The 2012 London Olympics are underway, and the world is enthralled with watching the best athletes in the world compete against one another for an Olympic medal, as well as a spot in the history books.
Qualifying to be an Olympian is a Herculean feat that only a small amount of people can ever claim to have achieved. What’s even more amazing is that at least six of the 11,000 athletes from around the world are competing after beating cancer.
Fighting cancer is an awe-inspiring task in and of itself, which is why it is so inspiring that these athletes have already battled for their lives, and now they have trained hard to return to the sport they love and compete with the best of the best to bring home a medal for their respective countries.
Here are six athletes from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Czech Repuclic who have beaten cancer, and are now competing in London this year as a part of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Matt Emmons, a 31-year-old member of the U.S. shooting team, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in September of 2010. He had surgery to remove his thyroid, and was sidelined from training for about three weeks. Three months later he was able to compete again. This year, Emmons will compete in London in the 50-meter, three-position rifle and the 10-meter air rifle.
Petr Koukal has already represented the Czech Republic in the London Games in the Badminton Men’s Singles competition. Though he didn’t win a match, he has already won just by being able to represent his country in the Games. Koukal was diagnosed with testicular cancer two years ago, and was worried he might not even be alive to compete in London. Koukal is still cancer-free, and was also given the honor to carry his country’s flag in the opening ceremonies.
U.S. swimmer Eric Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer almost four years ago, and is now competing in his second Olympic Games since fighting cancer. He was diagnosed a week before the 2008 Olympic Trials, and not only did he qualify, but he traveled to Beijing and was able to compete. The 29-year-old breaststroker went through surgery after the Beijing Games, and goes for surveillance every six months. Shanteau is still cancer-free and though he didn’t medal in the 100-Meter Breaststroke (he placed 11th in the semifinals), he will compete again on Aug. 3 as a part of the 4X100 Medley Relay team.
Rower Fiona Paterson of New Zealand fought clear cell cervical cancer in 2006, and was back rowing in the Beijing Olympic Trials just a year later. She did not qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but in 2011 she celebrated being cancer-free for five years, in addition to being a member of the New Zealand 2011 World Champion Team. In London she will compete in the Women’s Double Sculls competition.
Jake Gibb was diagnosed with testicular cancer in December 2010, but the U.S. Beach Volleyball champ just kept going. This year he is competing in his second Olympic Games, but the first since beating cancer.
Brian Price, a rower representing Canada, is a survivor of childhood cancer. He underwent chemotherapy for leukemia ALL when he was young, and the drugs ended up stunting his growth. Instead of bemoaning his lost height, Price took advantage of his small stature by becoming the coxswain for the Canadian Rowing team. The 36-year-old won first won Gold in Beijing in 2008, and his team has already landed a spot in the Men’s Eight Finals in London.