Athletics Helped Olympian Kevin McDowell Get Through Cancer

Olympic triathlete Kevin McDowell explains how certain aspects of surviving cancer and training for the Olympics became intertwined throughout his journey.

After a difficult experience with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Kevin McDowell went on to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, achieving his personal goals and creating a lifetime’s worth of memories, despite a cancer diagnosis.

In an interview with CURE®, he explains how his primary goal shifted from winning triathlon titles to “beating cancer,” and how he eventually achieved both.

“I actually was such a goal-oriented person and knew the discipline and how it works to be an athlete,” McDowell said. “So I kind of changed my mindset from my goal being that year to win the Junior World Title, switch to winning – beating cancer.”

Transcription:

In some ways, I feel like me being athlete actually helped me going through my battle with cancer because I actually was such a goal-oriented person and knew the discipline and how it works to be an athlete. So I kind of changed my mindset from my goal being that year to win the Junior World Title, switch to winning – beating cancer. So my goal then was ‘How do I do get the best out of myself to beat cancer? What do I need to do? So what did the doctor tell me to do? What other ends and stuff do I need to do, I need to be the best at (for) beating cancer?’ So I kind of changed that mindset. I was pretty disciplined at times. But I also had a pretty good balance, I definitely pushed boundaries at times of what I was doing from like an activity standpoint. But I think because I was so healthy going in, and I already had such good habits on eating healthy, sleeping well, and all these other little things, I think it helped me get through my treatment a bit better than even some of my doctors might have thought.

Obviously, one of the big goals once I got cancer was to beat cancer. And it was one of those like, yeah, I spent six months fighting it and beating it. But then it still took, you know, it's five years until you're in full remission and you're considered cured. So it’s kind of like you achieve the first goal, but then you're still going and then you get that word, you're still cancer free. Five years out, and then 10 years out, those are huge markings to hit. And so that was a pretty big deal hitting that. And then to translate it to like the Olympics, it's been a childhood goal of mine. So when I actually qualified and made the team, that was a huge moment for me, (I was) very excited. And then I was excited to go to the games. Then it was extra special, because I really wanted to go to the games, but I didn’t just want to attend them. I wanted to compete. So then to be able to go there and have performances like I did was just even more special in a situation like that.

All of the photos used within this video are courtesy of World Triathlon. All video training and competition footage are courtesy of World Triathlon and USA Triathlon.

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