The Beijing Olympic games are still on. But I’ve found my hero. It is neither Usain “Lightning” Bolt nor it is Michael Phelps. It is the Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden. The 27-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, but came back stronger after his ordeal to compete at the 2003 open water world championships before he was crowned world champion over 25km in Seville earlier this year. He said the experience of beating cancer helped him win an Olympic gold medal after victory in the men’s 10 kilometers open water marathon swim Thursday.
He compared his gold medal triumph to his personal battle against cancer as he waited patiently for the leaders to set the early pace before a late burst saw him claim gold in a time of 1 hour 51 minutes 51.6 seconds.
“The leukemia has taught me to think step-by-step…. When you are in hospital and feeling so much pain and feeling so tired, you don’t want to want to think about the next day or week – you just think about the next hour. It teaches you to be patient when you are lying in a hospital bed and that was almost the same strategy I chose here to wait for my chance in the pack.” said the brave Dutchman who raised 50,000 euros (US$74,000) in 2004 for cancer research by swimming the giant Ijsselmeer lake in Holland.
The Art of living hour by hour. Tell that to me, a Ph D from the school of hard knocks !