Maarten van der Weijden is a true sports icon in the Netherlands, but today he made himself even more popular – especially amongst triathletes. The Olympic swimming champion and leukemia survivor completed his first long distance race to raise funds for palliative care for people with cancer. What made it his effort even more special is that he ticked off all three disciplines while at home. This meant he swam in an endless pool, biked on an indoor trainer and ran a marathon on a treadmill.
It took Van der Weijden approximately 9 hours and 26 minutes to make it to the virtual finish line. It comes as no surprise that the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 10 km swim event had no issue swimming a fast 3.8 km – after just 46 minutes he was back on dry land and rushing indoors to hop on his trainer. Riding loops on Zwift with the support of many well-known Dutch trathletes, Van der Weijden biked 180 km in 4:27.40. The marathon turned out to be the biggest challenge for the Olympic swimmer – he finished the final leg in 4:06 after walking one kilometer at the 36 km mark.
Van der Weijden raised an impressive 88,683 euros for TIPZO, a palliative care project for people with cancer.
In 2001 Van der Weijden was diagnosed with leukemia. While it was thought his career was likely over, he miraculously survived the cancer and even made a comeback to swimming in 2003. After winning many big titles in his sport, the pinnacle of his career was winning gold at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, 2008.
Swimming 200 km
Van der Weijden impressed again in 2018 when he swam the entire Elfstedentocht, a famous 200-kilometer outdoor ice skating race in the Netherlands. While Van der Weijden didn’t manage to complete this challenge in his first attempt after he got sick from E.coli bacteria, he once again proved that nothing stops him by giving it another shot the next year. Van der Weijden finished the epic event in 74 hours and 4 minutes raising over 5 million euros for cancer charities.