When Channel 4 presenter Arthur Williams spoke with new Paralympic C3 3,000m individual pursuit gold medalist Jaco van Gass there was a collective lump in the throat at Help for Heroes.
Because both had been supported by the charity following their injuries sustained during military service.
On his way to beating countryman Fin Graham in the final van Gass even set a new world best time for the event of 3 minutes 17.593 seconds, beating Scot Graham’s record which had been set only minutes previously.
The former Para sustained severe injuries – including the loss of his left arm – in 2009, during his second six-month tour of Afghanistan, when the helicopter he was travelling in came under enemy fire and was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.
He participated in Help for Heroes sports recovery programme and developed a passion for adaptive cycling. He competed at the World Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He’s won silver and gold medals at the Invictus Games, and, in 2017, even set himself the challenge of cycling 3,081 miles in six days as part of the Race Across America (RAAM), raising money in support of other wounded veterans and their families.
What’s more, in 2011, he was a member of the record-breaking team of wounded soldiers who trekked to the North Pole. Now, in his first Paralympics, he’s taken gold in spectacular fashion.
“How fitting that with Afghanistan in the news once again, a veteran who served there should be making such positive headlines...” - Help for Heroes CEO, Mel Waters.
Celebrating his achievement with some of the charity’s staff, Help for Heroes CEO, Mel Waters, said: “We are delighted that somebody who has been in our sports recovery programme has gone on to win gold and be the pride of his nation. We’re so incredibly proud of him and of all our veteran athletes in Tokyo.
“How fitting that with Afghanistan in the news once again, a veteran who served there should be making such positive headlines. His superb capabilities – and those of his fellow veterans in Tokyo – send a powerful message to other veterans and anybody with a disability who may happen to face barriers, both visible and hidden, to engaging in sport.
“It shows what can be achieved, and what is possible with the right support. For many, your start line may not be in Tokyo, it maybe venturing out into your local community or taking up an activity for the first time. But support is there for you, and you can fulfil the goals you set yourself.”
Find out more about our athletes competing at this year’s Paralympic Games