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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.

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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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