By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – Having gained the upper hand in his battle with cancer, Nathan Adrian was at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday focused on a more familiar fight securing a spot on the United States 2020 Olympic swim team.
Contributing to a U.S. silver medal victory in the 4×100 metre freestyle relay at the Centro Acuatico will not hurt that effort nor will it improve his chances.
The result is simply another indication that eight months after announcing he was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer, which required two surgeries, things are moving in a positive direction.
“We’re not where I want to be,” conceded Adrian. “But I am happy to be here, happy to be competing, this is home for me, this is where I’m happy and coming away with a silver medal is pretty solid.
“Sport has taught me how to react to adversity in my life.
“You have to deal with what you can, when you can, so when we were dealing with cancer it was all in and going all out on how to get better and healthy.
“That’s taken care of right now, so now it is figuring out how to swim fast, trying to swim fast this year and try to swim fast next year at 2020.”
The five-time Olympic gold medallist knows better than anyone what it will take to first get on the U.S. squad and then get back on the Olympic podium.
The fight for places on the U.S. swim team is about as cut-throat and unforgiving as anything in the sporting sphere.
No matter how impressive and inspirational Adrian’s comeback is there is no room for sentiments at the U.S. Olympic trials which are set for next June in Omaha, Nebraska.
The math is simple – win and you are in.
Everything Adrian does between now and then will be towards that goal.
“Fortunately I have been doing this for a long time, this is my third cycle of the year before the Olympics, it doesn’t matter we’re all going with a clean slate come this Fall,” said Adrian.
“We’ll be going home training our butts off and people who are on top of their game this year are going to be not good next year and people who are not performing this year are going to win medals.
“That’s just how it goes, you do this long enough that what happens.”
Firmly on the comeback trail the 30-year-old is piling up hours in the pool and air miles as he builds up form and endurance.
Certainly the American’s fitness is being put to the test taking on two major competitions in span of three weeks racing at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea followed by a quick jump to the Pan Ams.
After anchoring the U.S. to a gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the worlds, Adrian swam the last leg again on Tuesday and attacked reeling in Brazil’s Pedro Silva Spajari but never able to get past him.
The effort and desire to get to wall first remains unscathed by the cancer, says Adrian. Winning means as much as it ever did.
The only thing that has changed is that he understands that certain things matter more.
“It’s changed a lot, perspective is huge. I dream, I live, I eat, I sleep winning medals but at the end of the day there are other things that are equally important or more important in my life.
“I got a good and very real realisation of that.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)