German athlete Elmar Sprink, who conquered 120 endurance races following a heart transplant in 2012, lived through another health challenge when he survived the coronavirus.
The 49-year-old from Cologne, Germany, tested positive for the virus on April 11 and negative on May 6.
“I think I got the virus on my flight back from Cape Town to Germany on March 26,” said Sprink, who was due to ride the Cape Epic in South Africa earlier that month.
He suffered cardiac arrest in 2010 and, after various surgeries, received a new heart two years later.
“In total, I was tested four times. After two weeks of having the virus there is no need in Germany to do another test, but I wanted to make sure I was corona free, so I did a test after 13, 20 and 26 days.”
At first, Sprink could not believe that he had tested positive for Covid-19 because he did not feel sick.
“My symptoms included a slightly higher heart rate and I couldn’t smell anything. I was also tired for two to three days – that was it. The day before I was tested, I even cycled 120km.
“By the time I knew that I was positive, I was a bit scared because I belong to a high-risk group, with me not having a proper immune system.”
He stopped training altogether following his first test.
“I spent my time sitting in the garden reading and thinking back to my days where I waited for my new heart in 2012.
“I had to wait in bed for almost seven months and for three-and-a-half of them I was on a heart-lung machine. So I said to myself that I have a ‘luxury problem’ right now.”
Sprink motivated himself by dreaming of when he would be able to cycle and run outside again.
“I also received my new Canyon Speedmax CF SLX, so that was motivation enough.”
Directly after receiving word of his negative test result, he went for a 6km run and 50km ride because he believed it was all about staying healthy “because then you can achieve a lot”.
“So, what’s ahead for me? My partner [Peter Schermann] and I signed up for the Cape Epic again – that’s one big goal.
“I’m also looking forward to my next Ironman,” said Sprink, who has completed six full Ironman triathlons and 14 70.3 races since receiving the donor heart.