Swimming marathons all over the world is one thing. Winning al lot of races is another. Publicity plays a big part in succes. And in every country it differs. Probably it is very different now a days. But for me it was nice to be noticed.
Like I discribe in my book Book Hardships of a Marathonswimmer in the chapter ‘Fans’
When in the 80’s I report at a match in Canada or Egypt, or wherever, everyone asks me for an autograph. The local fans obviously. The regional publicity involving the matches is always huge. Local sports heroes or other celebrities are invited to give some extra grace to the happening. I have met ice hockey professionals who were really famous in Canada, but probably unknown in the Netherlands. In Italy I got the chance to meet soccer hero Diego Maradonna! Before a race there are press conferences and parades across the city. Or you have to show up at a barbecue of the head sponsors of the match. I enjoy this. Being the centre of attention and feeling important. It’s nice to see that people appreciate you and think it’s impressive that athletes are able to swim such a long distance that fast.
In Atlantic City I’m invited by a Dutch chef who has a famous restaurant there: ‘Johan’s’. The restaurant has five stars! During the match I see him walking and cheering along with me. The route nearly passes his restaurant. He thinks this is great because he is so proud of us Dutchmen!
Immediately after the match in Magog I’m dragged out of the water and a microphone is pushed in my face. Often I don’t know which language I have to speak. Or I’m too tired and too dazed to think of all those languages. Moreover, my jaw- and mouth muscles are stiff from opening and almost closing my mouth for hours. Especially when the water was cold, it takes some time and effort to get my speech going. I try my best to be understandable and hope I’m speaking the right language. If I have to speak French in Canada, I just gibber a bit. Luckily, I can do it in English then. If you’re half dead or reasonably fit, it doesn’t matter. Even the better when you’re half dead, it makes for nice footage and hilarious texts!
Interview directly after the finish
The office of La Traversée Lac St. Jean is in the little place Roberval, where the crossing of Lac St. jean is organized. At this office there is a museum which is completely dedicated to the thirty-two kilometres long crossing of Peribonka to Roberval. From 1985 until 1991 this was swim back and forth: Roberval-Peribonka-Roberval, a double marathon of sixty four kilometres. My name and pictures can be admired in that museum. It’s very cool to see yourself that large on a movie screen and to see your pictures hanging on the walls. It makes me proud and makes me realize that I’ve had some great achievements.
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