Olympians are known for their perseverance, strength, and determination. As the winter Olympics are underway in PyeongChang, all you have to do is turn on your TV to see athletes test the boundaries of human performance. It’s awe-inspiring to see people who have trained their whole lives for this opportunity succeed.
When you think of Olympic athletes, cancer is probably not one of the first things that come to mind. But, did you know that there are many Olympic athletes who have received a cancer diagnosis? Keep reading for inspiring stories from people who hold both the titles of Olympic athlete and cancer survivor.
Scott Hamilton won a goal medal for figure skating in the 1984 Olympics. In 1990, he was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. Hamilton’s mother passed away from breast cancer before his Olympic win. In her memory, he began raising funds for cancer research, using his skating success as a platform. Then in 1997, Hamilton received a testicular cancer diagnosis. He’s also been diagnosed with a brain tumor three separate times, but none of this has stopped him from starting his own cancer organization, the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation, or from inspiring people all over the world.
Bryan Fletcher is a skier competing in this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, but he’s also a childhood leukemia survivor. Fletcher was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at three years old and underwent two years of chemotherapy treatments. Fletcher’s parents allowed him to start skiing as a way to take a break from treatment and enjoy life. After his cancer went into remission, Fletcher continued to ski, eventually earning his spot on both the 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChange US Olympic teams.
Shannon Miller is a seven-time Olympic medalists in gymnastics. She was a member of the Magnificent Seven team at the 1996 Olympics. In 2010, at 33 years old, Miller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Miller credits the lessons she learned as a competitive gymnast with helping her through treatment. Miller now uses her platform to educate other women about the importance of regular gynecological checkups and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Eric Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer a week before the Olympic trials for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. He had been rigorously training for years to achieve his Olympic dreams so with the support of his healthcare team, Shanteau decided to delay surgery to compete in the Olympic trials. However, he continued to be monitored closely by his doctors. By placing second, in the 200-meter breaststroke, Shanteau secured his spot on the Olympic team and got to compete in Beijing.