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This swimmer battled COVID-19 twice. Now, he's an Olympic gold medalist.

Tokyo breaks daily COVID case record
Tokyo breaks daily COVID case record 04:05

In the past year, British swimmer Tom Dean has battled back from COVID-19 not once, but twice. And this week, he became an Olympic gold medalist. 

"This is the single greatest achievement of my life," Dean said. 

Dean first revealed his coronavirus diagnoses after qualifying for the Tokyo Games in April. He said that he was unable to exercise for weeks at a time while in isolation. 

"After getting COVID twice, having three weeks out of the pool each time," Dean said at the time. It's been pretty brutal coming into trials with some real disruptions."  

The 21-year-old won gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday, setting a British record with a time of 1:44:22. Fellow Brit Duncan Scott took silver, and Brazil's Fernando Scheffer got the bronze.

20210727 Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Aquatics
Tom Dean of Great Britain celebrates with the gold medal and the Union Jack flag after winning the men 200-meter freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 27, 2021.  Giorgio Scala / Orange Pictures / Getty Images

According to The Associated Press, the race marked Britain's first 1-2 finish in Olympic swimming in over 100 years, since the 1908 Games in London.

"It's a dream come true having a gold around my neck," Dean told reporters after the race. "I contracted COVID twice in the last 12 months. Sitting in my flat in isolation, an Olympic gold was a million miles away." 

Dean said he tested positive the first time last September, but battled a more serious bout of the virus that affected his breathing earlier this year, just a few months ahead of trials. He said that it was not life-threatening, but was bad enough to put his swimming career into question. 

"The second time was much worse than the first," he said. "I was quite ill for about 10 days and I served the whole isolation period and it's a slow build back up because of the nature of the sport we do and the nature of the disease." 

"You can't just go straight back into full-on training so it required a few weeks of building back up," he continued. "Two or three months out of our Olympic trials and I'm stuck inside unable to even exercise inside my own flat. It was tough to wrap my head around that during an Olympic year."  

The Olympic host city of Tokyo reported its highest-ever daily number of new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as the Games continue under strict protection protocols. The Japanese capital, which is under its fourth state of emergency, reported 2,848 new cases of COVID-19, breaking a previous record set in January and bringing the country's case total to more than 200,000 since the pandemic began. 

Dozens of people associated with the games, including both workers and athletes, have tested positive for the virus since the Games began. 

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