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Olympic hopefuls Eric Shanteau and Kathleen Hersey to swim nail-biters tonight

Tonight on NBC, native Atlantans Eric Shanteau and Kathleen Hersey will vie for Olympic spots in the 100-meter breaststroke and 100-meter butterfly, respectively. The depth of USA swimming talent is such that Olympic trials—where the top two finishers in each event qualify—are often more fiercely competitive than the Olympics themselves. Shanteau, a 2002 graduate of Parkview High School, enters tonight's finals with the fourth-fastest semifinals time, 0.07 seconds off second place, while Hersey, a 2008 Marist graduate, enters tonight's finals in third, off by 0.01 seconds.

The broadcast starts at 8 p.m. NBCOlympics.com will also stream the races.

Shanteau won hearts in 2008 when, just a week before Olympic trials, the then-24-year-old was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He opted to delay surgery until after the Beijing Olympics, where he competed in the 200 breaststroke. In 2010, his father, Rick, died from lung cancer.

Hersey, who also competed in Beijing, has her own well of inspiration from which to draw. Adopted as an infant, she cites her father, wheelchair-bound from a spinal aneurysm, as her hero. This past January, she lost her mother, Regina, to colon cancer.

No matter what happens tonight, both swimmers will race again in their stroke's 200-meter contests.