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This Olympian had coronavirus. She says the pain was ‘soul-destroying.’

Shelley Holroyd has had many injuries and illnesses in her life. None were like her weeks of hell, alone in her bed.

Shelley Holroyd of Sale Manchester AC
Shelley Holroyd competed for two decades, including at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Her career was hampered by injuries, and she says the physical pain she felt suffering from coronavirus was the worst of her life.

Throughout her 15-year career in the javelin, Shelley Holroyd battled injuries and illnesses that ultimately cut her career short in 2006.

Now in the latest episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, I talk with Holroyd, who competed for Team Great Britain in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, about her latest bout with illness: the coronavirus and COVID-19.

We certainly talk about her role as an LGBTQ athlete, including the creation of the Athletics Pride Network for LGBTQ track and field athletes in the United Kingdom and being out while competing.

But most striking is our conversation about the coronavirus, which she contracted at some point last month. She describes it as the most painful ordeal of her life, which is saying something given Holroyd’s career was plagued by injuries and illness.

“To even move the bedcovers was so hard,” Holroyd said of her weeks of lying in bed, barely able to move. “When you’ve been an athlete, and you’ve been at the Olympics, and you fought to get to that place and you worked so hard, and then all of a sudden you’re lying in bed and you can’t even move your arms, it’s just soul-destroying, it really is. Absolutely soul-destroying.”

While dealing with the pain also put a mental strain on Holroyd, she says the solitude really wore on her mental state. She was in her bedroom by herself for days straight. As the pain mounted, she became more and more convinced she was going to die, and she was going to die alone in that room.

In the end, she pulled through. She lost about 30 pounds during the ordeal, but she’s now out of bed, on the mend and promoting the new Athletics Pride Network.

While she wants everyone to take the disease seriously, she also talks on the podcast about the importance of maintaining good mental health. If you do get a bad case of the disease, you have to be mentally strong to handle what will come.

“You do need to get out of the house,” she says of people quarantined, “even if you sit in your garden and stay away from people. Just get out of the house, because your mental health is huge. It takes a while to come back from that.”

You can listen to my conversation with Shelley Holroyd on the player above, by clicking over to megaphone, or by visiting Apple podcasts for an easy browser player. Five Rings To Rule Them All is also available on Google Podcasts, Spotify and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.