In the middle of his historic race in the Tokyo Olympics, Geneva, Illinois, triathlete Kevin McDowell was already doing something no one expected. But then, he made it even better.
McDowell stunned as he came up from behind in the bike portion of the Olympic event and transitioned to the run having “the race of his life,” announcers said.
As he remained near the front of the pack, a leader in a race he wasn’t predicted to contend in, McDowell was seen grabbing a water from the sidelines. He then promptly handed it to a competitor next to him who wasn’t able to reach it.
It was a show of sportsmanship that proved what the Olympics are all about.
McDowell finished sixth in the race, the best finish for an American man in the Olympic event since its debut in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
It’s been a long road to the Tokyo Olympics for the suburban Geneva native, including a battle against cancer and competition struggles that left him on the verge of potentially quitting the sport.
McDowell, one of three American men to qualify for the race, entered as a seven-time World Triathlon Cup medalist and the 2017 USA Triathlon Elite national champion, but his biggest victory in his life came after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011.
“My whole world was upside down where I was actually, instead of focusing on trying to win the world title, I was fighting for my life to beat cancer,” he told NBC 5.
After his chemo treatments finished, it took McDowell several years to find his groove again in the triathlon, but he says he finally began to round into shape just after nearly quitting in 2018.
“My family was like ‘give it one more go for 2019, then you can walk away if it’s not going to work out,’ and boy am I glad they said that,” he said.
McDowell will also compete in the mixed relay, which is scheduled for July 31. In that event, five athletes will compete for the US, with each athlete performing a triathlon of a 300-meter swim, an eight-kilometer bicycle race and a 2-kilometer run.