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Star Athletes With Asthma

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Credit: LIFE.com

Amy Van Dyken

When she was a child, Amy Van Dyken’s asthma was so bad that she couldn’t climb a flight of stairs. At age 6 she took up swimming on the advice of a doctor, who said that the rhythmic breathing and humid air might help stretch out her lungs.

It was slow-going at first—Van Dyken couldn’t swim 100 meters until she was a teenager—but with the help of a regimen of medications (and despite frequent asthma attacks), Van Dyken crawled her way to the top of her sport. She won four gold medals at the Athens Olympics and collected two more in Sydney four years later.

Next: Jerome Bettis