The personal stories are always the most compelling aspect of the Olympics. Well, that and hot jocks stuffed into outfits that show off their muscled assets. But stick with me, here.
With the Beijing Games a month away, the dramatic stories of sacrifice, training for years in obscurity and personal commitment to sport are surfacing. What’s bound to become one of the most watched stories is that of Eric Shanteau, an Atlanta swimmer who made the U.S. team a week ago.
On June 19, before securing his Olympic spot in the 200 breaststroke, Shanteau stared down a diagnosis of testicular cancer. He chose the Olympics over surgery but kept his diagnosis quiet until Friday.
“I was sort of like, ‘This isn’t real. There’s no way this is happening to me right now,'” he said by telephone from the team’s pre-Beijing training camp in California. “You’re trying to get ready for the Olympics, and you just get this huge bomb dropped on you.”
His doctors cleared him to compete at the trials in Omaha, Neb., determining he wouldn’t be at great risk to delay treatment. Then, Shanteau surprisingly made the team in the 200-meter breaststroke, finishing second ahead of former world-record holder and heavy favorite Brendan Hansen.
He’s putting off surgery until after the Olympics because it would keep him out of the water for at least two weeks, ruining his Beijing preparations. The 24-year-old Georgia native will be monitored closely over the next month by U.S. Olympic team doctors and vows to withdraw if there’s any sign his cancer is spreading.
Photo: Cameron Spencer, Getty Images