The mighty Martina Navratilova climbed just about every mountain there was to climb in professional tennis, but fluid-filled lungs forced her to abandon her attempt to climb Africa’s highest mountain.
The nine-time Wimbledon singles champion told the Associated Press that she knew by Wednesday she wouldn’t be able to reach the summit of the 19,340-foot mountain in Tanzania. Martina, who is 54 and battled breast cancer this year, was carried down Mount Kilimanjaro on a stretcher Thursday night and Friday morning.
“I didn’t feel badly, I just couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get a full breath of air,” Navratilova said shortly her release from the Nairobi hospital, where she was treated for high-altitude pulmonary edema. “Nothing hurt, and for an athlete, that’s weird. Nothing hurt but I (couldn’t) go on.”
The winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles said quitting is not in her vocabulary, but “when the doctor said you’re going down, you’re going down.”
Navratilova kept a diary during her four-day climb. Her last entry read: “‘I’ve never been so utterly exhausted. Everything is taking monumental effort, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, setting up tent. I don’t want to ever …’”
She stopped writing the entry because she was crying from the disappointment.
The tennis legend was climbing Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Martina said she’s been in great health since mid-August, and her cancer this year had nothing to do with her medical woes.
So far, she has helped raise $80,000, and she noted that failing to reach the top may have generated more publicity than if she had made it to the summit.
“I always said the only failure is when you fail to try,” she said. “I guess the other failure is not giving your best effort. I did both: I tried and gave my best effort.”
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