Jetze Plat is a legend of the sport. The 28-year-old Dutch para-cyclist competes in the H5 category and truly came to prominence at the Rio 2016 Paralympics when he won bronze in the road race. That would have been enough for most athletes – but not Plat, who showed his versatility by also taking the Paralympic gold medal in paratriathlon.
He went on to win the world time trial and road race titles in both 2017 and 2018, and in 2017 claimed the Ironman Hawaii title in a time of 8:41:17. Earlier this year, Plat crushed the handbike hour record, covering a distance of 44.749km that beat the existing record by over 2km. In short, Plat is a phenomenon – and a phenomenon we recently had the privilege of catching up with.
What are your goals for 2019 and beyond, Jetze?
I have clear targets. The first is to defend my two world titles in handcycling. The second is to do the same in triathlon. If I achieve that, it should be enough to qualify in both sports for the Tokyo Paralympics next year. If I do that, I’m looking for a minimum of two gold medals over the three events I’m looking to compete in. After that we’ll reassess.
You’re arguably the most powerful para-cyclist in the world. Can you talk us through a week’s training?
Firstly, handcycling for over 20 years helps – I’ve cycled for many years and that builds powerful shoulders! I’ve also swum from a young age. As for my current programme, I usually train twice a day, six days a week. Most of the time it’s on the handbike, but I also undertake strength training in the gym – a big focus during the winter – swimming and in my racing chair.
Tell us how you ended up competing as a para-cyclist and para-triathlete?
I was born on the 10th of June, 1991, in Amsterdam. My left leg featured a short femur, as well as no knee ligaments and an irregular hip joint. As for my right side, I had no thigh at all and not a good hip joint. For those reasons, I wasn’t able to ride on a normal bike but, not to be deterred, I started riding a handbike from the age of five, riding to school with friends.
When I was 12, the owner of a company who made wheelchairs and handbikes asked if I’d like to try racing. From that moment, I was ‘on the road’ in the world of handcycling sport. And from those fun beginnings, I grew into a national athlete and then international.
So you’re a full-time para-athlete?
Yes. From the age of 15, I’ve spent time searching and working for sponsors. You have to – handcycling’s an expensive sport. At the moment, because I’m ranked high in the world, I’m within the national federation’s ‘A-status’ band. That means I receive a minimum salary. With the money, I can pay the rent on my house and eat. Thankfully, I receive financial sponsorship as well as equipment.
Tell us about the gear you use.
All my equipment is from the Danish company Wolturnus. I also test ride their gear, assessing things like the aerodynamics and stiffness of their frames. The bikes and chairs are 100% custom made and this is really important to me; in fact, it’s a big part of my success.
What about clothing – is it made specifically for you?
Because of my ‘special legs’ and my larger upper body than most, yes, again it’s custom made by the Belgium company Bioracer.
Anything else you’d like to add about your gear?
I have a technical background so I’m always working on my bike, testing different set-ups and components in search of the next marginal gain. Often, I’ll average over 40km/hr so it’s really important than I’m 100% happy with my kit.
What’s your greatest achievement in sport?
My medals at Rio 2016, becoming UCI World Champion in handcycling, breaking that hour record, winning Ironman Hawaii… I’m sorry, it’s really hard to choose!
What’s your greatest achievement away from sport?
That’s easy – that I have a beautiful and smart girlfriend by my side. In truth, there’s little time away from sport – you have to give it 100% so there’s little time for anything else.
But there must be things you do to relax?
I like to watch sport and, of course, I enjoy holidays. For one week, I can do nothing and simply sleep under the sun. I also relax by tinkering my equipment!
Anything you’d like to sign off with?
If any readers are interested, I’m active on several social-media channels. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter