American swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian, who battled testicular cancer in 2019, said the Olympic postponement to 2021 has helped him return to top form ahead of the Tokyo Games.
"The extra year helped kind of smooth out some kinks that popped up from the surgeries," Adrian told hosts of TODAY on Wednesday, appearing as part of NBC Universal's "100 Days to the Olympics" celebration. Adrian required two surgeries in his abdomen, one to remove the tumor and another to extract a cancerous lymph node. For several months after, the left side of his body lagged behind the right in strength and speed.
Adrian was an advocate for postponing the Olympics before the decision was made last spring. "It almost would have been a farce," Adrian said, suggesting that athletes with the ability to train while following social distancing measures would have an unfair advantage so early in the pandemic. His concerns for this summer are not nearly as high. "I'm very confident that we can develop some [strategies] that keep all the athletes safe," Adrian said.
Last weekend, at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, Calif., Adrian won his first individual race at a top-level swim meet since his cancer diagnosis. He swam the 100m freestyle, an event in which he won Olympic gold in 2012, in a time of 48.74. That time put him 19th-fastest in the world in that event since last fall.