Golden boy takes some rest after Spartan regime21 Dec. 2016
Golden boy takes some rest after Spartan regime
It is the end of the afternoon and the sun is setting on the horizon. The sky turns into a golden glow. What else do you need when a visit is on the menu with one of the golden boys of last Paralympics at Rio, Brazil.
We set off to the little Dutch village, Vrouwenakker. Situated between greenhouses under the airport of Schiphol, it is the home village of Jetze Plat. The winner of one bronze medal at the handbike road race and a gold medal at the triathlon at the Rio Paralympics. A few months have passed and we are visiting our sponsored hand biker to talk about what he went through the last couple of months. And what he did to conquer those desirable metals. Although he won gold, the disappointment was huge after the road race for Jetze. Why was that and how does he look back now after the first disappointment has vanished? It became a conversation about living as a monk, high-end material and the irritations of a pro athlete.
Ringing the doorbell and opening the door is a strange phenomenon when standing in front of the house of Jetze. Theres a warm welcome and one of the main things that strikes the eye is his gigantic muscled body and arms. It nearly looks like hes a professional bodybuilder. Its clear how he accelerates at his handbike: with brutal power from his arms and upper body. The signature of each hand biker, but for us its the first time we meet in real life and its surprising how much muscles you need to become a Paralympic champion. Walking down into the living room already answers one of our main questions. Where does a Paralympic champion keeps his medals? In a small showcase next to his television in his living room. From top down we see gold, silver and bronze prices. Those are arranged from first to third places and now only with the most important medals in it. Before I kept all my prices in there, but it just was too much. Obviously my Paralympic medals are the most important and its nice to have them here in my house. Each time I pass them, I look at them and it still feels special. Also after three months, according to a proud Jetze who sits down at the kitchen table where he serves us with a nice cup of tea.
More meaning to bronze
Once settled down, Jetze takes us back to his Rio adventure and tells us about the road race and triathlon, while his medals are in front of us on the kitchen table. Actually the triathlon was a benefit. The road race was my main goal, its something I do since I was a little kid. It was the most important thing for me. I wanted a gold metal on that certain part of the Paralympics. Since London I did everything I could to perform better and to improve myself on the road race of hand biking. So winning the bronze medal in that race was in instance a big disappointment. I wanted to be the best in the road race so badly. Having won gold at the triathlon was nice, but it was and extra. But looking back at the event after a couple of months, the bronze medal is maybe even more important for me than the golden one of the triathlon. Its a medal with so much meaning for me. Having the medals in his home now, also makes Jetze realise he doesnt want to lose them. They are so special and of course its nice to see them every day, but I already heard stories of athletes having been robbed at home and losing their medals in a burglary. So maybe I will keep them in a sort of vault outside of my home after a while.
Jetze worked hard enough for it to handle his medals as precious cargo. To conquer those medals he worked in a Spartan regime for himself. It was a challenge for himself as well as for his girlfriend, family, and friends. The road to Rio wasnt easy at all. As an athlete your living towards a goal so clearly. We demand so much from our body which makes us vulnerable to little irritations. Thats not so easy for our close relatives, friends, and family. Luckily after the Paralympics, everything is far more balanced now. I wasnt raised as a selfish person, so this balanced life with time for my girlfriend, friends and family suits my kind of personality much better. But when you want to reach your goal as an athlete, you have to make sacrifices. During the period after the Paralympics, I finally had time for other things besides training, sleeping and eating. Eventually, the Spartan regime was worth it, while at the same time Jetze doesnt even like hand biking that much. Thats a little exaggerated of course, but youre right. It doesnt come to my mind to take my handbike for a random spin. I have to set goals for myself and keep working on a long-term on something to keep working on my handbike. See it as your own work. You want to keep working on goals as well and want to reach something in your own work. You dont get out of bed, go to work and think well, just do something today without working towards a goal and thats the same for me with hand biking.
Next up: Ironman at Hawaii
The next goal for Jetze is already in sight. After a slightly relaxed period when it comes to practice after Rio, he feels ready to start training again and therefore working towards a new goal. The next Paralympics in Tokyo are too far away, so a goal on a slightly shorter term is better to work with. Therefore Jetze has his eyes on the Ironman of Hawaii. And thats a tough one. Its way heavier than the Paralympic triathlon distance, so I really have to train a lot to perform at a normal level there. But thats a good thing because I like to take up the training again. After the Paralympics, I had a lot of ceremonies and stuff like that, which is cool, but it was exhausting at the same time. I went from days of sleeping 12 hours to days of 6 hours of sleep. Suddenly I was sort of famous and got recognized when I was doing groceries or went out. Thats all nice, but after a while, its good to start working on athletic goals again. In the end, thats what I am, a professional athlete.
