Maarten Van Der Weijden is a swimmer who started his career at a very early age. But a disaster followed as he got diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and his career was in all probability, over.
Maarten was born in 1981 and started swimming at a very young age. His notable works include competing in open waters and marathons. He became the Dutch National champion in 1998 and the next year, 1999, also competed in the European Championships. Up next was the World Championships.
His world came down spinning in 2001 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. But it didn’t prove to be a big hazard to Maarten. He kept fighting, struggled through four chemotherapy treatments. He also underwent a stem cell transplantation and eventually overcame and battled cancer. But to take up swimming again and become just as good at it was an entire new battle.
Maarten trained and trained and gave all he had to it. After a year of being proclaimed cancer free, he ended up becoming the Dutch National Champion after winning the 800m Freestyle. He swam across IJsselmeer in 2004, the largest lake of Netherlands, in a record time of 4:20:48. While this 22 km (13.6 miles) race, he rose over 20,000 for KWK Kankerbestrijding (the Dutch Cancer Society).
His story became more or less famous in 2008, especially in his home country.This person has suffered for years from cancer, battled it and got back in the water. Maarten has done the unthinkable. On 24th August, 2008 he won the 10k Open Water at the Olympics. He bagged home the gold for Netherlands. He received applause, honour and respect among all his peers and everybody in Netherlands.
But Maarten didn’t stop his journey here. Instead, he took it a step further. In March this year, he has beaten the World Record for distance swimming in 24 hours and reached a total distance of 1028 km (6387 miles). In the Netherlands, they have this yearly ice skating event which spans a distance between 11 cities and sums up to a total of 200 km (1242 miles). Owing to Global Warming, it has not yet taken place because the ice didn’t reach the desired thickness. So Maartin decided to swim across it.
He planned to swim it in a weekend and started his venture on the 18th of August, 2018. He has been cheered by thousands of people on the way. The government has advised against it (due to bacteria), people have jumped in to swim along with him and encourage him on. Farmers and people with trucks help him throughout the night by lighting his way. Also, people encourage him by lighting flares. His wife led the way in a boat, cheering him as he goes.
The second day, 19th follows. Maarten has been swimming for a few dozen hours now. People keep gathering around the water but Maarten is slowing a bit down now. In each of the 11 cities that he arrives, he’s given cheques by companies and people for the fight against cancer.
He took a bit of rest after 80kms, Maarten moved on to the second night. This night, he took three small breaks to catch his breath. After he is done with halfway, he calls upon his crew stating that he is hungry. So a delivery is called and he received his food.
On 20th, he slowed down a bit more. People have started to worry. Doctors check up on him from time to time, making sure that he is alright to continue swimming. The main physician decides that he can not continue any further. After 163km, Maarten has been swimming for 55 hours. He had just 37km left.
Maarten has been taken out of water and an ambulance is needed. His body is totally broken. An honouring was to be held after the finish line. But the organisers decided to have it either way. With the help of Maarten’s crew, he makes it there. Thousands of people have showed up. The Prime Minister also attends the event and hands over an award.
Maarten had hoped to raise around 11,000 euro for the program. Turns out the amount raised is 2,511,302 euro. That figure is roughly 2 millions more than he wished for. Maarten is both amazed and surprised. He broke down crying and thanked everybody present there. This man is now 37 years old and is indeed a legend. This honourable man’s story needs to be told and shared.