Nathan Adrian made his return to the pool on Friday for the first time since he was diagnosed with testicular cancer late last year, a long-awaited moment for the five-time Olympic gold medalist.
Adrian finished in fourth in the 100-meter freestyle at the TYR Pro Series in Bloomington, Indiana, on Friday afternoon, finishing 0.55 seconds behind winner Zach Apple, according to NBC.
The 30-year-old — who won the gold medal in the event at the 2012 Olympics in London — said he was simply just happy to be back in the pool.
“Win, lose, first, last — I just want to get back in my rhythm, back in my routine,” Adrian told USA Today before the race. “That’s what I strive for, what I wish I had through the entire treatment process.
“Now I’m finally here, and I have no idea whether or not I’m going to swim fast. But the fact is I actually get to compete, and I’m happy.”
Adrian announced in January that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, and underwent a pair of surgeries — one to remove the tumor and another to remove several lymph nodes. His swimming career, naturally, had to be put on hold.
He underwent physical therapy quickly after the second surgery in January, and said he had to work to rebuild and reteach the left side of his body. His left leg wasn’t as strong as it used to be, and he said he even quit sweating out of his left foot.
As an olympic athlete — objectively healthier and in better shape than the majority of the world — the news wasn’t easy to take.
“For as much as I was taking care of it, part of me felt betrayed by my own body,” Adrian told USA Today. “But it was kind of a freak accident, so you have to forgive yourself.
“I still have to listen to podcasts to go to sleep these days because if not, my head starts to spin and you start thinking crazy thoughts. There were times of waking up and just bursting into tears. I don’t speak about that a ton because I don’t particularly like reliving it, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. It doesn’t mean you’re not worried about your own life and safety.”
He will compete in the 50-meter freestyle in Bloomington on Sunday, and plans to compete in the world championships and Pan American Games this summer — all while keeping his sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which would mark his fourth straight games.
While he knows his recovery will last a lot longer than just the “four or five months” he’s gone, Adrian is still pushing forward.
“I’m not over it, but it’s something I have accepted,” Adrian told USA Today. “This isn’t ‘Rick and Morty.’ I can’t use my portal gun and go to a different universe where I don’t have cancer. It’s really about doing what you can and controlling what you can.”
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