Who inspires Mr Inspiration, Nathan Adrian?

Five-time Olympic swimming gold medallist names fellow cancer survivor Lance Armstrong as his sporting inspiration.
By Rory Jiwani

US swim star Nathan Adrian has inspired people around the globe with his courageous recent revelation.

Fellow swimmers, athletes from all different sports, other cancer survivors or just normal people searching for guidance or motivation.

The five-time Olympic gold medallist found a lump in a testicle and was diagnosed with cancer in December, going public with the news in January. A move that received plenty of attention and admiration...

But who inspires Mr Inspiration?

"There's tons of people that I'm inspired by for different reasons," he said at the Pan American Games, where he continued his comeback from treatment for testicular cancer by winning two gold and three silver medals in Lima.

"If you're asking me who's my sport inspiration, despite whatever he may or may not have done, Lance Armstrong coming back from what he came back from was testament to his strength. I mean, his prognosis was much worse than mine if you look into the nitty-gritty." - Nathan Adrian

Lance Armstrong completes his final Tour de France in 2010

Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 1996 but recovered to win seven Tour de France titles and an Olympic bronze medal.

The American was later stripped of all his results after his comeback in 1998 with the US Anti-Doping Agency saying in 2012 he had led "the most sophisticated, professionalised, and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

Adrian also told ESPN that Armstrong had wished him well in his recovery, and that his London 2012 gold medal relay team-mate Eric Shanteau, another testicular cancer survivor, had "reached out" to him.

He said, "Lance Armstrong texted me; he was very gracious to do so. Watching them and how they approached their process to getting back is something that I try to do and I try to do as well as I can."

Nathan Adrian celebrates anchoring the USA 4x100m freestyle relay team to victory at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju

On the way back

After the shocking diagnosis at the beginning of this year, Adrian took just two weeks out to have the testicle and a number of lymph nodes removed before returning to the pool.

That surgery is still causing discomfort with the London 2012 individual 100m freestyle champion saying, "They cut through my abdominal wall five times. So like, my abs are kind of little bit off, and I do funny compensation patterns in my squats and my jumps and stuff that I didn't used to do.

"But we're trying to identify those and eliminate them as quickly as possible."

Just six months after those two operations, Adrian was reprising his long-standing role as Mr Reliable anchoring USA relay teams at the World Championships in Gwangju.

He won two golds, in the men's and mixed 4x100m freestyle, plus silver in the men's 4x100m medley.

USA 4x100m mixed freestyle relay world champions (L-R): Margo Geer, Alexandra de Loof, Nathan Adrian and Michael Chadwick

"I think about Tokyo all the time"

Adrian still has 18 months of "surveilance" after his last operation to remove cancerous cells, but he is determined to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020 next year.

He knows he will have to be at his best to even make the team.

The 30-year-old told ESPN, "I think about Tokyo all the time. I mean, USA just got insanely fast this year, which is an awesome, awesome thing.

"For the 100 freestyle, it's going to take a 47 [seconds], it's going to take what had medalled [at Rio 2016] just to make our relay team. I think that's awesome, but again, that means that we're going to have to be that focused in order to just get yourself on the team next year."

Detecting the cancer so early gave Adrian an excellent chance of making a full, and quick recovery, and he hopes his experience can help others.

Speaking to the Associated Press, he said, "If you feel that something is going on, you have to go see a doctor.

"A lot of guys wait. They feel something going on there, and then they wait until their treatment options are a little narrower and the prognosis isn’t quite as good. But if they get in there early, and early detection is key, hopefully everyone can live a little bit longer.

"It has completely changed my outlook. At the end of my time here on Earth, whenever that may be, I don’t think that the first thing on my mind is going to be how many gold medals I’ve had." - Nathan Adrian