Games & medals
|#1||Swimming||10 kilometres Open Water|
Maarten VAN DER WEIJDEN biography
Maarten van der Weijden was chosen by his fellow sportsmen (and –women) as Dutch Sportsman of the Year 2008. This election was not only due to him being the first winner of the Olympic gold medal in the 10km Open Water Swimming but also to the fact that he managed to do so after recovering from acute leukemia. The illness was diagnosed in 2001 after complaints of double vision and shortness of breath. The treatment of the disease took two years, 4 chemo treatments and a stem cell transplant. Before the diagnosis of his disease van der Weijden was already a multiple Dutch champion in the longer freestyle events and placed in the top 10 in the 5 and 10 km at the 2000 Open Water World Championships in Honolulu. His comeback after his disease began in 2003. In 2005 he started making his mark in international races, winning several World Cup races. In 2006 he joined the Nationaal Zweminstituut Eindhoven, where Pieter van den Hoogenband also trained. Van den Hoogenband kept urging van der Weijden on, repeating that he was the best and that he could win gold. In 2006 he won the silver medal in the 10km at the European Championships and in 2008 won the world title in the 25km. Dutch television viewers will always remember the finish of his golden race in Beijing, not only because of his win but also because of the unbridled enthusiasm of van den Hoogenband. Van den Hoogenband was a guest and co-commentator of the Dutch TV; during the last metres of the race he switched from commentator to fan and urged van der Weijden on. At the ceremony of the award for Sportsman of the Year van der Weijden announced his retirement as active swimmer. He felt that during his preparation for the Olympics he had done everything he could in sports. Indeed, in the last months before the race, he had temporarily broken off his relationship with his girlfriend and spent 15 hours per day in an altitude tent. Van der Weijden has a bachelors in Mathematics and continues to be an ambassador for the KWF, the Dutch institute for cancer research.