Handbiker between road racers
Part of living as a pro athlete was riding his handbike a lot for Jetze. Besides living an tremendous amount of time in his altitude tent, he rode his handbike a lot among normal road racers on a special course. Im living in the area of Amsterdam, where road racers can compete with each other during winter time on a special course around the wooden track of Sloten. On my road to Rio I could compete with these road racers as well. As long as I stayed in the last wheel of the peloton. It was a very good practice in intervals for me, because the last five riders of the peloton always have a hard task in keeping track of the big bunch. When there was a gap between the bunch and the last five riders, I could constantly sprint to the next last wheel. But at the race track the pro athlete in Jetze comes to the surface as well. Once I got in some sort of a fight, because I was racing in a breakaway of that night. A small group was attacking and I jumped with them. But of course, that was pretty dangerous, racing with my wide handbike between the other road bikes. Not strange I got in a little fight over this. The organisation was right in every way. So that won't happen again, says Jetze while laughing when he thinks back about this incident.
Differences between handbiking and triathlon
The story about Jetze riding between other road racers shows how fast hand biking can actually go. In the peloton of the pro hand bikers, speeds up to 40km/h are easily reached. That doesnt happen without the muscle power of hand bikers like Jetze and the high-tech material the pros use. For the Paralympics I used a real high tech hand bike, which was especially designed for Rio. A lot of carbon material was used in designing a featherweight bike. And the seat was totally designed on my position on the bike, Jetze explained. He takes us outside to show us his collection of bikes. At his garage he has his special wheeler chair, his carbon bike for triathlon use and his road race hand bike. We notice the differences between the bikes in one instance. Jetze tells us where the bikes differ from each other. With the triathlon the biker is lying in the bike, so with a position on your back. Where in the road race you bend over more in front of the bike. Thats a big difference in riding. Therefore the technique of the bike is different as well. With my triathlon bike I use the longest conventional cycling cranks, where in my road bike I use tailor-made handles, completely different from a normal road bike.”
“The chairs I use are different as well. For my road bike I sit with one leg to the back, bended. While in my triathlon bike I lie down in the seat. And the wheeler which I use for the running part of the triathlon is somewhat more of a regular wheelchair. I have to use my hands to accelerate with a completely different technique compared to the cycling part. You have to smash your hands on a ring thats mounted on the wheels. Its a weird technique and very difficult to learn.
The differences between the triathlon and the road bike are the same in the products Jetze uses from BBB. Because hes lying more in the triathlon bike, more wind is coming under his glasses. Therefore I want to use a sport lens thats slightly longer at the bottom. With the Select and Summit I can choose between what type of lens suits my needs the best. When riding in my hand bike on a road race, Im more in a conventional cycling posture and therefore use the same glasses as my colleagues on road bikes use. The same thing goes for the helmets I use. When speed is important I use the Tithon, while on more heated circumstances I would choose the Icarus. But honestly said, both helmets are very good and I choose to use the Icarus more on training and the Tithon in competition.
Besides the obvious products Jetze uses, there is one product category which is far more important for a hand biker compared to a conventional road racer. While using my hands so much, gloves are very important for a hand biker like myself. And I have different needs. My gloves have to have as little padding as possible, because I want to have a lot of feeling with my grips. Too much padding is annoying on a hand bike grip. Thats one of the things thats a problem when training in winter. Most winter gloves still have a thick padding, while the warmth of the glove is ok. Its one of the things Jetze wants to think about in the future, how to develop products more in the needs of a hand biker. Its a subject that fits Jetze, because he has a technical background.
One of the products in his home that stands out is his own leg prosthesis. I made it myself from carbon fiber, tells Jetze. Its a proof of how skilled Jetze is and how devoted he is to material and creating things the way he likes them best. He wants to improve the material and himself. An open athlete who knows what hes talking about and who lives for his sport in the best way possible. Medals are nice and results are great, but even nicer than those things are to see how Jetze is as a person and athlete. We keep following him on his way to Kona, Hawaii.