Barbados swimmer Evita Leter had to overcome more than just her type 1 diabetes to make it to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Leter, 21, competed in the women’s 100-metre breaststroke heats in Rio on Sunday, and the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) graduate is finally able to call herself an Olympian.
Leter, of Suriname, Barbados was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in February 2014 at the age of 19.
She had previously moved to the United States aged 15 to pursue a career in swimming, but knew her family wouldn’t have been able to afford to send her to college without a scholarship.
Her parents, both professors, had to make an agonising choice. Leter’s father moved to the Netherlands to increase support for the family, while her mother stayed behind to raise her, her older sister and younger brother.
Leter eventually got a scholarship with FGCU, in which she hopes to graduate with a finance degree.
She was in her freshman year at FGCU when a series of slow swim times culminated with her collapsing and ending up in hospital. Following her type 1 diagnosis, she was subsequently hospitalised twice more in 2014.
But her coach, Neal Studd, insisted that he never once considered whether Leter would be able to continue swimming.
“That would have been the furthest thing from my mind, not figuring this out and her not being part of the team,” Studd told news-press.com, who said he knew that Leter’s confidence would eventually return as she adapted to managing her diabetes.
Leter was fitted with an insulin pump a year ago, and she has gradually started to make the progress that she was denied during her diagnosis period.
Earlier this year, at the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships, Leter reset her lifetime bests in the 50m and 100m breaststroke (32.44 seconds and 1:12.99, respectively).
Two weeks later, she received an invite through the “universality” qualifying standard to attend the Rio games.
In her first-ever Olympic Games, Leter finished fifth in the heats of the women’s 100m breaststroke. Her time in Rio may have ended prematurely, but Leter will surely be content that after her progress was previously derailed, she is at last back on a positive trajectory.
Leter is not the only athlete with diabetes to have competed at this year’s Olympics.
Matheus Santana, who has type 1 diabetes, qualified for the Men’s 4x100m freestyle relay final with his Brazil team-mates, eventually finishing fifth.
Santana was diagnosed at the age of eight, but went on to win Gold at the Youth Olympic Games in 2014.