Even though Olympic gold medallist and cancer survivor Maarten van der Weijden was forced to stop his Elfstedentocht swim prematurely, the fundraiser still raised a huge amount of money.
Translation by Traci White
Thousands of people came out to the Oldehoofsterkerkhof in Leeuwarden to welcome Van Der Weijden, who was taken to the hospital after being advised by medical staff to call off his swim early, on Monday evening.
Omrop Fryslân reports that the 163 kilometers that Van Der Weijden swam raised 2,511,302 euros. De Telegraaf reports that Van Der Weijden was initially aiming to raise at least 11,000 euros, so the final amount donated far exceeded expectations. The donate button is still active.
The former Olympian was in the water for 55 hours and nearly reached Dokkum, the eleventh city on his route, before calling off the swim. Prime minister Mark Rutte was in attendance at the celebrations on Leeuwarden and said, “the term ‘hero’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. He’s truly a giant.”
The prime minister presented Van Der Weijden with an Elfstedentocht medal, which is traditionally awarded to skaters who complete the gruelling 200 kilometre skating race by returning to Leeuwarden by midnight on the one-day skate. The Leeuwarder Courant conducted a poll among its readers to see if they felt the swimmer had earned the medal, given its nearly mythological status as something reserved only for those who complete the skating race: 81 percent of respondents believed he deserved it, but 12 percent disagreed.