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San Diego Gold Medalist Refuses To Let Chronic Disease Hold Her Back

USA Swimming's Kathleen Baker was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease as a teenager, but she hasn't let it slow her down in the pool or in life

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During a typical training session, Kathleen Baker may swim five miles worth of laps.

She'll do this six to eight times a week.

Throw in all of her dry land training and it's easy to understand how pushing her body to exhaustion, day after day, could start to wear her down.

But, Baker doesn't complain and she certainly doesn't give into a few muscle aches given everything her 24-year-old body has experienced up to this point outside of training.

She was just 13 years old when she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a debilitating and incurable autoimmune disorder which has wreaked havoc on her entire digestive tract.

"For me, it's from my esophagus all the way through my stomach, intestines, colon, everywhere. Not ideal for any type of life, not to mention training for the Olympics," Baker said.

2020's addition of a global pandemic only added to Baker's health concerns as she had to take even more precautions to protect her already compromised immune system.

I feel like I want to be a great story for someone to look up to

Kathleen Baker

While Crohn's has sidelined her in the past, sending her to the hospital at times, Baker has navigated the past several months leading up to Olympic Trials with few serious complications.

"She is generally the first person in the parking lot and often the last to leave, and I think she sets standards for herself, not to make her better than anyone else, but for her own standards and her standards are very high," said David Marsh, Baker's coach with Team Elite.

She is now looking to add the 200 medley to her Olympic bucket list and feels like the event could be her strongest right now, which is saying something considering she is a former world record holder in the backstroke.

Baker won a gold medal in the 4x100 meter IM relay and a silver medal in the 100 meter backstroke at the 2016 Olympics.

"I feel like I want to be a great story for someone to look up to, I have a moderate to severe Crohn's disease and I'm capable of winning Olympic medals and I want that to be what you see when you google Crohn's disease, not every horror story," Baker said.

Hear more from Baker on the newest episode of NBC 7's Olympic Dreams Podcast with Steven Luke.

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