Coach Pete

Expert advice for Swimmers, Triathletes, and Coaches

Dara Torres Coach Extremely Sick

Olympic swim coach fighting rare medical condition

Miami Hearld July 25 —

This should have been a glorious week for Michael Lohberg. The six-time Olympic swim coach was scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale on Friday for Singapore and a training camp with his best-known swimmer, 41-year-old Dara Torres, and then he would have gone on to the Beijing Olympics to guide Torres and seven other swimmers who train under him at the Coral Springs (Fla.) Aquatic Center.

Instead, Lohberg, 58, was suddenly fighting for his life after being diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder that could be fatal.

He planned to be on a friend’s private jet at 3 a.m. Friday en route to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to see if specialists could save him.

“It’s really, really bad,” Lohberg said by phone late Thursday. “They told me I might last only weeks, or maybe even days. It’s bad. I knew something was wrong because I was very tired and out of breath, but I thought it was from my herniated disk and all the stress. Turns out it’s a disaster.

“I have nothing left in my blood, and I have to get to the specialists by 8 a.m. Friday because without treatment, I might not make it to Monday.”

Torres, a five-time Olympian who has trained with Lohberg the past two years, was devastated.

“It’s so awful, really, really terrible,” she said by phone from California. “I can’t even talk about it right now. I haven’t stopped crying.”

Lohberg said he tried to reach all his swimmers so he could tell them himself.

“I didn’t want them to find out from the media,” he said.

Aplastic anemia is a disorder in which the bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells, leading to fatigue, higher risk of infection and uncontrolled bleeding. Treatment can include blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant.

Lohberg said the past three weeks had been particularly tiring, but “I’m always tired,” so he figured it was nothing serious. He said his doctors in South Florida “can’t do anything more for me,” so he is hopeful the specialists will be able to prolong his life.

“I have always had a good outlook on things, so I will fight this as hard as I can and see if I can make it,” he said. “I am still thinking of the Olympics, and very happy that Dara and I were able to accomplish our mission.”

In addition to Torres, Lohberg coaches Olympians representing five other countries – Anne Poleska (Germany), Vlad Polyakov (Kazakhstan), Sharntelle McLean (Trinidad and Tobago), Josh Laban (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Arlene Semeco, Leo Anrada and Eric Volcan of Venezuela.

Lohberg’s illness is the latest blow for the U.S. swimming team, which was on a high note after the Olympic trials but has had several pieces of bad news since.

First, breaststroker Eric Shauneau announced that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer before the trials. He was cleared to compete in the Olympics.

And Wednesday, it was revealed that Jessica Hardy, who finished second behind Torres in the 50-meter freestyle at the trials and won the 100-meter breaststroke, tested positive for a banned substance.

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July 26, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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