Champion South African paracyclist Juan Odendaal, who has undergone numerous heart procedures this year, says his racing career might be over but he will never turn his back on the sport he loves.
The 23-year-old, who has cerebral palsy due to a premature birth, is recovering from heart surgery at his home in Pretoria.
“I had a scar on my heart so the rhythm would not flow past this to make a complete beat, which resulted in a lot of skipped beats.
“A defibrillator was inserted at the end of February and I was on pills to keep my heart beat regular. But they were not a long-term solution and came with a lot of side effects.
“Therefore an ablation was done last week (Ed: May 29) where they burnt the scar off to ensure my heart rate can be normal again.”
Odendaal, who had been working towards competing in this year’s Paralympic Games, had a scare when his heart stopped beating while training in early February.
In hospital his heart was shocked a few times and then connected to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine 78 minutes after it first stopped.
It only started beating by itself two days later. The defibrillator was inserted at this time.
Following his latest surgery, he has been recovering by riding on a stationary bike and doing physiotherapy exercises three times a day.
“Currently my form is in no racing state nor will it be anytime soon, unfortunately,” he said.
Odendaal, who won gold in the C3 individual pursuit at the national champs last year, said he knew his career was over but he still looked forward to cycling for fun once he was be able to do so.
“I think every person has a timeline in their head of where they plan to be in their life. Personally, I hope next month I’ll be a lot further than where I am now.”
He added that his goals were to learn to walk again and live a normal life, as well as to get back on his bike.
“Life is short, so just enjoy it.”