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Olympic Skier Excels in Spite of Diabetes 


According to the World Health Organization, diabetes is the world's fifth most deadly medical condition. VOA's Paige Kollock reports on how the disease has not stopped one young man from achieving his dreams.

Twenty-five-year-old American Kris Freeman is competing for the gold in cross-country skiing at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Five years ago, Freeman was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Doctors told him his elite athletic career was over. But he says his diabetes has not slowed him down one bit.

“I've got to, obviously, control my diabetes as best as possible, and the way to do that is to eat a very balanced diet, take my insulin, balance it perfectly with the meals and test my blood sugar frequently.”

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates carbohydrate metabolism. It develops most frequently in children and adolescents, as opposed to Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops later in life.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include excessive urination, excessive thirst, weight loss, nausea and fatigue.

Type 1 diabetes used to be considered a life-altering condition. Dr. Wayne Callaway, an endocrinologist in Washington DC, says that is still the case for many. "Any really great athlete is going to have a similar thing, now the issue is whether or not that is global. Most of the athletes who have Type1 diabetes deal with it pretty well. But what's going on in the country, and worldwide, is very different from that."

But for Freeman, who injects himself up to six times a day with insulin, and tests his blood sugar up to 12 times a day, it is a question of mind over matter.

"A diabetic can do anything that they want to, they just have to set their mind to it."

In total, he says spends about five minutes a day dealing with his disease. Leaving him more time to concentrate on skiing. But for the many diabetics worldwide, who are not fortunate enough to have the same kind of health care and commitment to athletic achievement, it can be a different story.

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