Bibian Mentel

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Bibian Mentel
Bibian Mentel-Spee.png
Personal information
Born (1972-09-27) 27 September 1972 (age 46)
Utrecht, Netherlands
Years active1996 –
Sportalpine skiing
Disability classSB-LL
Event(s)Snowboard cross,
Banked slalom
Coached byhusband Edwin Spee [1]

Bibian Mentel-Spee (born 27 September 1972) is a three-fold Winter Paralympics gold-medalist, and five-times world champion para-snowboarding athlete from the Netherlands. Bibian Mentel won the paralympic gold in the snowboard cross discipline in the 2014 and 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, as well as banked slalom in 2018, despite battling cancer nine times since the beginning of the century, and winning her 2018 medals at age 45.

Mentel co-wrote two books about her life, career and struggles with cancer, and set up her own "Mentelity" foundation.

In 2012, Mentel was invested as a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.


Mentel started her snowboard career in 1993. In 1996 she participated in her first FIS Snowboard World Cup competition. Mentel became six times Dutch champion in the regular, able-bodied half-pipe and snowboard cross disciplines, before being struck by medical troubles.[4]

During a practise run for the championships in Breckenridge, Colorado in December 1999, she suffered an injury in her ankle. She completed the season, however the ankle remained a source of concern. X-rays showed a spot on her tibia which was diagnosed as a malign bone tumor. The tumor was removed and Mentel started training for the 2002 Winter Olympics for which she was qualified. Soon it became clear that the tumor had regrown and had a chance of spreading to the rest of her body via her blood. She chose to agree to have her leg amputated.

4 months after the amputation she was able to ride a snowboard again, despite being unable to walk using crutches. The following January she was asked to present the trophy at the Dutch championships halfpipe. She decided to compete in the Dutch snowboard cross championships, which she won — in the main class — not the handicapped,[5][1] – her seventh Dutch championship.[6] This inspired Mentel to work with Dutch member of the International Paralympic Committee Rita van Driel to get snowboarding adopted as a medal event at the paralympic Winter Games. After eight years of lobbying this was achieved in 2012.[1][5]

In 2013 Bibian Mentel qualified for the 2014 Winter Paralympics. At the opening ceremony she was the flag-carrier for the Netherlands. She won the Paralympic gold medal in the snowboard cross event.

At the 2018 Winter Paralympics in PeyongChang, Mentel was once again the Dutch flag bearer, and took the gold medal in the snowboard cross again,[7] despite not having boarded even a single competition in the winter season leading up to the games, due to medical complications.[5] Additionally, because of her condition, most sponsors had given up on her, the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation did not support her,[1] and the Dutch Skiing sports federation would only fund 9%, so she mostly crowd-funded her participation in the 2018 Winter Paralympics.[8]
Furthermore, she also took gold on the banked slalom event, beating American competitor Brittani Coury by 0.07 seconds.

Ongoing fight against cancer[edit]

Since being diagnosed with cancer at age 27, Mentel has been confronted with, and treated against cancer nine times, including five surgeries. The most recent one, in January 2018, replaced her C6 neck vertebra with a titanium frame.[8] In 2016, when her son was 13, she was told she was terminal, but a switch to another hospital, where she could receive advanced MRI-guided radiotherapy treatment,[1] pulled her through, such that she was able to compete successfully in 2018.[5]

Mentel co-wrote two books about her life, career and struggles with cancer. Magnate and philanthropist Richard Branson called her second book "Kut kanker!" [9] a "Story of an amazing woman. A must read for anyone who wants to enjoy life to the max".[10]


In 1993 Mentel gave up her lawschool study in Amsterdam to focus on snowboarding entirely. In 2004 Mentel graduated from the 4-year high-level professional program in 'commercial economics, sports marketing & management' at the Randstad Topsports Academy[11] – a collaboration of the Hogeschool Rotterdam and the Saxion University of Applied Sciences, and in 2013 she became an 'International Master of Sport Management' at the Johan Cruyff Institute.[4]

Mentelity foundation and other activities[edit]

In 2012 [1] Mentel decided to set up her own "Mentelity foundation", to stimulate, motivate, and inspire children and adolescents with a physical disability (to continue) to engage in sports, both in general, as well as in extreme board sports in particular. By this approach, and aided by the foundation's volunteers, she wants to make a positive contribution to the mental and physical development of the physically handicapped.[12]

Mentel also works as a motivational speaker, in the Dutch and English language;[11] and sometimes teaches at a wakeboarding school.[4]

Awards and decorations[edit]

  • In 2009 received the golden CAPaward, annually awarded to those who, through perseverance, overcome their physical handiCAPs and turn them into CAPabilities [13]
  • In 2012, Mentel received a knighthood in the Order of Orange-Nassau [11]
  • At the closing ceremony of the Sochi Games, Mentel and Australian Toby Kane received the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award,[14] and
  • in December 2014 Mentel was elected 'Paralympic Athlete of the Year' at the annual Dutch NOC*NSF TV sports gala.[15]
  • At the 2015 Paralympic Sport and Media Awards, Mentel received the Courage Award, in recognition of her efforts to get snowboarding included in the Paralympic Winter Games.[16]
  • In 2017 she received the Strong Woman Award from Dutch company VanHaren.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bons, Monique (7 September 2016). "Bibian Mentel: 8 keer kanker in 15 jaar" [Bibian Mentel: 8 times cancer in 15 years] (in Dutch). ForYou Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-13. ..nieuwe MRIdian: een bestralingsapparaat waar een MRI-scanner is ingebouwd." (English: ".. new MRIdian, a radiotherapy machine with a built-in MRI scanner.
  2. ^ Formerly "IPC Snowboard Championships"
  3. ^ Bibian Mentel: Results – Team NL (archived)
  4. ^ a b c This statement translated from Dutch Wikipedia article
  5. ^ a b c d Visser, Jeroen (11 March 2018). "9 keer kanker, 5 longoperaties, 74 bestralingen, en toch haalt Bibian Mentel weer goud" [9 times cancer, 5 lung operations, 74 radiotherapies, and yet Bibian Mentel takes gold again] (in Dutch). De Volkskrant. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  6. ^ Bibian Mentel – One-legged Wonder (in Dutch)
  7. ^ Snowboarder Mentel wins Netherlands first Paralympic gold in Peyonchang – NL Times
  8. ^ a b I Have A Dream! Do You Want To Be A Part Of It ? – Road 2 Korea Pyeong Chang 2018
  9. ^ loosely translated as "Cancer is Crap!"
  10. ^ Kutkanker – Splint Media
  11. ^ a b c d e Bibian Mentel: Athlete Bio – International Paralympic Committee
  12. ^ "Össur en Bibian Mentel slaan handen ineen" [Össur and Bibian Mentel join forces] (in Dutch). Össur prosthetics. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
  13. ^ Local Dutch News release
  14. ^ Mentel-Spee and Kane awarded Whang Youn Dai Achievement Awards
  15. ^ Snowboarder Bibian Mentel Paralympic Sporter of the Year (in Dutch)
  16. ^, 14 Nov 2015 [11]
  17. ^, 25 Apr 2017 [11]

External links[edit]