Besides physics and philosophy I invest quite a lot of time and energy in sports. Several years ago a friend of mine asked me to join him to go climbing in a gym. When he saw me wavering he spoke the magic words “perhaps it’s not such a good idea. Your disability will make it very difficult for you to get up there”. That’s when I was sure that I was going to go climbing. And so it started. Now, almost four and a half years later, I go climbing every week and I have made some nice rock climbing trips abroad.
September last year the Olympic Committee announced that sport climbing is to have a place at the Olympic games in Tokyo in 2020. For any branch of sports at the Olympics there is always a ‘para’-branch; a competition solely for athletes with a disability. For climbing there is paraclimbing. Some of my climbing friends told me about this when they had heard the news and jokingly asked me whether I was going to compete in the Olympics. It was an absurd idea of course…. or was it? I decided to do some asking around and I was lucky. While in the countries surrounding the Netherlands paraclimbing involves a fierce competition due to the large number of competitors, in the Netherlands paraclimbing is relatively unknown. As a matter of fact there are in the Netherlands in the official competition only two paraclimbers… one of whom is me.
I am not exceedingly good at climbing. If it hadn’t been for my braintumour I would never have been admitted into an official training program. I realise that, but I also know that it has always been the olympic adage that ‘participating is more important than winning’.
For me climbing has always been a hobby – time-consuming, yet not as important as my PhD or my editorship at Foundations of Physics. It stays that way. But now that I am officially a top-athlete (I don’t feel like I’m one) I’ll have to start training many times a week and I have to follow a very strict diet. The Olympics are still very far away. The first upcoming competition that is relevant for me is the world championship in paraclimbing in Paris in September this year. I’ve got four months to seriously improve my climbing skills – per aspera ad astra!