I hear many inspiring stories on my travels and through the amazing people we are fortunate to meet at home in the British Virgin Islands. I recently spent time with Bibian Mentel and her husband Edwin on Necker Island. Bibian is a remarkable woman and I was privileged to hear them both tell me about her truly inspiring story.
In 2001, while pursuing her career as a world-class snowboarder, Bibian was sadly diagnosed with bone cancer. She had earned a spot on the Dutch team for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and hoped to resume training after her treatment. But things didn’t go as planned. Doctors found another tumour, and Bibian needed to have her lower leg amputated.
Despite this life-altering event, Bibian just never gave up. Since then, her cancer has come back on multiple occasions but her response has truly amazed me. With determination and optimism, she took her sports career to the next level, winning seven world titles in snowboarding and becoming the first woman ever to win a gold medal in the snowboard cross when it debuted as a Paralympic sport in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Sadly, last year Bibian’s cancer returned once more and she was told by doctors that there was nothing they could do. But she found a new form of radiation therapy and is still looking to compete for gold at the 2018 Paralympics in Pyeongchang.
If Bibian’s story of resilience and hope isn’t already inspiration enough, her commitment to others makes it even more extraordinary. In 2012, after many calls and letters from other people facing life-threatening problems, she decided to create The Mentelity Foundation.
The foundation helps children and young adults with physical disabilities take up competitive sports. Some of the Netherlands’ top impaired snowboarders can compete on the slopes because of Bibian’s support, including Chris Vos and Lisa Bunschoten.
They say what really matters in life is not what happens to you but how you react to it. I can’t think of someone who embodies that approach more than Bibian. In her own words: "Let difficulties make us better, not bitter."
In order to fulfil her dreams of making it to Pyeongchang in 2018, Bibian still needs help funding her training program. If you feel able, please join me in supporting Bibian's mission.