Result: Gold medal in men's 10km marathon
Key Words: 10km
Magic Index: ★★★
Description: The 27-year-old Dutch swimmer took a stem cell transplant operation in 2001 after being diagnosed with leukemia. He gradually recovered and made a comeback at the 2003 and 2004 Open Water World Championships, where he swam faster than before he contracted the disease. In the 2008 World Championships, he won a gold in the 25-km race, a bronze in the 5-km race and ranked fourth in 10-km. This time in Beijing, he made a last-minute dash to take the gold from David Davis of Great Britain and three-time world champion Russia's Vladimir Dyatchin.
Words From the Heart: "It [the disease] taught me to think step by step and to be patient. When you are in so much pain and lying in a hospital bed, you aren't thinking about the next month, but the next hour. This is the same strategy I used here -- staying in the pack and waiting for my chance."