The man who swam against the waves

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“You never know these days,  uninvited guests may force you to take an unplanned trip to an unknown destination ; doesn’t hurt to be in your Sunday clothes.”
                                – Anurag Shourie

In our case, the uninvited guest was leukaemia ; unplanned trips were hospital trips and; unknown destination- well, let’s see.

Wondering why specifically leukaemia? Well it was one, certainly for Maarten van der Weijden, a Dutch long distance and Marathon swimmer of Netherlands. Promising youth determined to sweep the ocean with his strokes. He became Dutch national champion in the 1500 metre freestyle. He also participated at the 1999 European junior Championship and 2014 Open water world championship.

In 2001, the uninvited guest marks its presence – he was confronted with leukaemia. I’m sure his battle with cancer would have been a very hard one, nonetheless Van Der made a remarkable comeback in 2003. While speaking about his painful journey at TED Talks, he constantly repeats, “Man believes what he believes and disregards the rest“. Well I think, what he wants to convey is, we have been ignorant for a long long time. We only believe what we want to.
Van Der doesn’t agree that, it is only positive thinking and lots 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. ( I guess, little pessimism is acceptable)

In 2008, he won the 10 km Open Water Beijing Olympics. Talking about his comeback and winning gold Olympics in an interview, Van Der seemed quite self aware and more of a strategic planner. He knew that his opponent, whom he defeated to win the gold, David Davies of Great Britain – was faster than him. Van Der told the interviewer, that he knew his only chance to win was if he applies some strategy. He says affirmatively, “Small chances can come through” . So, the next time in any field of life, if you feel you don’t stand a chance just remember this line and give your last shot as the best of yours.

He announced the end of his professional swimming career during his acceptance speech in the Dutch sportsman of the Year 2008. After that Van Der swims mainly to bring charity for cancer research. He tried breaking world record of 24 hours swimming, which he failed the first time but succeeded the second time. The first time he finished the non-stop swimming Marathon, but couldn’t  break the record of covering 102 km. Van Der broke the record the second time, by covering 102.8 km. He collects charity by doing such events for the Cancer Research.

It’s just not his swimming career which makes him unique and his story inspiring, but also his philanthropic acts. He also owns a website – Maarten van der Weijden zwemt tegan kanker ( Maarten van der Weijden swims against cancer), which collects money for Cancer Research. Most of his work after he survived leukaemia, is devoted to cancer patients and research for cancer.
Well, his unknown destination seems to be quiet satisfactory. I guess it really doesn’t hurt to be in your Sunday clothes

– Prachi

Image Credits: PHKStudios.

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