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Thomas Van der Plaetsen

(1990 –  )

Thomas Van der Plaetsen (born 24 December 1990 in Ghent) is a Belgian decathlete. His biggest achievements are the golden medal of the European championship 2016, bronze medal at the 2014 World Indoor Championships and the gold at the 2013 Summer Universiade.

Expressing opinions

Even though I am quite an opinionated person, I’ve never really felt a need to express myself publicly. For a long time I believed it was narcissistic and self-serving to voice your opinions when people hadn’t really asked for them. Now several years older (and hopefully wiser…) I realize my silence was actually controlled by a fear of standing out or getting rejected. Sure, speaking your mind isn’t always easy, but I have to be honest and admit self-esteem was never my strong point growing up… (read more)

Rocky Balboa and the underdog position

I used to be a huge fan of the Rocky movies when I was young. I had the DVD box set and pumped the soundtrack through my headphones at the end of a hard running session. It was all I knew when it came to identifying with what I wanted to achieve. I was a kid from a small town who dreamed of becoming an athlete; I was on the hero’s journey. Zero to hero, just like Rocky Balboa.

As I grew older (and started taking track more serious) I picked up a keen interest in human psychology and behavior. Because I realized that if I truly wanted to maximize my potential I’d have to learn more about how my mind worked. I started reading books on self-esteem, confidence, human biases, philosophy, meditation, intelligence, emotional intelligence, motivation, and so on. And somewhere along the way there was a shift… I noticed I stopped looking at Rocky as an inspiration and motivation (I can hardly stand hearing the music anymore). Book by book, the zero to hero premise started crumbling. I realized we have been spoon-fed the hero’s journey all wrong! (read more)

About ‘personality’ of the year

I’m going to be blunt for a second and just say it: I’ve been quite an asshole this year… Not that i am a bad person (or even an asshole for that matter), I actually did a lot of good and had a lot of positive moments. But I have to admit that during my comeback i was definitely shorter tempered, had more frequent emotional ups and downs and was regularly unable to open myself up to the help of others. (read more)

About training and a balanced life

This part is not really about the exact training I did after my chemotherapy, even though I can tell you I trained quite a bit. In the beginning my body was weak and could hardly recover. To get it ready for a decathlon seemed like a monumental task! Step one was to get everything moving again. To get everything aligned and joints strong enough to actually start training properly on the track. I spent hours in the gym doing repetitive little exercises. To any other person they probably looked boring and a waste of time, but I knew they’d be my saving grace: If I couldn’t be strong and fast (In the end I was even slower than I had ever imagined possible, 11.45 in the 100m in Beijing), I’d just have to be more efficient. That’s one big takeaway from this whole experience: By having my back against the wall I learned so much about my body and what it needs to get in shape. Restriction breeds creativity… And needless to say, I was forced to get very creative to make it through this season. (read more)

About competing

Five months into my comeback (end of May), I had to leave the relative safety of training to make my return to the track. My first competition was quite confronting as I felt I was nowhere near the shape I needed to put down decent performances (Feeling overrun with lactic acid 100m into a 200m race is definitely not a high point in my career…). But even though it was embarrassing to perform so far under my normal level, I knew competing would be the most effective way to make progress and get ready for a full decathlon. (read more)

About Beijing

The weeks leading up to the world championships I had a far from ideal preparation. I had recovered decently from the University games, but felt that mentally and physically my body was starting to protest. Niggles started popping up every day and I was running out of energy to deal with them mentally. I was struggling to put decent training sessions together and the many aches and pains were really dragging me down. As we set off for pre-camp in Japan two weeks before the start of my decathlon, I was hanging on by a thread! (read more)

About doping

This will be the last part of my blog post series and I’m ending off with the subject that started the whole situation I am writing about: Doping. It is a very touchy subject and I realize athletes aren’t expected to talk about it beyond saying they’re against it. But I feel like I need to voice an opinion that is very underrepresented in the current discussion about doping: Even though I’m for a cleaner sport, we need to reevaluate where anti-doping is headed and create some room for reason and nuance (Especially in a period where this is such a heated subject!). (read more)

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