My name is Edwin Vermetten. I am a huge supporter of Tariq and Xiomara Getrouw, the founders of Swim For Life International. I have been on an incredible journey to meet them and learn about their inspiring organization. I hope that through my story, others will be inspired by Swim for Life International, as well.
I am an accomplished athlete at 45 years old. My beautiful family consists of my wife Suzanne, and two daughters, Iris and Sophie. But not every part of my life has been so beautiful.
I started working for the Royal Air Force Base of the Netherlands in 1998. In 2001, they sent me to Croatia. I had no idea at the time, but this trip was the end of my life as I knew it.
There was a truck accident. I woke up in the hospital in Split, not remembering a single moment of what had happened. But it must have been bad. Sitting in my hospital bed, the doctors told me I had an extensive traumatic brain injury. There were 9 fractures in my face, a skull base fracture, and more fractures within the skull. Both my lower legs were shattered. The devastation I felt was indescribable. Nothing would ever be the same.
After a week they brought me back to the Netherlands, where I was hospitalized for two months. Outside of the hospital, my struggle continued. I suffered for 8 years, going through numerous surgeries and painful rehabilitation.
When I found sports, I really began to recover. Ironically, it was after my accident that a lot of doors in the sports world opened for me.
After my rehabilitation I participated at wheelchair tennis. I climbed the Mont Ventoux, one of the most difficult sections of the Tour de France, in a wheelchair. Then I did para-rowing (trunk & arms). With these under my belt, the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation recognized me as an “Athlete with Talent”. But I didn’t stop there.
I participated at the European & World Cup Level and won several medals. I was the European Champion at indoor-rowing in 2015. After that, I qualified with the wheelchair for the Military World Games in South-Korea, where I won 2 silver medals and 1 bronze. I am still part of the Dutch selection in sitting volleyball. I participated twice at the Invictus Games in London and Orlando, earning 4 bronze medals overall in indoor-rowing, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair tennis. I’m going back again, this year to the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia. I will compete in sitting-volleyball and something new; wheelchair basketball.
For me, sports mean that you have goals, and you fight through. The Invictus Games is an event where my family, myself, other wounded soldiers, and their supporters can come together. The Invictus Games is about recognition and solidarity. I am very proud that I am part of the Dutch Invictus Games.
Because I was an outstanding athlete at the Invictus Games, several organizations and talk shows have invited me to come and tell my story to the world. Now I’m a motivational speaker, as well as an athlete. Because of sports, people have begun to know my name.
Finally, in 2016, I met Tariq and Xiomara Getrouw.
I participated at the Invictus Games at Orlando, Florida. I did Indoor-Rowing (trunk & Arm). All the athletes for indoor-rowing were waiting to go through some mandatory testing before the event. All of the sudden, a young lady walked up, and said she would guide me through this testing. As I later learned, this young woman was Xiomara Getrouw, an accomplished athlete herself in swimming. She and her brother, Tariq, who was also at the Games, were swimmers from Suriname of South America. They were training in the USA for the Olympics, but took the time to volunteer with us at the Invictus Games.
At the 2018 Invictus Games, Edwin was unexpectedly thrown into the public eye when he received the Above and Beyond Award for helping fellow athlete Paul Guest through a PTSD attack. View the 2 minute video here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-27/edwin-vermetten-receives-above-and-beyond-award/10437562
Now Edwin wants to give back. He says sports saved his life and gave him hope when he had none. Today he wants to spread that hope to others. He has teamed up with Swim For Life International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children around the world learn to swim. Their current project is in Lesotho of Africa, a country that has no current swimming program and a high drowning rate. With Edwin’s expertise of living a full life with a disability, Swim For Life Int’l now also plans to reach out to children in Lesotho with disabilities. This kind of inclusion is revolutionary for this part of the world, and it is just one of the ways Edwin Vermetten is inspiring others to live their best life, no matter what the doctor says.
I did my best to have a good conversation with Xiomara in English. At the last moment, before I had to go through the test, she told me that I could speak in Dutch with her. I was amazed, but I couldn't talk longer with her because I had to prepare for my Indoor-rowing competition.
That day, I won bronze. Xiomara and Tariq were so happy for me, and we were able to take a picture together. We exchanged numbers and then said goodbye.
After the Invictus Games I went back to the Netherlands, but we stayed in touch. They told me about their organization, Swim for Life International. The mission of Swim For Life International is to teach underprivileged children in Africa how to swim.
I fell in love with their organization and wanted to be part of it. Sports got me through a very difficult time in my life. I want to extend that same support to other people around the world, especially to kids fighting insurmountable odds, like I did.
I am very proud that I am part of this fantastic team. Tariq and Xiomara have such good hearts. Because they are doing volunteer work, financial support is needed. We are looking for sponsors to give those unfortunate kids an opportunity in sports and education. If our stories speak to your heart, please visit the website for more information, and to learn how you could give more children the inspiration of sports.raph here.