The Death of Olympic Gold Medallist Andy Holmes: the Deadly Weil’s Disease Claims another Victim
Last week, former Olympic Gold medal winner Andy Holmes passed away. Even though the cause of death has not been officially released, suspicions abound that Holmes died because of Weil’s Disease. The disease is an infectious water-borne
illness that in its mild form can resemble a flu but in its more serious form can lead to organ failure and internal bleeding. The British rower won two gold medals in two different Olympic Games and was a very popular athlete among his fans. The sport’s governing
body has issued a fresh warning to rowers around the world to keep a check on their hygiene.
Andy Holmes was born in 1959 and started rowing at an early age. At Latymer Upper School, Holmes was coached by Jim Clark who was an Olympic rowing silver medallist, and started developing his skills early on. He first made a name
for himself at the 1984 Olympic Games where he rowed with Sir Steve Redgrave and won a gold medal in the Men’s Coxed Fours. Then he repeated his gold medal winning performance in 1988 when he won the Men’s Coxless Pairs. At the 1988 Olympics, Holmes also won
a bronze medal in the Coxed Pairs in the same Olympic Games. He also won gold medals in the 1986 Commonwealth Games and also won gold medals again at the World Rowing Championships in 1986 and 1987.
Last Sunday, the rowing world lost a great athlete to a rare and deadly disease. Andy Holmes is said to have contracted Weil’s Disease, also known as leptospirosis, and he succumbed to the illness when the infection spread to his
liver and kidneys and caused massive organ failure. Holmes was a great rowing talent and will be sorely missed by his family and fans. He captivated the world of rowing with his fantastic displays of strength and athletic ability and won a legion of fans along
Holmes inspired a whole generation of rowing fans with his seminal win at the Men’s Coxed Fours at the 1984 Olympics. It was so impressive because it was the first British rowing win for the last 36 years and made the team of that
year instant heroes. In 1989, the great British rower suddenly retired from the sport and decided to relax for the rest of his days. But he had recently been lured back to the sport by schoolmates. He had taken up a coaching position and become the director
of rowing at two clubs. He had retained the love of the sport after so many years and had really been enjoying himself until he suddenly became ill from the disease.
Weil’s disease is a rare but deadly disease in the UK. It is less rare in other parts of the world, and by some estimates almost 10 million people contract the disease every year. It is not fatal in most cases and people suffer
only a mild flu and then recover soon after, but it can kill in its deadlier form. Humans acquire the disease from animals such as rats, pigs and dogs. The disease is transferred through the urine of animals and that is why it is particularly dangerous to
water sports enthusiasts. One way that rowers can protect themselves from the disease is to clean and dress open wounds on their feet, ankles and calves and avoid exposing these areas to the water.
It is very sad when a great talent like Holmes dies from a rare disease, but such is life. It is also sad that he had just started to get back into the field and was training and transferring his skills and experience to a younger
generation of potential rowers who might make the country proud in a few years time.
It is up to the governing body of the sport of rowing and the Olympic committee and the sports organisations of various countries to educate and warn their rowers and other water sports enthusiasts about the potential dangers of
the disease. All athletes should be recommended to clean and treat wounds and maintain a high level of hygiene at all times to prevent the spread of this disease. In the future with precautions, unnecessary deaths like that of Andy Holmes can be avoided.