U.S. Olympic swimmer Amanda Weir instructs a swim clinic for local young swimmers during Eric Shanteau's Swim For Your Life event held Saturday at Lake Lanier. U.S. Olympian swimmers put on the swim clinics as well as taking part in open water swims of 1K and 5K with local swimmers of all ages. Weir is a former Brookwood High School standout swimmer.
BUFORD -- Overcoming adversity and still living your dreams is something U.S. Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau knows all too well.
The former Parkview standout has been to two Olympics (one gold medal), having fought cancer in between. All of this culminated in his Swim for Your Life program, a LiveStrong event for open-water swimming.
"I'm in an amazing and unique position," Shanteau said. "I wanted to bring both worlds to this event -- elite swimming and cancer."
Prior to competing in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, Shanteau found out he had testicular cancer but chose to only let family and close friends know. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic team for Beijing, having missed out on the final of the 200-meter breaststroke in the Olympics.
Shanteau then returned home to fight the disease, which he won.
Now, with his cancer in remission, Shanteau is getting the message out through Swim for Your Life, which was held Saturday at Lake Lanier Islands.
The day consisted of two time-trial races at five-kilometers and one-kilometer. In the one-kilometer race, those swimming had the chance to compete against Olympians, a rarity according to emcee and three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines.
"Moms and dads, how cool is it that your kids are competing in a race with Olympians?" Gaines asked the crowd. "This is something that doesn't happen often."
Olympians participating included Aaron Peirsol, Ricky Berens, Rebecca Soni and Amanda Weir, among others. In total, the Olympians participating have combined for 25 total Olympic medals.
"It's amazing these guys would come out and support this program," Shanteau said. "They could be anywhere else and they chose to be here and support this program."
The program follows the same format as Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong program with the only difference being that it's held in open water.
"I went to Lance's LiveStrong program in 2008 and saw 3,000 people participating," Shanteau said. "I thought to myself, I may not be able to do the same on the bike, but I could do one in an open-water format."
After a year-and-a-half, Shanteau put together his first event at Lake Lanier, and now is enjoying success in the third year.
"We have 680 people participating in the program this year and our hope is that it only gets bigger," Shanteau said. "The money raised for cancer is great, but raising awareness is invaluable."
Sarah Bayer, a former swimmer and triathlete said she wanted to participate because it's a cause she felt was worth supporting.
"Almost everyone knows someone who has battled some form of cancer," she said. "These events show you that there is still an immediate need of funding for cancer research. Anything I can do, I'm glad to help."
As for Shanteau, he got to the top of the podium in the 2012 London Olympics, something he always dreamed of.
"I've been through a lot in the last four years and I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in," he said.