Illness Casts Doubt on Olympic Hopes of Singapore’s Nicholas Mahabir

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Illness Casts Doubt on Olympic Hopes of Singapore’s Nicholas Mahabir

American-born Singapore international Nicholas Mahabir is dealing with a viral infection that has delayed his progress toward the Paris Olympics.

In an interview with the Straits Times, the 18-year-old Mahabir said he’s dealt with persistent mononucleosis since late last summer after contracting Epstein-Barr virus. After an outstanding start to 2023 that saw him set national records in all three breaststroke distances, the California native has been largely unable to train.

“It continued to get harder,” Mahabir told the Straits Times. “The hardest part is the brain fog. It’s like you want to do something but your mind cannot will your body to move.

“I was not able to train and simple tasks, like getting out of bed, were a struggle. I slept 12 to 16 hours every day for a few months, but it felt like a lot less. I grew up a very active outdoor kid but now, just going for a short walk would end up, on a few occasions, with me blacking out fully.”

The year got off to an outstanding start for Mahabir, a Coronado Swim Association-Team Elite swimmer and University of California commit in the high school class of 2024. He won three individual silver breaststroke medals at the Southeast Asian Games in May, plus gold in the men’s medley relay and the mixed medley relay. It was part of 22 gold medals and 47 total for Singapore, table-leading tallies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Among the swims there was a national record 27.91 in the 50 breast.

At the TYR Pro Championships in July, he went 59.96 in the 100 breast and 2:11.87, both setting national marks. His time in the 100 is just within a half-second of the Olympic A cut (59.49).

But soon after, Mahabir tested positive for the virus, and his training routine and life have been thrown into uncertainty. He was unable to take part in either the World Junior Championships in September of the Asian Games in the fall.

“It’s a terrible feeling,” Mahabir said. “I had sacrificed my whole year and gone harder than ever and was training better than ever. The fact that I was feeling 60 percent energy-wise before I went 59 and 2:11 tells me that I would have been way faster had my health been 100 percent.”

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