Spain Olympic gold medalist: I got Zika training in Brazil, ‘wasn’t that bad’

Marina Alabau
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SAO PAULO (AP) — Spanish Olympic gold medalist Marina Alabau says she got Zika while training in Brazil in December, suffering painful symptoms in an experience that the wind surfer said won’t stop her from competing in the Games in August.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Alabau described symptoms that her doctor said were in line with Zika, a virus that the World Health Organization has deemed an “international health emergency.” She is currently competing at the RS: X World Championship in Israel.

Brazil is an epicenter of Zika, and fear about the virus could scare fans and some athletes from coming to the South American country’s first Olympics. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and sports authorities preparing for hundreds of thousands of visitors to the country have said the Games will be held as scheduled in August.

Many scientists and doctors believe that the mosquito-borne disease is linked to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, or abnormally small heads in infants. The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned pregnant women to avoid traveling to more than two dozen countries and territories in the Americas where active outbreaks are taking place. Authorities in several countries have urged women to put off pregnancy for a few years.

Despite some very difficult days after getting Zika, the 30-year-old Alabau nevertheless has urged her fellow athletes not to worry.

“There is too much alarm surrounding this. I had the virus and it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t even go to the hospital,” she said.

Alabau said that while training in Rio de Janeiro on one December day, she came down with a fever. It would pass within 24 hours, but other symptoms soon followed.

“Then my whole body turned red and everything itched. Two days later, my joints started aching,” she said. “First it was in the fingers, then my wrists and finally my ankles. It was then that I decided to return to Spain because I was a little worried.”

Alabau said she was not tested for Zika at the time because it seemed like a common bug that her body would eventually defeat. However, she said she would get tested when she is back in Spain in early March. Normally, the virus doesn’t stay in the blood more than several weeks, so it’s unclear whether it will show up when she does a test next month.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s executive director for outbreaks and health emergencies, said Friday the mosquito population is expected to drop off around when Rio hosts the Games, because it will be winter in the Southern Hemisphere. He told a news conference in Geneva that Rio’s Olympic venues are in a relatively confined area, making it easier to control the mosquitoes.

“Brazil is going to have a fantastic Olympics and it’s going to be a successful Olympics and the world is going to go there,” Aylward said.

Carmen Vaz, the Spanish wind surfing federation doctor who diagnosed Alabau, told the AP that the Zika diagnosis was based on the athlete’s symptoms and not on blood work. She said that without blood work other mosquito-borne illnesses with similar symptoms, such as dengue or chikingunya, could not be ruled out.

“At the time, the Zika tests were not available in Spain, as alarm over the virus hadn’t taken hold,” she wrote in an email exchange. Vaz added that she and Alabau had decided to come forward with what had happened to the athlete to “help lower the social alarm that has taken hold, which in our view has been excessive.”

Only about 20 percent of people who get Zika have symptoms, and except for the potential threat to fetuses, it rarely has lasting effects. By contrast, dengue can be particularly lethal, as periodic outbreaks in Brazil kill hundreds each year.

Alabau, who won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in London, said the pains continued when she returned home to Spain in early January.

She said she had more pain in her joints and headaches that would last a few hours and then go away.

“I had never had such strange headaches,” she said.

Alabau said her doctor told her that she could only wait it out.

“There was nothing more to do,” Alabau said. “The doctor told me that in four to five days my joints would stop aching.”

Alabau noted by the end of January she was back in competition, first in Miami and now in Israel.

“Some athletes ask me about it and I say it isn’t as serious as they say,” she said. “It’s not as bad a flu or a cold. I always have a great time in Brazil. This was just a little detail.”

MORE: Zika virus will be ‘way down’ before Olympics, UN says

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final