Jaco van Gass
Para multi-sports athlete
Jaco moved to the UK from South Africa in 2006 aged 20 with the sole intention of joining the British Armed Forces. By mid-2007, he had completed his basic training and joined the Parachute Regiment. However, during Jaco's second tour of Afghanistan, after five and a half months, Jaco sustained severe life changing injuries. Jaco and his platoon were engaged by enemy Forces and he was hit by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). The injuries included the loss of his left arm at the elbow, collapsed left lung, shrapnel wounds to left side, punctured internal organs, blast wounds to left upper thigh, broken tibia and fractured knee. Through intense rehab and determination Jaco has overcome adversity.
Jaco has completed several marathons all over the world including the New York Marathon, Safaricom Kenya Marathon and the US Marine Corps Marathon raising money for various charities, and in 2011 he was part of a team to trek unsupported to the Geographical North Pole. This group of wounded soldiers became the first to stand on top of the world and raised £1.5 Million for the Walking With the Wounded, a charity which re-trains and re-educates the wounded once they leave the forces. Jaco followed this up in 2012 when, as a mentor and an integral part of the summit team, he attempted to summit Mount Everest. Unusually warm weather and extremely dangerous conditions prevented the team from reaching the summit, making it just short of camp three at 7000m.
Inspired by the 2012 London Paralympic Games, Jaco turned his hand to cycling. In 2013, he was selected for the Paralympic Development Team and worked his way up to the Paralympic Academy and became a full-time cyclist with British Cycling. Jaco has represented Great Britain from national level to World Cup and World Championship Level.
Continually seeking out new challenges, Jaco's presentation encompasses physical hardship, smashing world records and the ability to change. His message is one of terrible circumstances; but Jaco describes them with wit and determination. He is engaging and has a real drive to help inspire others to take on new opportunities and encourage them to improve their lives, both in and out of the workplace.
Jaco’s story of hardship and overcoming adversity will help your audience reflect on their own experiences in new and exciting ways.