Hungarian triathlon champion working with COVID-19 patients baptized at Easter

BUDAPEST: Akos Vanek an ex triathlon The winner of the World Cup, works as a paramedic these days in Budapest taking sick patients with COVID-19 to the hospital as Hungary struggles against coronavirus crisis.

Vanek, who won the 2014 Triathlon World Cup, hung up his running shoes after doing the triathlon for 22 years as he said he heard a "calling by God" to work as an ambulance crew member.

I have joined the emergency services last November. Now he works day and night, dressed in personal protective gear and mask, resuscitating people if needed and administering coronavirus tests.

As of Sunday, Hungary had registered more than 1,400 infections, with a death toll of 99.

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Vanek's baptism in the Catholic Church was planned for Easter, but churches are closed across the country. The Pasaret Franciscan Church in Budapest asked for permission to baptize Vanek in an empty church with only a few Franciscan monks present on Saturday night.

My friend, a Protestant priest, took the night shift for me in the ambulance car so that I could attend my baptism, Vanek said before the evening ceremony.

Being a professional athlete had required a special belief and commitment similar to a relationship with God, he said, adding that the sport had brought him positive attributes that he could use in other fields of life: perseverance, humility and respect.

The Budapest church said in a statement that the special baptism was in line with messages over the Easter period by Pope Francis. The pope has called doctors, nurses and priests who risk their lives helping coronavirus patients the saints next door.