Five Famous Athletes with Asthma: Breaking Stereotypes

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of people worldwide, including athletes at the top of their game. Often, when we think of athletes, we picture individuals with boundless stamina and lung capacity. However, asthma doesn’t discriminate, and it can affect anyone, regardless of their physical prowess.

In this article, we’ll explore the stories of five remarkable athletes who have not only excelled in their respective sports but have also battled asthma along the way.

Get The Breath Geek Newsletter

Subscribe and get the best breathing tips, news, and other great stuff direct to your inbox.

Paula Radcliffe – The Marathon Queen

Paula Radcliffe, a British long-distance runner, is widely regarded as one of the greatest marathon runners in history. She held the women’s world record for the marathon for over 16 years, with a time of 2:15:25.

Asthma Diagnosis

Radcliffe was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma during her childhood. This form of asthma typically strikes during intense physical activity. Paula’s journey to becoming a world-class marathon runner wasn’t without its challenges. She faced frequent asthma attacks during training and competitions.


Despite her asthma, Radcliffe achieved remarkable success, winning numerous major marathons and earning three London Marathon titles. She managed her asthma by carefully monitoring her triggers, using inhalers as prescribed, and working closely with her medical team.

During the 2005 London Marathon, Paula Radcliffe famously stopped mid-race to use her inhaler. This moment showcased her determination and inspired many asthma sufferers to persevere in their athletic pursuits.

David Beckham – The Football Icon

David Beckham, the legendary English footballer, is known for his precision free kicks and remarkable career with Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the LA Galaxy.

Beckham was diagnosed with asthma as a child. Despite his condition, he never let it deter him from pursuing his passion for football.

Asthma Diagnosis

Beckham was diagnosed with asthma as a child. Despite his condition, he never let it deter him from pursuing his passion for football.


Beckham’s illustrious career includes multiple Premier League titles and international caps for England. He managed his asthma by staying disciplined with his medication and working closely with his medical team.

Book a breathing quality assessment

Click here to learn the quality of your breathing and how you can boost it. It's completely free.

In 2002, during the FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Beckham famously scored a crucial penalty against Argentina. It was revealed later that he used his inhaler just before the match to ensure he could perform at his best.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee – The Heptathlon Legend

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is an American former track and field athlete who specialised in the heptathlon and long jump. She’s considered one of the greatest female athletes of all time.

Asthma Diagnosis

Joyner-Kersee was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma during her teenage years. This diagnosis didn’t deter her from pursuing her athletic dreams.


She won three Olympic gold medals and one silver medal in the heptathlon, showcasing incredible endurance and versatility. Jackie managed her asthma through a combination of medication and careful training planning.

During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Joyner-Kersee experienced an asthma attack during the heptathlon but still managed to secure a gold medal. Her determination and resilience serve as an inspiration to many.

Jerome Bettis – The Bus

Jerome Bettis, known as “The Bus,” is a former NFL running back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the St. Louis Rams.

Asthma Diagnosis

Bettis was diagnosed with asthma at a young age but didn’t let it interfere with his passion for football.


He had a stellar NFL career, becoming one of the league’s all-time leading rushers. Bettis managed his asthma by staying in excellent physical condition and adhering to his prescribed asthma treatment plan.

During Super Bowl XL in 2006, Jerome Bettis, playing in his final NFL game, faced the added pressure of competing in his hometown of Detroit. Despite his asthma, he played a pivotal role in the Steelers’ victory.

Amy Van Dyken – The Swimming Sensation

Amy Van Dyken, an American former competitive swimmer, is one of the most decorated Olympians in U.S. history.

Asthma Diagnosis

Van Dyken was diagnosed with asthma as a child but didn’t let it deter her from her love of swimming.


She won six Olympic gold medals in swimming events and was known for her incredible speed in the pool. Amy managed her asthma through careful monitoring, medication, and consultation with her medical team.

During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Amy Van Dyken experienced an asthma attack moments before competing in a relay race. She courageously swam her leg of the relay despite the challenge, helping her team secure a gold medal.

Common Myths and Realities

Myth: Asthma Disqualifies You from Sports

Reality: These athletes prove that asthma doesn’t have to limit your athletic aspirations. With proper management and medical guidance, you can excel in sports.

Myth: Asthma Equals Weakness

Reality: The strength and determination of these athletes debunk the misconception that asthma signifies weakness. It’s a medical condition that can affect anyone.

David Beckham playing soccer in the FIFA World Cup/ famous athletes with asthma
Studies show regular exercise can actually help people with asthma improve breathing.


These five remarkable athletes have not only achieved greatness in their respective sports but have also shattered stereotypes about asthma. Their stories show that with dedication, proper management, and support from healthcare professionals, individuals with asthma can excel in athletics and inspire others to reach for their dreams.

If you or someone you know is dealing with asthma, remember that you’re not alone, and there is a community of athletes who have overcome similar challenges. Don’t let asthma define your limits; let it be the motivation to push beyond them.

If you feel like you need help, you can book a free breath discovery call and I’ll explain to you for more details.

Conquer Asthma Private Coaching

Ckick here to learn about the one-on-one Conquer Asthma program designed to help you conquer your asthma symptoms, boost your energy, and reduce your reliance on inhalers.