Charlie Guest won’t let rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis stop Winter Olympics bid

Mark Staniforth, PA Olympics Correspondent
·3-min read

Leading British ski racer Charlie Guest is determined that a shock diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis will not wreck her ambition of reaching a second Winter Olympics in Beijing next year.

The Perthshire 27-year-old has revealed she discovered she had palindromic rheumatism, which “randomly affects any joint at any given time” last year, shortly after making a full recovery from a serious back injury.

Despite the serious physical and psychological implications of the condition, Guest is continuing to improve on the World Cup circuit, and recorded a career-best 16th place finish in the slalom at Are, Sweden last Saturday.

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Guest told the PA news agency: “I get random attacks on a joint that last anywhere between 24 hours and three days, and alongside that comes quite hectic fatigue and brain fog.

“It came out of nowhere and for a while I was in total denial. I’d come through a really terrible time with my back injury in late 2018 and I thought it was really my time. So I was like, ‘are you kidding?’

“I felt like nobody understood what I was going through. It was like I was existing from day to day. I’d wake up at 3am with my shoulder killing me, and I’d be sitting on my sofa crying and trying to put ice on it.”

Guest, who was part of the British team that reached the quarter-finals of the mixed team event in Pyeongchang in 2018, started taking medication in September after being inspired by the example of tennis star Venus Williams.

Williams has been able to extend her professional career despite being diagnosed with a similar rheumatic condition, Sjogren’s syndrome, in 2011.

Guest added: “I think one of the biggest challenges for me was psychologically getting it into my head that I had to start medication. To begin with I was very resistant to it because it felt like admitting defeat.

Wimbledon 2019 – Day One – The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Venus Williams is also winning her battle with rheumatic disease (Mike Egerton/PA)

“But I found out that Venus Williams has a similar syndrome, in terms of how it operates on the body, and I thought if she can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t do it too.”

Guest praised her ski team and governing body GB Snowsport for its assistance and understanding in helping adapt her race and training schedules in order to mitigate the unpredictable effects of the condition.

And she believes it is no coincidence that she has started making her top-20 breakthrough at a time when she has belatedly begun to accept her condition and the occasional limitations it puts upon her.

“Having all these challenges along the way has kind of made ski racing a little bit easier, because I know my health is so important – skiing is still significant, but it’s not the most important thing out there,” Guest added.

“If day by day I’m not taking care of the little things with my body, I’m not going to be able to do the skiing. So it puts a little less pressure on, because I know if my body is happy, the results will come.”