Jamaican runner won bronze in London while also dealing with breast cancer

Maggie Hendricks
Fourth-Place Medal

Jamaican runner Novlene Williams-Mills ran in the 2012 Olympics with a secret. She took fifth in the 400m and won a bronze with the Jamaican 400m relay team with information that only she, her husband, and select close friends knew.

According to an interview with the Daily Mail, Williams-Mills was diagnosed with breast cancer a month before the Olympics. Days after her diagnosis, she won the 400m race at the Jamaican Championships and made their Olympic team. Three days after the end of a successful Olympics, she had a lumpectomy.

Since then, she's had a full mastectomy to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back. Williams-Mills' sister died from ovarian cancer at 38. At 31, she didn't want to take any chances.

Not even her teammates on the relay knew what she was dealing with.

"That’s everybody’s dream, to run at the Olympics. But I was thinking about my hurdles that I have to come back to fight. I was thinking: “Am I going to survive this?, " Williams-Mills said. "My team-mates in the relay did not know. But I was standing on the podium and I didn’t know if I would ever run another race."

But she did run again. In late June, she won the 400m at the Jamaican Championships, just as she did the year before. It qualified her to run at the world championships in Moscow in August. She said she will run for all those with breast cancer.

"I’m still one of the top 400m runners in the world and I want to see what I can do. Moscow will be for all the breast cancer survivors out there. I want them to know it’s still possible."

Williams-Mills' isn't alone as an Olympian who has dealt with cancer. Like Williams-Mills, American swimmer Eric Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer days before the 2008 Olympics. He still swam a personal best in Beijing, and then won gold in 2012. U.S. beach volleyball player Jake Gibb was found to have high levels of testosterone during a test that is routine for elite athletes. It led doctors to his testicular cancer, which was treated by surgery. He then competed at the London Olympics.

Thanks, Olympic Talk.

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