Austin Texas is quickly becoming the headquarters for cancer-surviving world-topping athletes. As Lance prances through the Tour de France, his mirror image, Eric Shanteau, slices through the pool a few channels away. Side by side on the tv screen, these two great Austin athletes carry the message. Armstrong's tour through the Tour is almost too perfect—the perfect gentleman, the perfect team player, the perfect tactician, the perfect attitude, the perfect preparation, the perfect spokesman. We only thought he conquered the Tour before. This time, he owns it.
While Lance isn't hiding the fact that the Tour is incredibly demanding, he's clearly enjoying his beloved race more than ever. Armstrong appreciates each day on his bike, savoring every moment.
Eric Shanteau competes with the same spirit, the same gratitude for life. He and Lance share something that only a cancer survivor can truly understand. Shanteau has been a great swimmer for a long time, but something changed in him through his cancer ordeal. From the day he was diagnosed, he seemed to never miss a beat, earning a spot on the Olympic Team against the toughest competition in U.S. history. Then he returned from his successful cancer treatment to lead the American breaststrokers through the 2009 season, setting PRs along the way. In June, Shanteau added his name to the constellation that is the University of Texas pool record board, erasing the great Ed Moses' 2:10.1 standard in the 200 breaststroke.
No one swims the 200 breaststroke like Eric Shanteau. He surges on the last 25 meters like he's just starting to have fun. Somehow, he increases his power and maintains perfect technique all the way to the wall. The only swimmer who can match his last 25 is Kitajima, but even he doesn't accelerate like Shanteau. It's something you have to see in person to fully appreciate. Like watching Ian Crocker's 100 butterfly, you know you're in the presence of something special. Perfection is breathtaking.
When Shanteau blasted to a :59.4 in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststrokers around the world should have ducked for cover. The stunning 1:56.0 200 IM he uncorked last night—ranking third all-time behind only Phelps and Lochte— further signals his quantum leap forward. He's suddenly a major factor in the IM world again. With his immaculate conditioning, Shanteau could undoubtedly put together a frightening 400 IM as well. His 32.3 breaststroke split in the 200 IM was, by far, the fastest in the field, and may be the fastest ever. He also had the fastest freestyle split, which means he out-split Ryan Lochte, one of the fastest freestylers in the U.S. arsenal. Take a moment to let that soak in. This IM performance is a pretty reliable indicator of what he'll split in his 200 breaststroke race, landing him in WR territory.
Yes, World Record. This year, this week, Shanteau has shown he's capable and ready to take on anything and anyone, including cancer, including Kitajima. Don't be surprised to see Eric Shanteau distance himself from the field and blast his way right by Kitajima's standard in tonight's final. Whatever his time, you can be sure it will be beautiful to watch.
Move over Lance. There's another star rising to help carry the message.