain-free recovery, Belmonte may compete at the 2015 Spanish Open Water Nationals taking place this weekend. She currently appears on the event’s entry lists in both the 5k and 10k events, however, Vergnoux tells SwimSwam that he and Belmonte will make the participation decision based on how the swimmer feels tomorrow night, June 19th.
Also in preparation for Worlds, Belmonte is set to compete at the Spanish Summer Nationals, scheduled for July 8-12th where the talented swimmer will no doubt have a grueling multiple event schedule, as is her modus operandi. Such will be the case with Worlds, the meet at which Belmonte is still targeting to swim her full event qualification schedule, which includes an incredible six individual events: 200/400 IM, 200 Fly, 200/400/800/1500 freestyle.
As to how her injury may affect her Worlds event program, Vergnoux says that the plan is to indeed compete in all six events. “Our goals are the highest. Mireia was training to win in Kazan, but it [her bursitis] is a step back and her health is the priority just now. I guess better now than next year.” In light of this, the coach/athlete pair says it will “keep all options open” when asked about the possibility of Belmonte dropping one or more events from her demanding Kazan lineup. According to Vergnoux, “If we have to reduce her racing program, we will do it the day before the meet.”
SwimSwam will update readers as to the status of Belmont’s competing in this weekend’s Spanish Open Water Nationals as soon as Vergnoux and Belmonte have made the decision.