Olympic Favorite Diagnosed with Cancer

Published on December 4th, 2015

(December 4, 2015) – Following medical tests, it has been confirmed that the British Sailing Team’s 470 Olympic campaigner Elliot Willis has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Willis, 32, campaigns alongside 2012 silver medallist Luke Patience, with the world number two-ranked pair among the first athletes in any sport to be selected to Team GB for the Rio 2016 Games in September. The two had paired up after Patience and 2012 Games teammate Stuart Bithell were deemed too heavy to be competitive in the light winds expected in Rio.

ABITT_150809-112_lrAn appropriate course of treatment is currently being determined for Willis – a two-time World Champion with Nic Asher in the double-handed Olympic 470 Class – which will certain require some time out of the boat.

The longer term impact on his and Patience’s 470 campaign for Rio will be assessed in due course depending on the treatment recommended by medical professionals.

“Clearly it’s pretty shocking news to receive, as I’m sure anyone who’s been affected by a similar thing would understand,” Willis said. “It’s still my dream to win Olympic gold but right now my focus and energy needs to be on getting better. My health is my number one concern and I will take advice and recommendations of the medical professionals as they establish the right course of treatment for me.”

RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park comments on the situation. “This is obviously bitterly disappointing news for Elliot, as it clearly could impact on his ability to compete at his first Olympic Games,” noted Park. “Our overriding priority is that he receives the right and appropriate levels of treatment for the condition to ensure the fullest chance of recovery, and we will offer him every support we can in this regard.

“The British Sailing Team is a close-knit family and all our thoughts are with Elliot for a speedy recovery.

“Elliot and Luke have made great progress to date in their campaign towards Rio – we are conscious of the need to keep that momentum going as far as possible. While we will need to work with Luke to find another crew for him to sail with for the time being, we hope Elliot can still be involved should his recovery allow.”

Willis and Patience had just returned from the 470 World Championship in Israel where they finished tenth. “I’m gutted for Elliot,” explained Patience. “Everything else takes a back seat when something like this happens. Elliot absolutely needs to do what’s best for him and I’ll support him in whatever way I can.

“Inevitably he will need to take some time out of the boat so we will discuss the best approach to keeping the campaign moving forward and take some decisions on that front when we know more.”

Source: Lindsey Bell, Team GBR Communications Manager

Editor’s note: Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal, colon, or rectal cancer. It was not disclosed at what stage the disease was discovered, but with early detection, surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy can be effective treatment. Depending on treatment, Willis might be deemed ineligible for the 2016 Olympics due to banned substance regulations in place for the Games.

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