Maarten van der Weijden is the new Olympic gold medallist in the 10 kilometer marathon swimming event. He is also the world champion in the 25 km event at the last world championship in Seville. In the midst of hundreds of medallists in the Olympics, you may give this 27 year old Dutch a miss. But what sets him apart is his victorious fight against blood cancer.
van der Weijden is a leukemia survivor. Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in 2001, in the middle of an extremely promising career in swimming, he may have resigned himself to his fate and given up on a career in sports. But after the ordeal of a stem cell transplant, he came back in 2003 with three golds in the world championship. Then he continued his winning streak, culminating in this Olympic gold on 21st August.
Like Lance Armstrong, van der Weijden is a symbol of a growing breed of individuals who have proven that life after cancer need not be a compromise.