Aussie Swimming Great Michael Klim Reveals Shock Details Of His Debilitating Auto-Immune Disorder

Michael Klim fashion shoot 2
THE ICE MAN: Michael Klim will need all of his inner strength as he faces his toughest test. Photo Courtesy Michael Klim Collection.

Aussie Swimming Great Michael Klim Reveals Shock Details Of A Debilitating Auto-Immune Disorder

Australian swimming great Michael Klim has revealed “he has been secretly battling an incurable and debilitating disorder which has resulted in him losing sensation in both his feet.”

The 44-year-old six-time Olympic medallist and seven time world champion has been diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), an auto-immune disorder that attacks the myelin sheaths of your nerves and affects function and weakness in the areas of the arms, hands, legs, and feet.

Michael Klim

HAIL THE CHAMPION: Michael Klim’s “time in the sun” at the 1998 World Championships in Perth. Photo Courtesy: Sport The Library.

Klim, one of Australian swimming’s favourite sons , has told his story to The Sunday Telegraph and Channel Ten’s The Project.

The shock diagnosis has seen the former champion collapse in front of his children and rely on what best mate Ian Thorpe has branded his “human walking stick,” partner Michelle Owen so to not fall down in public.

After battling symptoms for a number of years, Klim was forced to see a medical professional who diagnosed him with the rare disorder.

Klim now has limited leg functionality and relies on walking sticks and braces to support him.

Klim told The Sunday Telegraph that in 2019 he started to get symptoms that he didn’t realise were connected to his diagnosis.


SYDNEY OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS: Australia’s victorious 4x100m freestyle relay team. Chris Fydler, Ashley Callus, Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe. Photo Courtsesy: News Corp.

“I have been dealing with chronic ankle problems and degenerative back issues for quite some time and over the past few years, I noticed severe muscle wastage in my legs, difficulty with balance, some loss of function from the knees down, numbness in my thighs and feet, to the extent I was unable to stand,” Klim told the newspaper.

He now depends on a walking stick to get around, has had to make drastic changes to his diet and undergoes a rigorous rehabilitation program to manage the effects of the disorder and pain.

“I began IVIG treatment (intravenous Immunoglobulin) to reduce the effect of the inflammatory conditions that attack the immune system,” he said.

“Amid the pandemic I needed to return to Australia from my home in Bali for an immediate back operation to decompress the nerves in my spine and resume IVIG treatment (Intravenous Immunoglobulin).

“Massages, cupping and acupuncture help as well as using a tens machine regularly to activate my muscles. I’ve had special orthotics and braces fitted to support my drop foot and weak legs. Without them I can’t walk and need a walking stick.

“My diet has required a lot of attention. I tried the carnivore diet as a process of elimination which seemed to work so I try to maintain mostly carnivore.

Michael Klim with kids Stella,13 Frankie 7 and Rocco 10

FAMILY SUPPORT: Michael Klim and his three children Stella, Frankie, 11 and Rocco. Photo Courtesy: Michael Klim Family Collection.

The debilitating condition has impacted his whole family, including his children, Stella, 16, son Rocco, 13 and Frankie, 11, whom he shares with ex-wife Lindy Rama-Ellis who he split with in 2016 after 10 years of marriage.

The kids often take turns for him to lean on them for balance.

“I’m also extremely lucky to have a very supportive partner. Michelle has been there with me every step of this journey, I know she has sacrificed a lot. She is, as Thorpey likes to call it, my “human walking stick,”’ he said.

Despite keeping his shock diagnosis a secret for two years, Klim feels ready to speak out and hopes telling his story might secure more research and funding into CIDP.

“Only recently I have started to share my story as it was getting harder to discuss my symptoms,” he also tells Channel Ten’s The Project.

Brett Hawke-Gary Hall-Jr and Michael Klim - fitter-faster-article main image

TRIPLE TREAT: Brett Hawke, Gary Hall Jr., and Michael Klim (l to r); Photo Courtesy: Fitter and Faster

“We then came to find more people suffering from this condition. It made me realise that this rare condition might not be as rare as I think so I wanted to share my story in hope that more research can be directed towards CIDP.

“It’s hard accepting that my identity will no longer be reliant on my athletic ability. I now need to find a new mindset and mental toughness to allow me to overcome and accept this new challenge. Sharing my journey is another part of this healing process and I would hope that it brings awareness to CIDP and resonates with people who may be going through similar challenges.”

Klim was the star of 1998 World Championships “My time in the Sun” he would say– who went on to become the face of swimming in a golden era of Australian swimming between 1998 and 2004 – six years which saw Klim play a leading role in the rise of a men’s team that showed no fear or favour to anyone – building a renewed rivalry with respected rivals the USA with the fearless head coach Don Talbot pulling the strings.

There was a real dominance in that Australian men’s team that would start to flex its muscle at the ’97 Pan Pacs in Fukuoka; develop that golden glow at the ’98 Worlds where Klim won four gold medals and was the Swimmer of the Meet; to ’99 and record breaking Pan Pacs in Sydney which set up the fever for Sydney in 2000 before putting the icing on the cake in 2001 at the World’s in Fukuoka when Australia finally toppled the might of the US for the first and only time.

Klim was part of all that with his bald head becoming synonymous with a Dolphins Swim Team that conquered the world.

As tough as they come in the pool who will now call on all of that inner drive, his family and fellow swimmers to help him through this toughest test of all.

Michael Klim with medals 1998 Worlds

FLAGGED FOR SUCCESS: Michael Klim – Swimmer Of The Meet at the 1998 World Championships in Perth. Photo Courtesy: Darin Braybrook (Sport The Library).


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1 year ago

Dreadful news. You have given so much Michael, this is another life challenge. Sending love and strength to you and your family.

Colin moore
Colin moore
1 year ago

I have same symptoms as Mr Klim was wondering what test he took to diagnose him

1 year ago
Reply to  Colin moore

There isn’t a test, it’s a diagnosis of exclusion.

1 year ago
Reply to  Colin moore

There are some tests. There are three diseases which can cause poly neuropathy. Neuro Myelitus Optica, Myelin Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein (MOG) disorder and the most well known one, Multiple Sclerosis MS. The exact cause of these is unknown but all three can lead to Transverse Myelitus and Optic neuritus and Encephalomyelitis. I have MOg disease so I know. I got it in Asia and it seems Michael may have got it there as well.

1 year ago

Did he contract covid? COVID started Dec 31, 2019. I think he mentioned he started seeing symptoms in 2019.

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