Jaco Van Gass: Afghanistan veteran wins Paralympic gold for Great Britain

The former soldier is a Paralympic champion at his maiden games

Pa Sport Staff
Thursday 26 August 2021 08:47 BST
Sarah Storey: I want to be the best version of me at Paralympics

Afghanistan veteran Jaco Van Gass applied military precision on his Paralympic debut, smashing the C3 3,000m individual pursuit world record en route to romping to gold in Tokyo.

With the Taliban takeover of Kabul dominating news headlines, the heroic Van Gass offers a stark reminder of the devastation years of political instability have caused in that country.

The South African-born cyclist suffered life-changing injuries when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2009 while serving with the Parachute Regiment.

He lost his left arm at the elbow, as well as suffering a collapsed lung, shrapnel wounds, punctured internal organs, a broken tibia and a fractured knee, requiring 11 operations and intense rehabilitation.

Inspired by London 2012 as he adjusted to life outside the army, the 35-year-old has rebuilt his life as an elite athlete and completed a remarkable journey by getting the better of compatriot Fin Graham in the Izu Velodrome on Thursday.

The medal race followed a remarkable qualifying session in which Van Gass clocked three minutes, 17.593 seconds – more than nine seconds inside the world record posted by Russian Alexey Obydennov in April 2014.

Silver medallist Graham had himself initially – and very briefly – usurped Obydenno with 3min 19.780, having raced in an earlier heat than Van Gass.

Ultimately upstaged in the opening 7.5 laps, the 21-year-old Scotsman was unable to close the gap in the decider.

He crossed the finish line just over a second after his rival, who won with a time of 3:20.987 – considerably slower than the qualifying pace.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in