By Matthew Bernat
Type 1 diabetes is a competitor who never sleeps. It takes a precise diet and a strict training regimen to fight it properly — things elite athletes must perfect. These nine athletes with type 1 diabetes found themselves diagnosed with the condition before they started competing or during their careers.
They went on to win gold medals, scale mountains and earn world championships while living with type 1 diabetes. Check out this list of athletes who serve as an inspiration to all.
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NFL quarterback Jay Cutler received his type 1 diabetes diagnosis mid-career. In May 2008, Cutler announced he had type 1 while he was quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He finished that season with career highs in passing yards (4,526), passing touchdowns (25) and interceptions (25). He also played in the Pro Bowl. Before that game, Peyton Manning, Nick Mangold and Kris Dielman threw Cutler into a pool, destroying his blood sugar monitor. It was all in good fun; however, and a replacement was found before the game.
Among mountain climbers — is there a cooler sport? — at least one is managing his blood sugar in the most extreme conditions on Earth: Will Cross. In 1976 at the age of 9, the Pittsburgh native was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and told he likely wouldn’t live to be 30 years old. Now he’s a professional adventurer earning a living from diabetes-related corporate sponsorships. Of note, Cross has climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents. He’s also led expeditions to unexplored regions of South America, Greenland, Africa and India. In those unforgiving environments, he’s been able to successfully control his blood sugar, hoping to inspire others to take control of their own type 1 diabetes.
Real Madrid soccer player Borja Mayoral, 22, received his diagnosis at a young age. “When I was five years old, I was told I had diabetes,” he says. “At that age I was barely able to understand what that word meant.” His soccer career began with Real Madrid in 2007 when he started playing for its youth organization. Playing in the striker position, Mayoral scored in each of Spain’s three qualification matches for 2015 European Under-19 Championship. In total, he has 31 career goals with many more likely on the way.
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[email protected] joined the national team in 2013 and helped lead #TeamCanada to a gold medal finish on home soil at the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015. What are her future aspirations? Her pre-game ritual? Find out at https://t.co/qPLyLSDa8U pic.twitter.com/MoSuvRlW0s
— Softball Canada (@SoftballCanada) June 24, 2019
Professional softball player Sara Groenewegen, 24, has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was 9 years old. Recently, the Canadian athlete had a different, medically-related setback. In July 2018, she contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The athlete started feeling symptoms during the Canada Cup. She spent a week in an induced coma, which derailed her training. She’s fully recovered now and defending her reputation as one of the most feared softball pitchers in the country.
When IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball was diagnosed at 22 years old with type 1 diabetes, he had had serious doubts about racing again. That diagnosis arrived in 2007. Kimball asked his doctor if he would ever be able to race again. The doctor’s answer was reassuring: “There are incredible people doing amazing things all over the world with diabetes — you know, driving a race car shouldn’t be any different,” was the answer, Kimball recalls. Six months later Kimball returned to the track where he finished second during his first race back.
A skilled winger capable of playing with either her right or left foot, Antonia Göransson, 28, was sidelined by a type 1 diabetes diagnosis in 2015. At the time, she had signed a contract to play for the Seattle Reign FC in the American National Women’s Soccer League. Determined, she travelled to Seattle against her doctor’s wishes. The stay was short-lived, though, and she soon felt worse. Göransson returned to Sweden after a few weeks. Back at home she signed with a local team in order to be close to her family and friends while managing type 1 diabetes.
Atlanta Braves left fielder Adam Duvall has been overcoming type 1 diabetes one game at a time. Diagnosed in 2012 with type 1 diabetes, the now 30-year-old ball player had some classic symptoms: weight loss (20 pounds in two months), weakness and frequent urination. He had been waking up five to six times a night to pee. Two years after being told he had the disease, Duvall was called up to the big league by the San Francisco Giants. In 2015, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. With the Reds he hit his first career grand slam in 2017. That same year he notched his first career walk-off in the 11th inning of a game against the Diamondbacks. He was traded to the Braves in 2018.
Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr. had already found success having won two gold and two silver medals at the 1996 games in Atlanta. He won silver in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle. The gold medals were awarded for wins in the 100-meter freestyle relay and the 100-meter medley relay. At the age of 24, a few years after the games, Hall was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The news was devastating. Hall’s doctors said there was a good chance he would never swim competitively again. Undaunted, he swam in the 2000 Olympic Trials, winning the 50-meter freestyle, where he bested a decade old American record. He earned second in the 100-meter freestyle. From there he competed in the 2000 Sydney Games where he earned a gold and silver medal in the team relays. He took home a bronze medal in the individual 100-meter freestyle race.
Scott Allan, 27, is currently a midfielder for the Glasgow-based Celtic football club. Since the age of 3, Allan has been balancing the demands of his sport and type 1 diabetes. The Scotland native would snack on chocolate bars before games to keep his blood sugar numbers up while competing. When he was 12 he had to adjust his pre-game ritual. At that age the intensity of the sport increased. He found himself cramping up later in games due to high blood sugar levels. After some experimenting he found that his ideal blood sugar level during matches is between 4–6 mmol/l (72–108 mg/dl). “It’s not really been that challenging in terms of having hypos, the issue for me has always been keeping my blood sugar under 10 mmol/l [180 mg/dl] for a full 90 minutes. If it went high it would cause me to feel fatigued early on, which doesn’t benefit me or the team,” he told Diabetes.co.uk during an interview.
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