Bibian Mentel, Champion Paralympic Snowboarder, Dies at 48

Bibian Mentel, a champion Dutch snowboarder who misplaced her decrease proper leg to most cancers, then returned to the game a number of months later and dominated it for the following 16 years, died on Monday at her residence in Loosdrecht, the Netherlands. She was 48.

After dropping her leg, Ms. Mentel had continued to battle with most cancers all through her profession, and in March she introduced that it had unfold to her mind and was inoperable. Her loss of life was confirmed by a consultant of her nonprofit group, the Mentelity Foundation.

Ms. Mentel, a steely-eyed competitor who gained gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Paralympic Games, was extensively thought of among the many finest snowboarders on this planet. She was additionally a celeb within the Netherlands, the place her athletic achievements, inspirational life story and pure sense of poise and glamour made her the topic of fashion-magazine cowl articles and tv profiles.

“Thank you for everything you have given and shared with us,” Prince Constantijn, the youthful brother of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, wrote on Twitter. “Everyone you touched with your optimism and persistence has become a better person.”

Ms. Mentel was already a six-time Dutch champion within the halfpipe and snowboard cross occasions when she injured her proper ankle whereas coaching for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Doctors discovered a tumor on her tibia — a recurrence of a most cancers that had first appeared in 1999. They eliminated her proper leg under her knee in 2001.

She was instructed she wouldn’t snowboard once more. But she was quickly again on the slopes, competing towards able-bodied snowboarders, and 7 months after her surgical procedure she gained a gold medal at the Dutch snowboarding championships.

Ms. Mentel continued to compete, and win, in para snowboarding occasions, at the same time as her most cancers reappeared in 2004, this time in her lungs. Over the following 11 years medical doctors carried out 5 operations, every time eradicating a little bit of lung.

She joined a number of different para snowboarders in efficiently lobbying the International Paralympic Committee so as to add their sport to the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. She carried the flag for the Netherlands at the opening ceremony and captured a gold medal in snowboard cross.

Her most cancers returned in 2016; this time medical doctors stated there was nothing they may do. She went residence and instructed her husband, Edwin Spee, and her youngsters that she would die quickly. Mr. Spee started trying to find alternate options, and shortly discovered a physician with a sophisticated remedy.

It labored, however the subsequent yr medical doctors discovered most cancers but once more, this time in her neck. Though they had been capable of push it into remission, the remedy significantly weakened her neck vertebrae, and considered one of them had to get replaced with a titanium prosthesis — “my permanent jewelry,” she would joke.

The back-to-back bouts with most cancers saved her out of competitors for a lot of months, and most of her sponsors dropped her. She needed to depend on crowdfunding to get to the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Once once more she carried the Dutch flag within the opening ceremony, and as soon as once more she gained gold — twice, within the banked slalom and once more in snowboard cross.

“I heard a rumor that she has 128 gold medals in her house, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration,” stated Amy Purdy, an American para snowboarder, in a podcast interview with Ms. Mentel. “I have traveled the world and competed with her for my entire snowboarding career, and she has won gold every single time.”

Bibian Karina Mentel was born on Sept. 27, 1972, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, the daughter of Theo Mentel, a contractor, and Maude Meijlink.

She is survived by her mom; her husband; a son from a earlier relationship, Julian van de Kamp; two stepdaughters, Laila and Annabella Spee; and a half sister, Jody Mentel.

Ms. Mentel studied legislation for a yr earlier than turning into knowledgeable snowboarder. She obtained a level in sports activities administration from the Randstad Topsport Academy in 2004 and a grasp’s in sports activities administration from the Johan Cruyff Institute in 2014. She retired from snowboarding in 2018 to concentrate on her nonprofit, which helps youngsters with disabilities compete in sports activities.

During surgical procedure after yet one more recurrence of most cancers in 2018, Ms. Mentel misplaced feeling in her decrease physique. She started utilizing a wheelchair — and a few months later competed within the Dutch model of “Dancing With the Stars.”

“As an athlete, it’s a funny thing — people look up to you, put you on a pedestal, think you’re capable of doing anything,” she stated throughout a TEDx talk in 2018, simply earlier than her surgical procedure. “A week later, suddenly you’re disabled, and now people were telling me what I could not do.
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And this made me really rebellious. Because, let’s be honest: The more people were telling me what I could not do, the more I wanted to prove them wrong.”

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