The 2012 Summer Olympics are in full swing. As we cheer on the world's finest athletes, we can only imagine the amount of hard work and practice it must take to become the best of the best. Some Olympic athletes have had more than just dedication and a rigorous training schedule to deal with; many have had serious health issues to overcome as well.
Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter known as the "blade runner", has been dealt one of the most obvious hurdles. He was born without fibulas and was a double amputee by age one. With 4 Paralympic Gold medals under his belt, he made history as the first double amputee to compete in the Summer Olympics. You can watch this amazing athlete in action here.
Other athletes have been touched by health issues that are not as obvious. USA swimmer Eric Shanteau, competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics 2 weeks after receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer. He went on to get a personal record that year, underwent treatment and recently won a gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Another US athlete who shares a cancer diagnosis, is Men's Volleyball player Jake Gibb. After already facing skin cancer in 2004, he first learned of his next battle with cancer when he failed the mandatory drug test. The test showed elevated hormone levels in his blood, a sign of "doping" or in his case, a result of testicular cancer. Now he can brag about being a 2 time cancer survivor and a 2 time olympian .
Venus Williams, one of the most famous women tennis players and olympic gold medalists, made headlines in 2011 when she revealed that she has Sjorgren's Syndrome. Sjorgren's Syndrome is a little known, incurable auto-immune disease that causes severe fatigue and joint pain. She's currently attributing changes in lifestyle, namely her new vegan diet, to her ability to stay competitive and bring home more gold medals for the US.
US Olympic kayaker, Carrie Johnson began suffering from anemia, weight loss and overwhelming fatique while training for the Athens Olympic games. After being forced by her symptoms to cut back on her training, doctors finally solved the mystery. It was Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines. Once the diagnosis was made, she and her doctors worked together to manage the symptoms and she was able to compete and place better than any other US kayaker in history. She refused to let an occasional flare-up stop her from what she had worked so hard for.
Tales of olympic athletes who have overcome obstacles are nothing new, and the list of those who have beat the odds could go on and on. Rising to the top with health problems or other hardships proves that these athletes not only have extraordinary physical strength and talent, but also have unmatched will, determination, and inner strength.