Marieke Vervoort, a Belgian Paralympian set to compete at Rio 2016, has said she is "thinking about euthanasia" after the Games because of the pain caused by her incurable degenerative spinal disease that prevents her from sleeping.
She told the Daily Express (h/t John Carney of the Daily Mail Australia): "I have a bucket list, including stunt flying, and I have started thinking about euthanasia."
Speaking to Le Parisien (h/t Carney), she said: "Everybody sees me laugh with my gold medal, but no one sees the dark side. I suffer greatly, sometimes sleeping only 10 minutes a night—and still go for the gold. Rio is my last wish."
According to Duncan Wright of the Sun, she added: "I want everyone to have a glass of champagne in hand, and a thought for me. ... There is a chance to medal, but it will be very hard because the competition is very strong. Then we’ll see what life brings me, and I try to enjoy the best moments."
On Monday, the wheelchair sprinter shared a snapshot of her training for the Rio Paralympics, which begin on Wednesday and will be her last competition:
First up for her in Brazil will be the 400-metre race on Friday.
Vervoort, who won gold and silver at London 2012 in the 100-metre and 200-metre T52 wheelchair sprints, respectively, contracted the rare disease in 2000, and her condition has been "progressively deteriorating," per Carney.
The 2015 world champion took up the sport in 2008 after the disease prevented her from taking part in triathlons. A year prior, she competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Per Wright, the Belgian revealed how she had overcome the disease to win her gold medals: "When I sit in my racing chair, everything disappears. I expel all the dark thoughts, I fight fear, sadness, suffering, frustration. That’s how I won the gold medals."
The 37-year-old often passes out from the pain and struggles to sleep. Carney shared an extract from her diary, recorded on Sunday, July 17:
Fortunately I had a better night even though I had a moment of crisis for about 45 minutes.
With me this morning, it felt like I had slept only an hour, but that was not the case.
My body is just exhausted from all that... I let the nurse this morning give me a shot of morphine and this morning went purely on character to the training. I literally knocked all my fears and frustrations out of me.
Euthanasia is legal in Vervoort's native Belgium after being made so in 2002 and requires three doctors to give their written consent.
According to Wright, Vervoort has made plans for her own funeral in advance of the Paralympics.