Why did you choose cycling?
I was brought up with cycling. My father is a keen cyclist. We would always watch the Tour de France together and I would say: "Dad, I want to do that too!" When I was eight years old, I was given a mountain bike, which I used to ride around the woods in Friesland. At that time, I was still independent in terms of my eyesight, but my eyes started deteriorating as I grew older. However, my parents were quite clear in telling me that we all have our burdens to bear! It’s all about how you experience it and deal with it. Don’t hide away but show people what you can do with what you have! You should not think in terms of limitations as there is a solution to everything. Together with my father I found the answer – the tandem. I soon wanted to start racing in competitions. During the Paralympic talent day, the national team coach picked me out right away.
What does speed mean to you?
It’s the buzz you get when you go fast; it’s incredible to reach such a speed together on the bike and to feel the synergy! If you work together to produce a tremendous amount of power and it goes very smoothly, it almost seems like no effort at all. The trance, the tunnel… You get such a huge buzz, particularly on the track when you go fast around the bends, that it’s like flying over the track.
Tell us about the teamwork. What’s it like while riding tandem?
The pilot sits at the front, while I’m the ‘stoker’ at the rear. During the time trials, we don’t really communicate as there isn’t enough time, especially on the track. Our tasks are clear beforehand: simply go as fast as possible.
Road races involve more of a strategy; who will break away, and will you go with them or not. In that case, the pilot tells me what he sees and we shout to one another. My pilot Patrick and I are good friends; we have a lot of fun together and he helps me with everything. We are constantly motivating one another to get everything as right as possible. When all the pieces of the puzzle fit together during a race, this is what we have achieved together!
What is your greatest success?
I’d have to say getting the gold at the 1 km time trial on the track with Teun Mulder at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio! That was the crowning point of many years of hard work. Now, together with Patrick, we are making good progress and there is a good chance that we will be able to go to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo!