The latest Weekend Read highlights the mission of one Olympic swimmer and a selection of our favorite stories of the week.

By The SI Staff
May 10, 2019

Welcome to the Weekend Read. Below you'll find a selection of our best stories of the week, a flashback to the last Triple Crown winner and the story behind Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian's mission for men's health advocacy. Enjoy.


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Nathan Adrian's Will to Swim

When swimmer Nathan Adrian, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, hit SHARE on a 226-word Instagram post in late January, announcing his recent testicular cancer diagnosis, he was prepared for responses. But even he admits the outpouring of support was overwhelming. Countless men told him they'd get checked out. Moms of young survivors thanked him for speaking out publicly. His comments section was flooded with thousands of messages of encouragement. He even received a heartfelt text from Lance Armstrong, the famed and infamous cyclist and testicular cancer survivor.

But the most meaningful outreach came from within the tight-knit swimming community. His teammates from the 2008, '12 and '16 Olympic team messaged him. Katie Ledecky sent a card. And Eric Shanteau, who was diagnosed with Stage 1 testicular cancer just a week before the 2008 Olympic trials and went on to compete at the Summer Games in Beijing, became a welcome sounding board and offered Adrian perspective.

"Eric said to me, 'I had one of the best meets of my life about four or five months after my tumor removal,'" the 30-year-old Adrian says. "I was like, O.K. That's the light at the end of the tunnel. That gives you something to strive for. That makes the process a lot easier to digest."

Adrian recalls feeling stiffness and swelling in his lower body in late December, and when symptoms did not improve after a couple of weeks, he saw a doctor. Since testicular cancer is very treatable (the five-year relative survival rate is 95%) and his was detected early, Adrian got a positive prognosis. Doctors scheduled two surgeries to remove lymph nodes to prevent a possible cancer spread, and he has not needed to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.

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The treatment, Adrian says, "wasn't fun," but he wanted to make his experience as positive as he could. After having conversations with urologists, he built up the confidence to go public, in hopes of raising awareness for men's health issues and inspiring more people to get checked out. "I've realized that too often ... we tend to ignore the potential warning signs and put off getting the medical help that we may need," he wrote in his post.

"If I could help someone else do the same thing, that's what's worth it," Adrian says now. "There's no harm in talking about it for me. I feel that there's only good that can come from it."

By early February, Adrian was back in the gym, targeting his fourth Olympics, next summer in Tokyo. Though he has not competed since his cancer diagnosis, he is planning to swim at July's world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and then the Pan Am Games in Lima.

"For me, at this point, I do have some gold medals, but I still want to achieve more," Adrian says. "It is still the journey. It's coming back from cancer. It's figuring out how to go as fast as I did before. If you get too wrapped up in the end goal, that's when you get overwhelmed. It's a day at a time." — By Chris Chavez

Story Behind the Photo: American Pharoah Seals Triple Crown

Editor's note: Since we will be deprived of a Triple Crown attempt this year with Country House forgoing the Preakness Stakes, here's how SI captured American Pharoah's gallop toward history.

My favorite images have always been those where you can tell the time period by the way the crowd looks," says Erick W. Rasco, SI's director of photo operations. So when American Pharoah was poised to become the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown, Rasco says, "I knew I wanted to get the shot from a perspective of a spectator." He waded into the stands and paid a fan $40 to vacate a spot on the bench. In test runs from that location, he had been able to see the track over the crowd. But there were too many people on race day. With his camera mounted on a monopod, Rasco held it high and waited for the cheering to reach peak volume, then snapped away and hoped for the best. The result is a stunning image of a modern champion.

Illustration by Noah MacMillan

Throwback: The Rise of Women's Soccer in America

Season 1 of Throwback, SI's newest podcast series, tells the origin story of the U.S. women’s national team and the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. Hosted by Grant Wahl, the premier soccer journalist in the U.S., this season will follow the pioneers who defined women’s soccer in America as they evolve from a group of talented but inexperienced misfits and teenagers into an American phenomenon. Featuring the voices of players who became superstars like Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Kristine Lilly; their former coach, Anson Dorrance; historians; authors; the woman who first demanded that FIFA hold a Women’s World Cup; and even ex-FIFA President, Sepp Blatter. 

[Click here to listen]

Best of the Rest

Editor's note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week's list is curated by Chris Chavez.

• I’ve always been fascinated by Japanese players and their traditional approach to playing baseball, so I really enjoyed this look at how Yusei Kikuchi is using data in for his rookie season. (By Corey Brock, The Athletic)

• The only thing that I want more than the Knicks landing the No. 1 draft pick to draft Zion is for him to release a book of haikus. (By Mina Kimes, ESPN)

• Burnout affects everyone, so I think a lot of the key advice here can be applied to more than just millennials. It’s always good to reinforce focusing on the process rather than the outcome. (By Brad Stulberg, Outside)

• This is very depressing to read but important. Up to one million plant and animal species are in danger of extinction. (Brad Plumer, New York Times)

• Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya has been at the center of one of sport's biggest stories. The Court of Arbitration for Sport controversially upheld a new rule by the IAAF to lower naturally-high levels of testosterone in certain female athletes. Otherwise they will not be able to compete. I feel for Semenya but agree with the decision, however there is much debate for and against the ruling. This article is very well-researched and offers a very strong argument for protecting women’s competition. (By Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Quillette)

Editor's note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.

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