login / register

Maarten van der Weijden

Gold medal­ist and can­cer survivor

It is what it is.

Only by label­ing what we expe­ri­ence as either good or bad, some­thing actu­ally becomes good or bad. In it’s extreme this is true for can­cer as well as for every minor and major aspect of life. If you get can­cer you might find it hard not to label it as a bad thing but to just see it for what it is: a dis­ease that you might or might not be able to survive.

It is dif­fi­cult to deal with the blows life dishes out to all of us, may it be due to can­cer or to any other cat­a­stro­phe that turns our uni­verse — every­thing we thought would last for­ever — upside down. That’s why it makes an excel­lent story to hear how brave man and woman fight their bat­tles and how this affects them.

Maarten van der Wei­j­den is an Olympic swim­ming cham­pion and has won gold for the 10 kilo­me­ters open water event, at the Olympics in Bei­jing 2008. He also sur­vived can­cer and was forced to take two years out to sur­vive the dis­ease. At one stage he was not expected to sur­vive. Con­trary to Lance Arm­strong, the can­cer sur­viv­ing Tour de France biker, Van der Wei­j­den doesn’t agree it is only pos­i­tive think­ing and lot’s of sports that has saved him. ‘I even think it’s dan­ger­ous because it implies that if you are not a pos­i­tive thinker all the time you lose.’ says Van der Wei­j­den. ‘I am just lucky that the chemother­apy saved me. That’s how sim­ple it is.’ Van der Wei­j­den speaks with great insight on how his fight against can­cer has affected him.

Maarten van der Wei­j­den is a long dis­tance and marathon swim­mer. Between 1998 and 2000 he became Dutch national cham­pion and par­tic­i­pated at the Euro­pean Junior Cham­pi­onships and the 2000 Open Water World Cham­pi­onships. In 2001 he was con­fronted with leukemia and his career was likely to be over. Surviving can­cer he made his come­back in 2003. He qual­i­fied for the Open Water World Cham­pi­onships in Barcelona and won another three Dutch titles. In 2004 he swam across the IJs­selmeer thus col­lect­ing 50.000 euro which he donated for can­cer research. Between 2005 and 2008 he worked to become World Cham­pion and he ful­filled his aim at the 2008 Sum­mer Olympics in Bei­jing when he ended up win­ning the gold medal.  He announced the end of his pro­fes­sional swim­ming career dur­ing his accep­tance speech as Dutch Sports­man of the year. In 2009 his auto­bi­ografie ‘Beter’ was published.