Nathan Smith hasn’t given up on his season, far from it.
Canada’s top biathlete has been fighting a viral infection for a few months that went undetected until mid-December. He’s been resting at home since with gentle training while in wait to get back to full health.
It’s not easy for an elite athlete to be sidelined. We caught up with him for an update on his medical condition, progress, and plans towards a return to competition.
SP- You have been diagnosed with cytomegalovirus. What is that?
NS: It’s a very common virus that the majority of the population ends up getting. Usually it has pretty minor symptoms and can stay latent in the body for long periods. It can sometimes be similar to mono. I never felt dead tired but it was definitely sapping my energy, making it impossible to compete at my best.
SP- You only did one World Cup stage before packing it in. How did you realize something was obviously very wrong?
NS- I hadn’t been feeling good in earlier team trials in the fall. Really poor skiing in Sweden basically reaffirmed by suspicions that something wasn’t right.
SP- An elite athlete of your caliber, you must have been devastated to have to put a stop to your season?
NS- Yes, it was really disappointing. I had to put my goals for this winter on hold, and ultimately completely refocus on resting, and wrestle with the possibility that I might not really race at all this year.
SP- What’s your daily life like these days?
NS- I have to say I have more downtime than I’m used to. At first I had to be a complete couch potato. Now it’s usually just one short training session a day. It’s frustrating because I’m used to fighting everyday to improve my shooting and skiing. Taking it so easy can feel like the opposite.
SP- With the time needed after recovery to build back a racing shape, is it realistic to think you could be back before the end of the season?
NS- At first my goal was to come back after New Year’s, then maybe for World Championships (February). That doesn’t seem realistic now, so I’m aiming to do the third trimester in March: Korea, Finland and Norway. I think there’s enough time (provided full health) to put in some good training and be in competitive shape by then.
SP- Athletes are known to find inspiration and bounce back after injuries or setbacks. What’s motivating you right now?
I enjoy racing and realize it even more now that I’ve been forced to step away from it for quite a while.
His teammates and supporters will be happy to see him back at the range!