Bibian Mentel Spee was born in Utrecht on September 27, 1972. She grew up in Loosdrecht. Bibian's parents, Theo Mentel and Maude Meijlink, were both born in a Japanese camp in the former Dutch East Indies. For all children, camp life has a great influence on the formation of their character. Although they often have no clear memories of specific events, the general atmosphere of fear and danger always stays with them. The memories that have been preserved also relate to this.
One memory from the Japanese camp made a big impression on Bibian's mother. As a child, whenever she cried, made noise or was annoying, her mother usually got slapped. Because of this, Maude learned at a very young age that it was better to process her grief in silence and to always put on a happy, smiling face to the world. That's where you help another person the most. With this thought, Maude raised Bibian. Be nice so you don't cause trouble. Bibian's father was extremely competitive, a real warrior. Her mother taught her that following your passion and doing your best was more important than winning. But her father felt that the number two was the first loser. From him, the most important thing was to win.
See there Bibian. Very much mother and a vicious bit of father. He left for a foreign country when Bibian was 17 and never came back. Bibian and her mother were suddenly totally together. In every way. Bibian and her mother. Her mother and Bibian. Maude always encouraged Bibian to face the world with a smile, follow her passion, enjoy who and what she encountered, and above all, always keep looking for the best in herself. She always did. And yes, she also really wanted to win.
Of course, Bibian and her mother sometimes disagreed. They did not agree on everything. But when Bibian managed to present good arguments for a different choice, Maude always supported her in it. Unconditional. For example, when Bibian decided to quit her law studies and chose an uncertain existence on a snowboard in the mountains. Follow your passion...
In the year 2001, Bibian's leg has to be amputated due to a very rare, aggressive form of bone cancer. Immediately Bibian looks ahead. Even before the amputation, she discussed with a prosthetist what she could still do after the operation. And by that she didn't just mean walking ... Bibian comes to the conclusion that it must be possible to resume her old life with a bag full of different legs. Even before she can walk again, nine months after her amputation, she wins the Dutch Championships Among the able-bodied athletes!
In addition to her rehabilitation and her top sports training (so those two words fit in one sentence), Bibian begins studying Commercial Economics, which she completes in three years. A year later, she obtains her International Master of Sport Management.
She is a very ambitious woman. A woman with a purpose. A goal to do as much for others as possible. During her studies, she is committed to getting snowboarding on the paralympic calendar. That turns out not to be easy. But Bibian has never shied away from that. In 2014, after 8 years of lobbying, snowboarding is among the paralympic numbers. She manages to win the first gold snowboarding medal herself in Sochi.
Bibian won 128 gold medals, was Dutch Champion seven times, World Champion seven times and Paralympic Champion three times. She was a Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau, was elected Sportswoman of the Year in 2014 and 2018, received the Chapeau twice and also won the titles Hero of the Year, Stoerste vrouw van Nederland, Meest Positieve Nederlander and was posthumously awarded the Fanny Blankers Koen prize.
She was at her best in everything. Because she had learned that. As a daughter, patient and champion. As a friend and example to many. And above all as the wife of Edwin and radiantly proud mother of son Julian and stepdaughters Laila and Annabella. In everything Bibian. That was Bibian.
"An ordinary girl grew into a national hero by always smiling at life and the world."
She is the founder of the Bibian Mentel Foundation, formerly Mentelity Foundation, a foundation dedicated to equal opportunities for people with physical challenges, author of three books and motivational speaker. An ordinary girl grew into a "national hero" by always smiling at life and the world, by always shining and leading in the art of enjoyment.
In March 2021, Bibian Mentel died of cancer at the age of 48.