Maarten van der Weijden, a gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer, is swimming a gruelling 200-kilometre route along the Eleven Cities in Friesland to raise money for cancer research.
Translation by Traci White
UPDATE: 4:52 p.m, Monday, 20 August
The Leeuwarder Courant reports that festivities in Leeuwarden to welcome Van Der Weijden into the city will be moving forward as planned, and Van Der Weijden himself is still planning to make an appearance. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is scheduled to attend the ceremony as well.
UPDATE: 3:49 p.m.
At 1:30 this afternoon, after 163 kilometers and 55 hours of swimming, Maarten van der Weijden stopped his epic swim of the Eleven Cities Tour. According to Leeuwarder Courant journalist Kirsten van Santen, Van Der Weijden was feeling nauseous – levels of e. coli and Enterococci in the water were deemed too dangerous for anyone else to swim along with him – and had extremely low sodium levels due to drinking very little water in recent hours. Van Der Weijden was transported to the Medisch Centrum Leeuwarden to receive a salt solution infusion.
Original story below:
Van Der Weijden began his epic journey on Saturday morning in Leeuwarden. The charitable physical feat is raising money for the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding), and he currently has 40 kilometres left to swim in order to complete the journey back in Leeuwarden.
The Olympic gold medallist is a cancer survivor himself: he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2001 and entered remission in 2005. In the same year, he came in ninth place in the World Open Water Swimming Championships. Three years later, he won a gold medal during the Beijing summer Olympic games in the 10 km open water marathon race.
After retiring in 2008, Van Der Weijden has been traveling the Netherlands speaking about his personal experience with the disease. But he has remained active: he broke the standing world record by swimming 102.8 kilometres in open water within 24 hours. He began preparing to swim the route of the famous Elfstedentocht in Friesland, which is 200 kilometres long, earlier this year.
On Saturday morning, Van Der Weijden entered the water in Leeuwarden. After a rough first night and remarks that he was considering stopping, thousands of Frisians turned out along the water ways to cheer him on. On Sunday night, fire fighters, farmers on tractors and spectators lit up the darkness to give him a morale boost. A number of Dutch celebrities have also sailed along with him to encourage him.
— Eelco Kooistra (@eelcokooistra) 18 augustus 2018
— hendrikterpstra (@hendrikterpstra) August 19, 2018
Around 11 a.m. on Monday, he reached the town of Bartlehiem, at which point he started heading toward Dokkum. With 40 kilometres to go, the swimmer is currently behind schedule: at his current speed, he will not reach Leeuwarden until well after midnight. A celebratory programme is scheduled to kick off in the city at 7 p.m. to welcome him into town, including the presentation of how much money the charitable swim has raised. As of now, the total is expected to exceed one million euros.
Van Der Weijden told reporters covering the swim that he wanted to at least continue his swim until reaching Dokkum, which would mean that he had passed by all eleven of the cities. The skating race route officially ends when participants reach Leeuwarden, but Dokkum is the last city before returning to the Frisian capital. Upon reaching Dokkum, Van Der Weijden will have covered 170 kilometres. The Olympian’s tempo has gotten noticeably slower and he is showing signs of exhaustion. It seems likely that he may stop his swim in Dokkum, in part in order to arrive in Leeuwarden on time to participate in the festivities.
You can follow his progress on a 360 degree camera on the back of the boat ahead of him, and a GPS tracker shows his current location.