14 August 2008

the true Olympian

I'm sure many of you have been watching the 2008 Olympics, from the incredible opening ceremonies to lap after lap of Michael Phelps winning gold for the U.S.A. in record breaking speed and numbers. While not an athlete (does running 3x a week make me an athlete?), I am always inspired by stories of remarkable strength and endurance, of exceeding one's personal best in strength.

So, the Michael Phelps saga is a remarkable one indeed, worthy of respect and admiration. And I don't want to take anything away from the gold medals he's been racking up, but I learned of another, maybe more remarkable story yesterday from Men's Health, that is clearly being overshadowed by the Phelps phenomenon.

Eric Shanteau, another Olympic swimmer, found out just 7 weeks before he was to leave for Beijing that he has testicular cancer. He opted to forgo treatment and compete, not letting his teammates down, for the games he's been training for nearly his whole life. His diagnosis is good because it was detected so early, but still......knowing that diagnosis would have to play games with your mind in the pool. I had a good friend in college, Ryan, whose best bud from back home-which was California I believe, also attended college with us. He hung out at the studio with Ryan so I got to know him pretty well. He went home over spring break and visited the doctor who gave him the same diagnosis.....the problem was that the testicular cancer was in advanced stages. He came back to finish the year, also undergoing treatment, but didn't come back in the fall. Ryan said he didn't make it through the summer. 20 years old. Most guys that age don't give any thought to the disease, much less dying.

I see a bit of a reflection of me in Shanteau, or at least what I hope to be. You train for something your whole life, only to be thrown a curve ball just before the big meet. Shanteau's decision to persevere can be inspiration to all of us that when we're pressing toward the mark.....not to let anything, ANYTHING, distract us from the goal. It's not about the number of medals, but running the race.
To Shanteau, possibly the greatest representation of the Olympic spirit I've seen.

No comments: