Kiwi Olympic swimmer Zac Reid feared career may be over, after brutal battle with COVID-19

New Zealand's top two male swimmers have had their year thrown into disarray, after contracting COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Lewis Clareburt finished his seven day isolation period and is now getting ready to get back in the pool next week.

Fellow Olympian Zac Reid was hit particularly hard by the virus, forcing him to make some tough decisions and taking him to some dark places mentally.

He had COVID-19 in March and still isn't back to his regular training routine.

"It just knocked me out of the pool and I didn't know when I was going to be back in," he told Newshub.

An asthmatic his whole life, Reid said the virus hit him hard.

"I got home from training and I didn't get to sleep until 2am because I felt like I had a tonne of bricks on my chest weighing me down, struggling to breathe." 

His inability to train forced him to withdraw from next month's world champs in Budapest and July's Commonwealth Games at Birmingham. 

Lewis Clareburt in action at Tokyo.
Lewis Clareburt in action at Tokyo. Photo credit: Getty

"When that kind of got stripped from me, that was like 'damn, what have I got now?'," said Reid.

But he knew it was the right decision to make.

"It was also a relief. I knew I was putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself for something I knew I probably wasn't going to be ready for."

"When I said it out loud it was the right thing. I don't want to go overseas if I'm 60,70, 80 percent, I don't want to embarrass myself."

Reid wasn't just thinking short term, he was genuinely worried about his career.

"I was more concerned as to if I would ever be able to race again," he admitted.

"I had that really scary [thought] like 'hey, I might not be the swimmer I was ever again” 

"Is this health issue going to last forever or is it going to knock me down for a couple of years?"

It was a mental battle Reid confessed he struggled with.

"With COVID-19, doctor can't look at his computer and be like i'll give you this to fix this, that's where it was really hard i didn't know when i was going to get better and we didnt know what to do to make it better."

Meanwhile, Clareburt's seven days of isolation cost him a valuable seven days of training, as he prepares for next month's world champs.

"It's sort of just thrown all the plans out of the bag at the moment," Clareburt told Newshub. 

"If I don't get this 'return to swim' right, then it could well stretch out for three or four months."

But for precaution's sake, Clareburt said he'd happily sacrifice June's event in Romania to be at his best come Commonwealth Games.

"I'm going to take a safe approach," he said. "It might affect my performance slightly at world champs but it will pay off by the time I get to Comm Games."

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