ATLANTA – Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau is heading to Beijing with a startling diagnosis: He has cancer.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Shanteau said he learned just a week before the Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., that he has testicular cancer. His doctors cleared him to compete in that meet and he surprisingly made the team in the 200-meter breaststroke, finishing second ahead of former world-record holder and heavy favorite Brendan Hansen.
“I was sort of like, ‘This isn’t real. There’s no way this is happening to me right now,'” Shanteau said. “You’re trying to get ready for the Olympics, and you just get this huge bomb dropped on you.”
Luckily for Shanteau, the doctors determined his cancer was treatable and had not spread, so it wouldn’t be a risk to compete in the Olympic trials.
Now, Shanteau’s putting off surgery until after Beijing because he doesn’t want to disrupt his lifelong goal of swimming in the Olympics. The 24-year-old Georgia native will be monitored closely over the next month and vows to withdraw from the team if there’s any sign his cancer is spreading.