Olympic medallists raise profile of Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s Disease

10 August 2016

Both diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Olympic swimmers Siobhan-Marie O'Connor and Kathleen Baker have won silver medals in Rio, raising invaluable awareness of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease

20-year-old Siobhan-Marie O'Connor became the first British woman to win an Olympic medal in the 200m individual medley, missing out on a gold medal by just 0.3 seconds.

Siobhan-Marie was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after competing at the London 2012 Olympics, and has shared her experiences of living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease:

I was worried when I first had these problems as I felt ill but didn't know why, so I was relieved when the diagnosis was made. I really get run down easily and get bouts of tiredness. I am a weakling, but I don't want to feel sorry for myself because if it's not illness it might be injury or whatever. Dealing with these things is part of professional sport. It’s absolutely not ideal and I went through a pretty rough time of it before I got it diagnosed. I look back and don’t know how I swam when I was so ill. I see pictures of myself and I’m 10kg lighter than I am now and was so tired all the time

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor, 20
Diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2012

Siobhan-Marie isn't the only swimmer overcoming the challenges of Inflammatory Bowel Disease at the Rio Olympics this year. US athlete Kathleen Baker also won a silver medal, completing the 100m backstroke in 58.75 seconds. 

Four weeks prior to going to Rio, Kathleen went public about living with Crohn’s Disease:

I definitely have been through my fair share of adversity. I think it really helps me appreciate the sport even more, knowing that it can be taken away from me. I love swimming more than anything in the world, and to be able to swim in the Olympics – it’s an incredible feeling. I hope I inspired a lot of people today... I think this is something I’ve been put here to do. I’ve never given up on my dreams. I hope people are the same.

Kathleen Baker, 19
Diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2009

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease - chronic conditions which currently have no cure.

Symptoms can include diarrhoea, weight loss, severe pain and extreme fatigue making it diffcult for many of those diagnosed to practice sport, let alone compete at a competitive level.

Siobhan-Marie and Kathleen are true inspirations to everyone affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease and we're grateful to them for sharing their stories.

If you have been inspired by Siobhan-Marie and Kathleen and want to take on a swimming challenge, there are still places available for Swim Serpentine - an exciting new event from the organisers of the London Marathon taking place this September. 

Read more

Images: Siobhan-Marie O'Connor - Getty Images | Kathleen Baker - usaswimming.org