Elka Graham Speaks Out After Collapsing on Victory Stand

(Just weeks before the World Championships, Aussie star Elka Graham twice passed out after training and was hospitalized with what was described as a heart ailment. As a result, she was taken off the Australian World Championships team. However, a second medical opinion contended that she was in no danger. Graham and her coach, Brian Sutton, lobbied Australian Swimming, and that organization relented, reinstating Graham. Two days ago, on the victory stand after the 800 free relay, Graham collapsed yet again. Yesterday she held a press conference. Here is the transcript of that press conference.)

Full transcript of ELKA GRAHAM’s press conference on July 25,2003 in Barcelona.

Elka Graham said today:

“I'm a little bit tired today, a little zonked out. But apart from that, I feel pretty good. We had a spectacular 4x200m freestyle relay swim. The girls were all really happy with it and….. I fell asleep during the presentation.

“I started feeling a little bit funny. But I wanted to be up there for the presentation.

“After I'd been down there for about 10 minutes or so I noticed it was really congested and … I started double blinking, not kind of realising what's around me and my whereabouts. I knew something was about to happen. That was my first recollection probably about 10 minutes after the race.

Ian Hanson (Australian team Media Director) was telling me some funny stories.

Hanson said……When we were taking Elka to the car. One of the disabled athletes came along and offered Elka his wheelchair.

”A lot of things get circulated. Apparently there was a helicopter above and word got around that I was really bad and someone actually saw me on a stretcher being whisked up on a helicopter and I was flown off by the helicopter. It was a good story but certainly not true.

Ian Hanson said…That was circulated through the Australian team. They thought she was up in the sky.

Q: Was you experience scary?

ELKA GRAHAM: ”Nothing can be scary if you don't even remember what happened.

”Like I said, I do remember receiving my medal and that little eye flash. It has happened a few times.

”I was a part of the team and I was getting up there not only for myself, but for Australia, the other three girls and for nearly all the 44 members in the stand watching us.

I'm obviously a smart enough girl. I kind of missed my first presentation on the first day in the 4×100 because I was in the doping room so I haven't actually made two presentations as yet.

“The warning signs, they come on so fast. The only real person who's seen all the warning signs, who knows … that person's not around and that's Brian Sutton.

“I was a little bit disorientated. The warning signs come on fast. Brian's been with through all of them. But who's to know if he was down there he would have picked something up?

Q: Is is frightening to think it might happen again?

ELKA: “It's not frightening. It's not frightening at all. I came over here knowing that I'm fit. I think I've proved that from what I've done in the water. It's just been fantastic over here to be part of the Australian team and … when something happens, there's no pain. It just happens. It's not frightening. It's a small risk.

”I've had about 10 or 11 races here. A lot of swims. The first day I swam a kilometre, 20 laps of hard racing, two relays and two hard 400s.

“It didn't happen that day at all. It was the last swim.

“It was a special moment, it's always something special now with the 4×200. It's not a matter of am I willing to put up with this? I don't feel I'm disadvantaged.

“First and foremost is my health. That's what I'm concerned about. But I'm also concerned about my career as well.

“It's not whether I'm willing for this to happen again or not. Who knows?

“It might not happen and it might happen. When it normally takes place, it's normally takes place after I've done a hard swim, normally when I'm resting, something like that.

“It's just a matter of taking a few steps back and being a bit more cautious. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

“I've been doing everything right.I wasn't to know it was to happen and certainly when it did there were some great people around me to help me.

Q: What are your plans immediately after the meet?

ELKA: “I'm here for the next five days. I've finished swimming. I'll be cheering the team on because I haven't had a lot of time in the stands. I've been racing a fair amount.

“This is the most that I've done at any meet. Three more days of exciting cheering.

“We leave on Tuesday to go back home. I will stay in Sydney for three days and no doubt Sunday morning, all being well I'll fly to Hobart.

Q: What happens medically now?

“I haven't thought that far yet. Last night just to clarify, had nothing to do with my heart. It's a matter of sitting down and work out a procedure. It's a procedure now.

“My job is not done. My job is not done when I touch the wall as most people. I need to do a little bit extra.

“It's a very special case. It's difficult with athletes as well. I'm also learning about myself and my body as well.

“I'm sure in the next month when I have my break after Hobart, I'll be having no doubt further investigations and seeing some doctors.

Q: Is there a link between low blood pressure problem and the heart…?

ELKA: ”There's obviously a link. I'm not willing to go into too much depth or detail about that.

“It wasn't a heart problem last night although my heart does beat a little differently to everyone else's.

“ It's by no means dangerous. It's just what I like to call special.

“It was probably a low blood pressure problem last night. Basically, it comes down to I’m 21 and I'm an adult.

“It's my choice as to whether I get up there on the dais. Any swimmer who knows what it's like to be part of a relay team, especially at a world championships, would want to get up on the dais. I wanted to be there. Once you medal, of course you want to be up on the dais.

What happened, happened before the eyes of the world…
“I woke up this morning and I was kind of like a baby, I needed to be told what happened. I didn't really remember too much and I guess in a way that's a good thing.

“I've seen some pretty shots of me … falling asleep as I like to say. I got a message from a girlfriend today telling me I had bad manners for falling asleep during the medal presentation. It's not a nice thing to look at, definitely not. However, I have no recollection of it.

“As soon as it happened … they let Mum and Dad come onto the pool deck straight away.

“Mum said it took about 10 years off her life. But if she wasn't here it probably would have taken about 20 years off her life but I spent the day with them today and they're in good spirits just like I am."

(courtesy of ausswim)

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