Monday 19 April 2021

Tributes pour in as Dutch paralympic champion Bibian Mentel dies

With her gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 2018. Photo: Mathilde Dusol via ANP

Tributes have been pouring in for Dutch paralympic athlete Bibian Mentel who has died of cancer at the age of 48.

Mentel, a three-times paralympic snowboarding champion, was diagnosed with cancer 21 years ago, which led to the amputation of her lower right leg. In the following years she underwent five lung, three neck and four back operations as well as at least 70 radiation treatments.

Earlier this month she announced that the cancer had reached her brain and that it was no longer treatable. She last appeared in public a week ago, at the opening of a Cruyff sports field named after her.

‘I did not look at her as a paralympic athlete but as one of Team NL’s best,’ Maurits Hendriks of the Dutch sports body NOC*NSF. ‘The limitations fell away. She broke boundaries.’

Prime minister Mark Rutte described Mentel as an ‘example for everyone’. ‘Everyone you touched with your optimism and your determination was a better person because of it,’ prince Constantijn said on Twitter.

‘What Bibian Mentel-Spee did for para-sport in general, let alone para-snowboard, is immeasurable and words simply cannot do her or her achievements justice,’ said International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons.

‘Her positive attitude facing the most challenging circumstances head-on, her encouragement and support to youngsters with disability to embrace sport and her values while competing at the highest possible level were just incredible and awe inspiring.’

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