Just 10 months before former Team GB athlete Anyika Onuora was due to compete in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, she was struck with malaria and fighting for her life. “It was a massive feat for me to go through, to put my body through so much.”
Anyika was Co-Captain of Team England in the last Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia and has competed in the 100, 200 and 400 metres at the European, Commonwealth, World and Olympic Games. She is no stranger to tough physical challenges, but contracting malaria took her body to the limit and made her journey to the Olympics even more challenging
I was aiming towards the Olympic games. It couldn’t have happened, to be honest, at a worse time.
Anyika survived malaria, but she had to learn to walk again – before she could even contemplate sprinting and competing with some of the world’s highest-ranking athletes. But doctors were not sure she would ever make a full recovery. “I think those words always stuck with me,” she says. “I started crying, near enough had a breakdown, because I didn’t know what was gonna happen.”
Staying determined through her treatment and having a support system around her, Anyika beat the odds and pushed through to make a full recovery. In fact, so quickly, she was a medal winner at the Olympic Games. “I’m so thankful that we’ve got a great healthcare system in the UK and I think that made all the difference, just having the support.”
However, she knows that not everyone has those opportunities and resources. “A lot of people don’t have the same support as I did… I came back and made a full recovery in the UK, but for a lot of people in some countries where malaria is quite prevalent, it’s not always the case."
Worldwide, malaria causes over 400,000 deaths a year, and particularly threatens children under 5 and pregnant women, with one child losing their life every 2 minutes.