SANDCAST: O’Gorman, Saxton pushing for Tokyo and Men’s Health Awareness

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SANDCAST 9/9/2020-Grant O'Gorman-Ben Saxton

Many arguments can be — and are being — made over many of the metrics, and their accuracy, regarding the coronavirus. There is one notion, however, that can be mostly unanimously agreed upon: It has impacted everyone, in some way, shape or form.

Mostly, this impact has been inconvenient at best, deadly at worst.

Then there’s Grant O’Gorman.

“In a way,” his partner, Ben Saxton, said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “I think the pandemic kind of saved his life.”

O’Gorman, a 26-year-old defender for Canada, would later laugh a little at that. Saving his life may be a bit hyperbolic. But there is no doubting that it played a role in improving it.

Months before the first person would be diagnosed with a novel virus called Covid-19, O’Gorman felt something a little off with his nipple. It was July of 2019, and he and Saxton, Canada’s second-ranked team on the FIVB, were in Hamburg, Germany, for World Champs. There were other symptoms, too, of something unusual going on — his sex drive was through the roof, testosterone levels higher than normal.

“I couldn’t figure out what it was,” he said.

In January, after finishing the season competing in Gstaad, Edmonton, Vienna, and Rome, O’Gorman switched doctors. It would take four more months for them to properly diagnose O’Gorman with the condition no male ever wants to hear: testicular cancer.

When you think about the timing of it all, you’ll recognize that Saxton has a point when he said Covid could have saved O’Gorman’s life. Had Covid-19 not hit, the two would have been on the road, traveling from Doha to Sydney to Cancun, roaming through Europe and Asia. There wouldn’t have been much time made for O’Gorman’s personal health, other than that of the muscles that would keep him on the court.

“He would have been traveling and playing rather than getting himself checked,” said Saxton, who competed in the 2016 Olympic Games with Chaim Schalk. “It could have gotten bigger. The fact that we had to come home and get himself tested and get it all figured out…”

He trailed off, but the point was made: There is no measuring how much O’Gorman’s health has been preserved by a virus he’s never had, simply because he was able to be home.

“It was a scary time, a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “It was a sad moment but it’s something I think will motivate me in the future. I have something more to play for, not just myself anymore, and I think I can do a lot of good with it.”

Despite feeling the initial symptoms in July, and not having the surgery until May, the cancer, fortunately, never spread, as it did with Lance Armstrong. O’Gorman is “all clear now,” he said of the cancer. “All the markers in my blood are back to normal levels and I’m good to go. I’m basically back to where I was before.”

He is, actually, far more than simply back to where he was before. He now has something many athletes long for: A higher calling. He launched a YouTube channel with his fiancé, Isabela, which is one part humor — O’Gorman, for example, is trying to learn Portuguese, Isabela’s native language — one part training, one part making an impact. Lululemon, long a sponsor of the Canadian federation, jumped on board, hooking up O’Gorman and Saxton with their own “Movember” board shorts.

Movember, though it gets a deservedly comical rap for the rash of ridiculously looking mustachioed men in the month of November, is actually the leading charity dedicated to changing the face of men’s health.

As goofy as O’Gorman and Movember can be, it’s also a worthy topic of discussion and awareness not only in the world, but in a sport where some of its top players — Jake Gibb and Italian defender Daniele Lupo have both beaten testicular cancer as well — have been similarly impacted.

You can buy their new Lululemon shorts, too, and the proceeds will be donated to Movember.

“I’m happy to be someone who can openly talk about men’s health and testicular cancer,” O’Gorman said. “If anyone has any questions for me, feel free to ask, anytime.”

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