Van Gass issues rousing Paralympic rallying cry after thrilling Tokyo glory

·4-min read
Van Gass, 35, soared to individual pursuit and mixed team glory in the Japanese capital this summer
Van Gass, 35, soared to individual pursuit and mixed team glory in the Japanese capital this summer

By Will Jennings

Jaco van Gass insists he will not settle for being a one-Games Paralympic wonder.

And after swapping cycling glory for sunny Santorini, the Parachute Regiment veteran is on a military-esque mission to pass his toughest test yet - going even faster.

Van Gass, 35, catapulted himself to stardom this summer by soaring to individual pursuit and mixed team sprint gold at the Paralympic Games.

He backed that up by bagging time trial bronze as he capped an emotional personal journey after suffering life-changing injuries while serving in Afghanistan.

Van Gass enjoyed a holiday to Greece with fiancée Kathryn to let off some post-Paralympic steam and after getting back on the bike this month, is determined to crack the conundrum of staying at the summit.

The Manchester-based ace said: "I had to get to Tokyo first and achieve what I wanted to achieve, which I did.

"I've had the time to reflect and then you start thinking about the next challenge - can I actually go quicker? Can I maintain my records, defend them and defend my titles.

"That's the new challenge - and that's what we're working towards now. It's very easy to come from behind when you're unknown, push the boundaries and set new records - but the hardest thing is then staying in front of the pack.

"How do you stay ahead and stay a champion? What you do sometimes inspires other people and makes them find ways to dig deeper and go faster. The biggest challenge is now - it's how do you stay the best and No.1 in the world."

Van Gass captured hearts in Japan by powering to a thrilling C3 individual pursuit gold in world record time.

He stopped the clock in a searing 3:20.987 - slicing nearly six records of the previous record - to snatch victory from teammate Finlay Graham and fulfil a lifetime dream.

Van Gass suffered a collapsed lung, shrapnel and blast wounds, punctured organs and a broken tibia while serving in Afghanistan but after 11 operations and a gruelling rehabilitation process, miraculously lived to fight another day.

He now wants his pair of gold medals - he combined with Jody Cundy and Kadeena Cox in best of British trio to bank C1-5 mixed team glory - to inspire the next generation and propel his C3 discipline to even greater heights.

"Para-sport is becoming more attractive and more known, so there's going to be more talent found somewhere," added Van Gass, who is able to train full-time, access to the world's best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding - which helped British athletes win an incredible 189 medals in Tokyo.

"That's amazing - I could still be the best, but someone could be found at the last minute and they could beat me.

"As long as we're putting people, and the sport, in front of the world and showcasing life goes on after injury, then that's amazing. It's a mission of mine to push my category as far as I possibly can.

"If I can be the person pushing the boundaries, then why not bring the sport along with me?

"By doing what I've done, it will only increase the level of the sport and for people to say: 'I want a world record.'"

Team GB and ParalympicsGB have won over 1000 medals since the advent of National Lottery funding and Van Gass added: "We're forever grateful to the National Lottery for their input and support.

"Without the players, we wouldn't be able to train full-time, access elite kit and equipment and achieve what we've achieved."

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes

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