Dutch man's 11 cities swim marathon raises €4 million

A statue of Maarten van der Weijden in Burdaard, where he had to give up his first attempt of his 11 cities swim tour in 2018
A statue of Maarten van der Weijden in Burdaard, where he had to give up his first attempt of his 11 cities swim tour in 2018Photo: Ytzen/Wikimedia Commons

Maarten van der Weijden successfully swam the route of the Elfstedentocht on his second attempt. The 38-year-old man finished in Leeuwarden at 7:30 p.m. on Monday after swimming 195 kilometers, and raising nearly 4 million euros in the process, NU.nl reports.

With his swim marathon, Van der Weijden raised money for cancer research. Upon his arrival in Leeuwarden, the counter stood at 3,910,763 million euros. 

The Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour, is a long-distance tour skating event through Friesland which starts and ends at Leeuwarden and passes eleven historical cities in the province. It is held at most once a year, and only if natural ice along the entire route is thick enough to skate on safely. Van der Weijden decided to swim it, instead of skating it. 

After finishing in Leeuwarden, Van der Wijden was welcomed by Renier Paping, winner of the notorious Elfstedentocht of 1963. In that year only 69 of the 10 thousand participants finished the race due to extremely low temperatures, snow and strong winds. "I have no words for this", Paping said to the swimmer. Van der Weijden replied: "How special that you are here." He was then taken to hospital for a  medical examination.

Van der Weijden, an Olympic champion, was cheered on by tens of thousands of people along his route. A total of 1.35 million people tuned in to M on Monday evening to watch him cross the finish line. 

The swimmer passed Bidaard's marina - where he had to give up his first attempt last year after 163 kilometers due to health complaints - at around 7:00 a.m. on Monday. There his family was waiting for him with a special stamp at his statue. In Dokkum many school children were given the day off to encourage the swimmer. As he departed from the city, four F-16 fighter jets flew over as a tribute. 

Congratulations streamed in from all across the Netherlands, including from King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte. "With excitement and wonder we followed the Eleven Cities Swim Tour of  Maarten van der Weijden. A journey of 195 kilometers through the Frisian waters for charity: what a great achievement. Congratulations!" the Royals said in a statement.

"He succeeded! What an unbelievable achievement by Maarten van der Weijden", Rutte said on Twitter. "A historic and admirable achievement, all for charity. The whole of the Netherlands is proud!"