Seasoned South African triathlete Richard Murray is facing a race against time to take up his spot at the Tokyo Olympics and he is hoping to make a decision on his participation at the end of the week, writes Gary Lemke.
The two-time Olympian was last week selected to make this third appearance at the Games, along with Henri Schoeman in the men’s triathlon team for Tokyo. However, the 32-year-old is on the comeback trail following a heart ailment which required invasive surgery only a fortnight ago.
If he passes himself fit it would likely be to compete in the team competition, not as an individual, he hinted.
Murray, who crossed the line 17th at London 2012 and a fast-finishing fourth at Rio 2016, developed atrial fibrillation, more commonly known as A-Fib, which led him to receiving a cardiac ablation in the Netherlandstwo weeks ago.
A-Fib is a rhythm disturbance in the heart which leads to irregular heartbeat. In itself it is not a life-threatening, or even a career-threatening condition, but it does require medical intervention to improve quality of life, prevent possible strokes and return to ’normality’.
“Mine came about from from training at too high an intensity. After that my heart rate tried to come down back to usual (sinus) resting rhythm, but it then started going out of sync. My heart rate would jump between 60 and 120 beats per minute, in an irregular, erratic manner,” he said.
Murray added that he was given medication after the first episode and it was fixed for about a month, after which it returned. “The second time was after a month of “normal” rhythm but then it returned after a medium-hard swim set. I was cardioverted (where the heart is shocked back into sinus rhythm) and I was all fine for one week.
“Then the A-Fib returned. I went for a scan and an appointment to have an ablation was made here in the Netherlands. I’ve now had the ablation and on Monday I did my first run. It’s been a tough week after the op, but this recovery period is expected. I’m in no way back to full training just yet, but hope to up the tempo a lot more next week with more structured training. The recovery isn’t that fast – the heart takes a long time to heal!
“I’m allowed to train at very low intensity for about 10-15 hours a week for now, but I’m not allowed to do high intensity training at the moment,” Murray added.
He’s been back in the swimming pool and he’s been out for a run and a ride on the bike. “I’v started to get back into basic training and the last few days I’ve been feeling a bit better,” he said.
He is expected to return to full fitness and competition, but the fear is that ironically after being postponed for a year, the Tokyo Olympics might be coming too soon again for him.
A-Fib isn’t uncommon among athlete and ultra-athletes and runners, cyclists and skiers have the highest rates of developing it. It is a different condition to that which befell Danish football captain Christian Eriksen at the Euro2020 Championship, where he went into cardiac arrest.