Marc Herremans of Belgium, famed triathlete who was paralyzed in 2002 in a training accident and recovered to win the handcycle division at the Ironman World Championship in 2006, suffered second and third degree burns in his legs after spilling a hot water jug.
Herremans, who works as a triathlon coach and a motivational speaker, returned home to Belgium with his athletes from a training camp in Calpe on the Costa Blanca in Spain two weeks ago suffering from a lung infection and the flu.
“After four days struggling with 40 degrees temperature [Celsius – or 104 degrees Fahrenheit] I took a water jug with boiling hot water,” Herremans emailed Slowtwitch. “The jug collapsed and all the boiling water burned both my legs for 90 percent with second and third degree burns.”
Herremans said that he was transported by ambulance to a hospital and subsequently spent “10 days of hard fighting against lung infection, flu and bacteria on my wounds.”
Herremans is scheduled to undergo a skin operation on March 15. In a Facebook post Herremans wrote: “Thankful for all true friendship from family and real friends.”
While growing up, Herremans played soccer and served as a paracommando in the military.
In 2001, Herremans finished 6th in his first attempt at the Ironman World Championship and was a highly anticipated podium contender for 2002. However, on January 22, 2002 he fell while on a training ride on a dangerous curve in Lanzarote, landed on rocks and broke his back. Doctors diagnosed that he suffered paralysis from his stomach to his feet and would live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Just three months after the accident, Herremans began training for Kona as a wheelchair triathlete. That October, he finished 2nd in category in a time of 12:47:18. He finished 3rd in 2003 and 2004, 2nd in 2005 and won the handcycle World Championship title in 2006 in a time of 10 hours 53 minutes and 29 seconds.
In 2007, he became the first wheelchair athlete to finish the Crocodile Trophy which covers 1400 kilometers through the Outback of Australia in 10 days.
In 2003, Herremans created a foundation called “To Walk Again,” that created a sports center for disabled people and investes in bone marrow research. Marc wrote a book about his life and contributed to a film that followed him in his efforts to win the Ironman.
Since then, Marc has become a motivational speaker, which funds his foundation. He also became a successful coach whose athletes have won the Cyclocross World championship, World Champion off road triathlon, 5th place at the Under 23 Men World Championship, and two times Dutch Triathlon National Championship for women.
Eleven years after his accident, Herremans became a father for the first time to daughter Anne-Lou and two years later celebrated the birth of a second daughter, Sue.