Swimmer Shanteau beating cancer, world championships next

Eric Shanteau has won national championships, swum in the Olympics and owns an American record. Perhaps most famously, he is beating testicular cancer after being diagnosed last summer.

He is in Italy this weekend to seek more. Shanteau, from Lilburn and Parkview High School, wants to be the best in the world. At the world swimming championships that begin Sunday in Rome, he’ll have four cracks at gold.

“That would definitely be, I think, icing on the cake to a career,” Shanteau said. “Not to say that I would retire after this, but to win one would be great. It’s kind of one of those things that’s hard to put into words.”

Shanteau, 25, enters the meet ranked first in the world in the 200-meter breaststroke (finals are Friday), second in the 200 individual medley (Thursday) and tied for third in the 100 breaststroke (Monday). He’ll also swim in the preliminaries of the 4x100 medley relay for the United States next Sunday.

At his only other long-course (50-meter) world championship meet, Shanteau finished fifth in the 200 breaststroke in 2007. In the Olympics last year, he finished 10th in the same event. Following the Olympics, he underwent surgery in August to remove his cancerous testicle. He has tested cancer-free since then and after resuming training last fall, has gotten significantly faster.

Improving swimsuit technology has played a hand, but Shanteau also has made significant strength gains.

“In terms of maybe swimming and definitely athletics, he’s still young,” said Eddie Reese, Shanteau’s coach at Longhorn Aquatics in Austin, Texas. “He can do what he wants with [his career].”

At the U.S. national team trials earlier this month, he swam personal bests in all three events, setting an American record in the 200 breaststroke. He and Reese believe he can go faster in Rome. In anticipation of the world championship meet, he did not swim at the trials fully rested.

“We feel like in the way he’s doing repeats over in Italy right now, he’s getting ready for a great swim,” Reese said Thursday.

At the trials, Shanteau finished the 200 breaststroke in 2 minutes, 8.01 seconds, five-tenths of a second off of the world record. Reese and Shanteau believe that the world mark is in play. Both thought he could have taken it down at the trials, in fact. Shanteau said being close to history is daunting.

“To have a legitimate shot at being the best in history at something, that’s something I never really had thought before going into a race,” he said. “It’s something you have to get used to.”