What makes an Olympic champion? Physical prowess, dedication and mental toughness are 3 key attributes. The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden has all three, but it is his mental toughness that is so impressive.
Not only did Maarten famously overcome leukemia, but he also predicted - and executed - his profound racing strategy in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.
During yesterday's 10K swim, Maarten sat in the pack, patiently bidding his time for the first 8K, 90 minutes of controlled and patient swimming in a pack of aggressive swimmers. Then, he started to gradually edge up in the lead group, always carefully picking spots where he was able to gain a meter here and another meter there. Finally, in the last 500 meters he moved into position for a medal, but he seemed way too far behind leader David Davies to win.
With 100 meters to go, the course took a slight angle towards the finish pads and Davies got a bit confused as to the best line, giving Maarten the opening he needed.
As Maarten said after the first world championship win in the 25K race in Seville where he used the same strategy, "...I know I can swim faster than these guys in the final 100 meters. So my strategy was to be patient for the first 24.9 kilometers and save something."
Even Davies, a rival who also swam the race of his life, was tremendously complimentary, "It's like a Lance Armstrong story. He's a gentleman and a great ambassador for the sport and he's Olympic champion now."
Maarten certainly saved the best for last. An incredible race, an incredible strategy and an incredible athlete with incredible rivals.
Final results 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim:
GOLD - Maarten van der Weijden, 1:51:51.6
SILVER - David Davies, 1:51:53.1 (1.5 seconds behind leader)
BRONZE - Thomas Lurz, 1:51:53.6 (2.0 seconds behind leader)
4 - Valerio Cleri, 1:52:07.5 (15.9 seconds behind leader)
5 - Evgeny Drattsev, 1:52:08.9 (17.3 seconds behind leader)
6 - Petar Stoychev, 1:52:09.1 (17.5 seconds behind leader)
7 - Brian Ryckeman, 1:52:10.7 (19.1 seconds behind leader)
8 - Mark Warkentin, 1:52:13.0 (21.4 seconds behind leader)
9 - Chad Ho, 1:52:13.1 (21.5 seconds behind leader)
10 - Erwin Maldonado, 1:52:13.6 (22.0 seconds behind leader)
11 - Ky Hurst, 1:52:13.7 (22.1 seconds behind leader)
12 - Igor Chervynskiy, 1:52:14.7 (23.1 seconds behind leader)
13 - Francisco José Hervás, 1:52:16.5 (24.9 seconds behind leader)
14 - Allan do Carmo, 1:52:16.6 (25.0 seconds behind leader)
15 - Gilles Rondy, 1:52:16.7 (25.1 seconds behind leader)
16 - Spyridon Gianniotis, 1:52:20.4 (28.8 behind leader)
17 - Rostislav Vitek, 1:52:41.8 (50.2 behind leader)
18 - Luis Escobar, 1:53:47.9 (1:56 behind leader)
19 - Saleh Mohammad, 1:54:37.7 (2:46 behind leader)
20 - Mohamed El Zanaty, 1:55:17.0 (3:25 behind leader)
21 - Damian Blaum, 1:55:48.6 (3:57 behind leader)
22 - Arseniy Lavrentyev, 2:03:39.6 (11:48 behind leader)
23 - Xin Tong, 2:09:13.4 (17:21 behind leader)
24 - Csaba Gercsak, did not finish
25 - Vladimir Dyatchin, disqualified in a time of 1:52:13.7 (22.1 seconds behind leader)
Photo of Maarten by Robert F. Bukaty of the Associated Press.
Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association