The Unprecedented Elfstedentocht Swim CompletedCourtesy of Marten van der Weijden Foundation, Netherlands.
Could it be that 2008 Olympic 10K marathon swim champion Maarten van der Weijden will be the last athlete to complete the Elfstedentocht course, one of the Netherlands’ most beloved traditions?
With a drought and warmer temperatures, the previous Elfstedentocht edition was last held in 1997, the most recent time the ice was thick enough to support both skaters and the hundreds of thousands of spectators that the marathon skating event has usually attracted throughout its history. But with meteorologists predicting ever-warmer weather due to climate change, it is uncertain when another Elfstedentocht will be held again on ice.
But van der Weijden has done a lot of courageous and heroic feats in his life and his Elfstedentocht Swim was simply the most recent. The cancer survivor has raised million of euros for cancer research with his two efforts on the Elfstedentocht course. With a warm wetsuit, gloves and a tight neoprene cap, he reached his dual goals of completing the 195 km swim while raising millions of euros in the greatest individual charity swim in history.
“I love swimming, helping others and setting goals for myself,” he told the Christian-based broadcaster EO in an earlier interview. As the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte wrote on Twitter: “The whole of the Netherlands is swimming with you!“
Completing the skating race is seen as a major achievement and so important that soldiers are allowed to wear its medal, called the Elfstedenkruisje (Eleven Cities Cross), on their military uniforms. Participants qualify for the medal after collecting stamps on a card from all the 11 cities around Friesland with the start and end in the city of Leeuwarden.
Instead of skating the Elfstedentocht course, van der Weijden swam all 195 km of its canals. “It took a long time but it was also very special and very beautiful,” said the 38-year-old to broadcaster NOS.
For more information, visit www.11stedenzwemtocht.nl.
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