'I couldn't breathe... I couldn't go on': Martina Navratilova reveals pain of being forced to abandon Kilimanjaro charity climb


  • Tennis legend released from hospital after three days
  • Mountain guides said conditions were worst they could remember
Fit again: Martina Navratilova smiles as she poses for a photograph in the first-class lounge of Nairobi Airport today

Fit again: Martina Navratilova smiles as she poses for a photograph in the first-class lounge of Nairobi Airport today

Martina Navratilova is out of hospital and smiling agan, three days after her being forced her to tearfully abandon her attempt to climb Africa's highest mountain.

The tennis legend had to be carried down Mount Kilimanjaro on a stretcher night after her lungs filled up with liquid and she could no longer maintain the charity assault on the 19,340ft mountain.

'I didn't feel badly, I just couldn't breathe. I couldn't get a full breath of air,' Navratilova said today after being released from Nairobi hospital yesterday, where she was treated for high-altitude pulmonary edema.

'Nothing hurt, and for an athlete that's weird. Nothing hurt but I (couldn't) go on,' she said.

The 54-year-old, who had a bout with breast cancer earlier this year, reached nearly 14,800 feet  when a doctor with 27-person climbing team told her she needed to descend.

Quitting, Navratilova said, was not in her vocabulary, but 'when the doctor said you're going down, you're going down.'

She was disappointed and frustrated, but trying to push on would have been dangerous.

The winner of 18 singles Grand Slams, Navratilova kept a diary during her four-day climb. Her last entry read:

''I've never been so utterly exhausted. Everything is taking monumental effort, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, setting up tent. I don't want to ever ...' I can't read it. I stopped writing because I was crying, because I was so disappointed at how I felt,' Navratilova said.

Having a breather: Martina Navratilova takes a break at around 4500m on day four of the climb, the last she managed before turning back in Tanzania

Having a breather: Martina Navratilova takes a break at around 4500m on day four of the climb, the last she managed before turning back in Tanzania

Leader of the pack: Martina Navratilova and her team encounter snowy weather in Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation

Leader of the pack: Martina Navratilova and her team encounter snowy weather in Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation

Struggling: Martina Navratilova, who recently recovered from a battle with breast cancer, had to call on all her fitness reserves to get as far as she did

Struggling: Martina Navratilova, who recently recovered from a battle with breast cancer, had to call on all her fitness reserves to get as far as she did

She wrote the entry Thursday afternoon, a few hours before descending.

Once down from the mountain, Navratilova's appetite returned. She said she hadn't been hungry for four days, though at first she thought it may have been an intestinal issue after eating bad fish on Sunday.

Kate Brewer, a press agent on the climb, said the mountain guides told the group that the weather was the worst they had ever seen. Torrential rain, mist and cold plagued the group.

It started raining two hours after the climb began, and it was cold from the beginning, Navratilova said. By the third day it was snowing and sleeting.

The binoculars Navratilova packed were never used because visibility at times was only a few yards. Only 18 of the 27 people in the group made it to the top.

'Nobody had fun. It was just survival, just pure survival,' she said. 'Trying to stay dry, trying to stay warm, trying to eat enough, drink enough, to survive the day. The conditions were just so unpleasant.'

Navratilova said she's been in great health since mid-August and that her bout with cancer earlier this year had nothing to do with her medical woes.

Ordeal: The climbers had to endure conditions that mountain guides described as the worst ever experienced by a set of charity climbers

Ordeal: The climbers had to endure conditions that mountain guides described as the worst ever experienced by a set of charity climbers

Glamorous huh? British badminton player Gails Emms waits to use the toilet at high camp on Kilimanjaro

Glamorous huh? British badminton player Gails Emms waits to use the toilet at high camp on Kilimanjaro

Navratilova was climbing Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. So far she's helped raise $80,000, and she noted that failing to reach the top may have generated more publicity than if she had made it to the summit.

'I always said the only failure is when you fail to try,' she said. 'I guess the other failure is not giving your best effort. I did both: I tried and gave my best effort.'

We made it: The rest of Martin's team celebrate after reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest free standing mountain

We made it: The rest of Martin's team celebrate after reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest free standing mountain

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