The courageous Dutch swimmer returned to competition after beating cancer and won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing in August. Diagnosed with leukaemia in March 2001, he underwent a stem cell transplant.  At one stage his survival was in doubt, but after a recovery that lasted two years he amazed the medical experts and came back even stronger, becoming world champion for all events up to 25km. 
In Beijing his gold medal came in the 10km open water swimming, where he put in a great sprint with 500 metres to go to overtake medal favourites David Davies of Britain and Thomas Lurz of Germany. 

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