Maarten van der Weijden
Maarten van der Weijden was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a form of blood cancer, in 2001. After a number of tough chemotherapy treatments and a stem cell transplant, he recovered and in the following years he resumed swimming. With enormous perseverance, he managed to reach the top again, with a Gold Olympic medal as the crowning glory during the 10 kilometres in open water at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
In March 2009 he wrote an autobiography about how he dealt with his disease and the trajectory he took to his Olympic victory. He believes he didn’t overcome the disease, but that he was just lucky.
In August 2018 and June 2019, Maarten swam the Eleven Cities Tour, 195 kilometres through the Dutch province of Friesland which was great, almost inhuman performance and an unprecedented event. During both editions, spectators stood by in large numbers to see Maarten swimming and encouraging him. Maarten gave it everything. In 2018, during his first attempt, the doctor took Maarten out of the water after 163 kilometers in order to preserve his health. However, in 2019 Maarten reached the finish line in Leeuwarden after swimming for 74 hours.
Maarten had a mission: he wanted to raise as much money as possible for cancer research. Both swims combined raised almost €12 million. Maarten still aims to raise as much money as possible for cancer research. Through his foundation, the Maarten van der Weijden Foundation, the entire proceeds from events go to research and projects that focus on the life of the cancer patient.