The international white water rafting community will no doubt save a special cheer for one competitor at the forthcoming World Championships in New Zealand – as he slowly but surely wins a battle off the water against cancer.
Sam Daley (16), a member of the Great Britain U19 Rafting Team and a keen young athlete all set to compete in his first world championship event, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma earlier this year and was referred to the specialist Teenage Cancer Unit at University College Hospital in London for treatment. They reclassified his cancer as a very rare but much milder type that would require a shorter, but still intensive period of chemotherapy.
Despite losing his hair and gaining weight as a result of the treatment, Sam found the hardest and most frustrating thing to cope with was the temporary loss of fitness and stamina. He continued to train throughout the treatment process, but had to follow hospital guidelines to ensure it did not impede on his recovery.
Although the initial treatment concluded at the end of June, Sam and his family had to wait until September, however, to find out how successful it had been. A 95% success rate meant a little more treatment was necessary, but also confirmed he would be heading to the fantastic rivers of New Zealand with his team mates to take on the best in the world in a sport that he loves.
“It was being able to focus on the world championships that made the treatment and the subsequent side effects manageable for me,” he said. “The chance to compete in New Zealand in the World Rafting Championships is a great honour and it’s been great to have the full support of the team and coach behind me. I have never felt any doubt in my own mind or from them that I would be heading to New Zealand to race.”
Sam’s oncology team have said that as his cancer is not aggressive they are happy to defer treatment to allow him to compete in the World Championships but he will start the new cycle of chemotherapy as soon as he arrives back in the UK from New Zealand.
“It’s been a focus all the way along my journey,” he added. “But to be able to say I am heading to New Zealand not only to compete and hopefully win a medal, but to experience a little of what New Zealand has to offer is like a dream come true, I can’t wait!”
The world championships blast off on November 13th with 11 days of action following as 70 teams of all age groups take on each other and the wild water of New Zealand in four disciplines – the sprint, the head to head, the slalom and the downriver.