Olympic swimmer Shanteau to tell cancer story at ACS golf tourney in Warren

This year’s American Cancer Society golf tournament will feature a guest speaker who has excelled at the highest level of his sport.

World Champion and Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau will be on hand to speak at the dinner following the Men’s Golf Championship Wednesday, Aug. 6, at Conewango Valley Country Club.

Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2008 – one week before trials for the Beijing Olympics – and has been speaking about his experience ever since.

“One of the biggest things I try to get across is that you still have control of your life,” said Shanteau. “People often feel a loss of control when they’re diagnosed. It’s important to understand what’s happening and understand the treatment options available so you can live your life the way you want to.”

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield was active in sponsorship of the event and in bringing Shanteau on as a guest speaker. Highmark was Shanteau’s healthcare provider throughout his diagnosis and treatment.

“It brings a unique aspect with him being a survivor as well as an athlete,” said Director of Council on Tourism John Papalia Jr. “It brings awareness that cancer affects everyone – male or female, young or old, athlete or non-athlete. It affected him in his prime; it’s really a unique story.”

Shanteau swam collegiately at Auburn University, where he helped the Tigers to 32 dual meet victories, four Southeastern Conference titles, and four NCAA titles from 2002-2006. Individually, he finished his college career as a five-time National Champion and 11-time All-American in his events.

After coming up just short of making the 2004 Olympic team, he was in the best shape of his life ready to compete for a spot on the 2008 roster when he learned of his diagnosis.

Only Shanteau’s close family and a select few coaches were aware of his cancer heading into trials.

Without knowing if he would even be healthy enough to compete in Beijing, he placed second in the 200-meter breaststroke to earn a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. Shanteau made the decision to delay treatment and compete in the Beijing Games where he posted a personal best time, missing the finals by .13 seconds.

The stretch between diagnosis and day one of treatment was over two months.

“I coordinated with the army of doctors I had at the time and understood all of the risks when I made that decision,” said Shanteau. “None of the doctors were ever too concerned with not being able to cure me of my cancer, but it wasn’t a decision I was going to take lightly. If anyone had said they weren’t sure it would have changed things dramatically.”

Shanteau underwent an orchiectomy to remove the cancer after returning home and recovered to compete at the 2009 U.S. National Championships and World Championship Trials in Indianapolis. There, he broke his own American record in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:08.01.

At the World Championships in Rome, Shanteau teamed with Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol, and David Walters to win the gold and set a new world record in the 4×100-meter relay with a time of 3:27.28. He also finished second in the 200-meter breaststroke, third in the 200-meter individual medley, and fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke. His times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke remain the American records in those events.

Shanteau made his return to the Olympics in 2012, winning gold as a member of the 4×100-meter medley relay at the London Games.

While Shanteau never made his retirement official by filling out the required paperwork, he stepped away from competitive swimming at the conclusion of his second trip to the Olympic Games. He now works in cardiac rhythm management for Boston Scientific and remains active with the LIVESTRONG Foundation, through which he is able to host the annual Swim for Your Life Challenge at Lake Lanier Islands in his home state of Georgia.

The dinner will follow the 37th ACS Men’s Golf Championship Wednesday, August 6 at CVCC. The tournament will begin with two shotgun starts, one at 8 a.m. and one at 1:15 p.m. For information or to register for the event, contact the Warren County Unit of the American Cancer Society at 723-5781.