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Olympic hero struggling with consequences of professional athletics

Erika Salumäe
Erika Salumäe Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Erika Salumäe, now 52, the first person to win a gold medal for Estonia when the country regained independence, said in an interview given to Eesti Päevaleht that her health is failing as the years of hard training regimes are taking their toll.

Salumäe won gold medals in track cycling at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic games. She was known for her hard training methods, including training with weights over 200 kilograms.

She told the daily she had an operation to insert 15-centimeter-long pieces of metal into her back, but they have shifted and longer bolts are needed, and a new operation.

“The doctors give hope that I will continue walking,” Salumäe said.

Asked if she crossed the line in risking her health during her career, she said she went way too far, both during physical training and during cycling. “Top-level sport is about bettering yourself all the time.”

Salumäe said her daughter, who plays volleyball and swims, will never become a professional athlete after seeing what the professional path did to her mother.

Salumäe, who has lived in Spain for many years, sold her two gold medals, and other memorabilia, in 2013 and reportedly used the money for medical operations.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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