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Two-time European 800m champion retires from running, citing long COVID

Swiss 800m runner Selina Rutz-Büchel was infected with the coronavirus In April 2021, but has not been able to return to her training routine

Selina Rutz-Büchel Photo by: Erik van Leeuwen/WC

Two-time European 800m champion and Swiss 800m record holder Selina Rutz-Büchel announced her retirement on social media Wednesday, citing long COVID. 

Rutz-Büchel is a two-time European indoor champion in the 800m, winning titles in 2015 and 2017. During her 12-year career, she held a personal best of 1:57.95 for the two-lap event, which she set at the Paris Diamond League in 2015. She represented Switzerland at the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 and 2019 World Athletics Championships.

According to Swiss Athletics, she was infected with the the coronavirus in April 2021, but since then has not been able to return to her training routine. Initially, the symptoms were severe, and in the last year and a half, she has not been able to make the progress she had hoped. 

In April 2022, Rutz-Büchel, 31, gave birth to her daughter, but her state of health post-coronavirus “overtaxed her body and did not allow her to train,” she explained to Swiss Athletics.


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A post shared by Selina Rutz-Büchel (@selina_rutz)

“Due to ongoing health issues (long Covid), I have decided to retire from elite sports,” Rutz-Büchel wrote on her Instagram. “I am grateful to look back on a wonderful time when I was allowed to put sport at the center of my life. A heartfelt thank you to all the lovely people who accompanied and supported me on my way.”

Rutz-Büchel is not the only professional runner who has shared their struggles with the virus. Earlier this year, Australian Olympic 1,500m finalist Stewart McSweyn was forced to withdraw from the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, after a long bout with COVID-19. It took McSweyn, 27, several months to get over the respiratory effects of the virus. He returned to form at July’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., where he placed ninth in the 1,500m final.

Andre De Grasse celebrates 4x100m gold at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore. Photo: Kevin Morris

Canadian record holder and Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse also struggled to make a comeback post-virus. He came down with the illness before the 2022 Canadian Track and Field Championships in June and was not able to fully regain his fitness in time for the World Athletics Championships in July; he dropped out of the 200m, citing shortness of breath. However, De Grasse came back to run the anchor leg for the 4x100m relay team, helping Canada earn their first world championship gold in the event since 1997. 

One major question runners ask post-Covid is how long it will take to get back their fitness and feel normal again. Dr. Mark Wurfel, a pulmonologist at the University of Washington Chest Clinic, says the answer is “frustratingly vague”: “It’s important to recognize up front that it will take some time for your body to recover. Your time back to fitness will depend on how long you were out of training, the severity of your illness, and what lingering symptoms you have.”

Rutz-Büchel wrote that she hopes to stay in the sport as a coach and trainer, but is looking forward to spending more time with her family.