I Can Walk Again! “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.”(Nietzsche) ~ Monique van der Vorst

My life has been full of challenges, after becoming disabled at age 13 I didn’t give up, I looked for oppurtinities to live life at the fullest and became a professional atlete. I have a mission to take myself to the highest level possible. After winning the World Championships Ironman, I was on a fast track  to the Paralympic Games in London 2012. But… everything suddenly changed. After an accident in 2010 my body started to change and after a long/ hard rehab period I am back on my own feet again! For me a new competition has started now, I don’t know were or when it is gone finish but I will succeed and I will run!  Don’t dream, just DO it! If you don’t like something, change it, if you can’t change it, change your attitude, but don’t complain… Monique van der Vorst – Monique was born on 20 November 1984 in Gouda. Currently she lives in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, and studies human movement science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Her study covers a wide range of topics, including physiology, anatomy, rehabilitation, biomechanics and ergonomics. Monique has been in a wheelchair since 1998, when her left leg was paralysed and her right knee stopped working properly. Due to a car accident in 2008, Monique got an incomplete Spinal Cord Injury at T4. During her rehabilitation period, she was introduced to handcycling. From the very first moment, Monique tried a handcycle she has been in love with the bike, ‘I get so much power from the bike, I feel really free’. Monique started practising on an attachable

handcycle and shortly after that she took on serious training. In spring 2000, Monique participated in her first attachable handcycle race. Quite surprisingly she won the race as a debutant, but most importantly, she saw the fixed frame handcycles and fell in love with them due to the speed they can offer.In 2001, Monique got her own fixed frame handcycle and started competing in many races and not without success. In 2001, she became the European Champion on the Road Race and Time Trial and she won the European Handcycling Competition (EHC) for the first time.In 2002 Monique got a new and improved bike with a different seat position which allows her to effectively use the muscles from her upper body. As a result, she achieved higher results to win the World Championship on the road race in Germany and won a silver medal on the time trial and became a National Champion and won again the European Competition. By the end of 2002, x Monique signed a sponsor deal with Invacare, the producer of the Top End handcycles and got herself ready for 2003 with a lightweight Top End XLT Gold. The young athlete marked the year 2003 with many national and international victories. She won for the third consecutive time the EHC and prolonged her European titles on the road race and time trial during the European Championships in Czech.The following season Monique changed her bike again to the “Top End XLT Gold Knee sit” with a new seat position that allows the cyclist to fix the lower legs under the seat. Although this sounds unusual, the development of the handcycles has proven that this position enables the cyclist to generate more strength. Monique started the year 2004 with hard training in order to get used to her new seat position. This training was followed by a success when she became World Champion for the second time in Switzerland and won the EHC title for the fourth time. The “knee sit” was an absolute great success! Monique started 2005 in Malaga, Spain where she spent

few weeks training. She rode for about 600 km in the hills of Southern Spain in 7 days. In February, Monique left to Florida, USA, to visit the factory of Invacare to build a new handcycle and continue training in sunny weather. As a result, in addition to winning the EHC and becoming the European Champion on the road race and time trial in Holland, Monique crowned her success with a new World Record on the marathon with: 1h 15 m 24 s.The achievements continued in 2006, Monique became World Champion on the road again in Swistzerland. She took the silver medal at the time trial. Besides this she won many great events, like the Tour of Australia.2007 Started great with big victories during the Marathon of Rome, Marathon of Rosenau, Marathon of Bonn, national time trial championships, 3 races in the USA, the Korschenbroicher Citylauf and the criterium in Huijbergen. But things changes when Monique got hit by a car on the 2nd of May. She was driving her car and the other car didn’t see her and smashed her firmly. Monique had to go to the hospital and they concluded a Whiplash. It tooks 6 months of recuperation to get back on the track. This was too late for the World Championships in Bordeaux. She was still suffering from her Whiplash, but she had to participate at this event to keep her nomination for the Paralympic Games in Beijing 2008. She did great and finshed 3rd in the time trial, that was enough to make to keep her nomination! 2008 Started also very good. Monique went to USA for a training camp and some races. She won the Marathon of Miami with a new Personal Record: 1h 14min 50s. She felt great. Monique made also her debut on wheelchair racing during the Gasparilla Race in Tampa. She became 5th, not bad for a new comer, without a lot of training in the chair! Monique continued her succes during the Marathon of Rome, she won the woman race, but also became 2nd overall. During the

Marathon of Rosenau she started fast and nobody could follow her, finally she won with a difference from 3min 15 sec! She also won the Criterium of Huijbergen. Nothing was could stop her…But…During a training in Tampa, USA on 20th of April Monique and her trainingpartner Chris Peterson were hit by a car. Monique was unconsious for a while and had to be transported to the hospital by helicopter. Monique had a heavy concussion and a whiplash (again). She had a lot of pain and stayed in the hospital for a while.Due to a fracture in her back, Monique got a Spinal Cord Injury at T4, but incomplete.Monique can be very happy that she is still alive! She is very thankful for that, and this gave her a different view of live. At this moment, nothing was sure for Monique, she is busy with a heavy recuperation program. Hopefully she will recover,but sure is that this is going to take a while, because Monique was long unconsious. One thing is sure, Monique will never stop fighting back, and one day she will achive all her goals. You know: that what doesn’t kill me, can only make me stronger…2009 is going really well! Monique is taking part in a lot of races and wanted to do something different this year. First she started with the racing chair on the National Championships Track. She won all the events: 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500m, and took two National Titles! Van der Vorst also participated in a 7 days race in Alaska. She won all the eight stages and the overall classement with more then 2 hours on Andrea Eskau Another adventure is her triatlon career that started at the European Championships in Holten. It was the olympic distance. Monique won, but won also the whole mens race. So she hopes to continue her succes in triatlon sport, while she is really enjoying it. Monique won the 1/2 Ironman in Antwerpen on August 2nd and qualified for the World Championships Ironman in Hawai, Oktober 10th. During the World Championships Handcycling in Bogogno, Italy Van der Vorst won a Bronze Medal on the Time Trial and Silver Medal in the road race. Van der Vorst did her best performance on 10th of October 2009, during the World Championships Ironman in Hawaii. She finished the Ironman in 11h 10m 13s and was the first handcycle athlete! Everything is

possible! Due to her good results in 2009, Monique got chosen as disabled athlete of the year 2009 at the National Sports Gala. 2010 Started great with a win during the Miami and Melbourne Marathon. I was in my best shape ever, but I could never think 2010 would be such a thriller and end like this. Again I got involved in an accident, followed by a long period in the hospital. I got a lot spasm in my legs and suddenly I felt some twinklings in my paralysed legs. It was so strange because I hadn’t felt anything in my left leg for 12 years. Later I could move my legs a bit and from that moment I really tried everything to get my legs working again. I spend months in the hospital and rehab centre, but now I am walking again after being in a wheelchair for almost 13 years! To be continued…This is the impressive story of the only 26-year-old Monique van der Vorst. At this young age she won 2 Silver Medals at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, 3 times the title of World Champion, 6 times European Champion and she has 8 National road race titles and 2 on time trial. Monique won the overall ranking for the EHC for 5 consecutive years. She has also won almost every race in which she participated, nationally as internationally. Van der Vorst won also the World Championships Ironman in 2009 with a new record: 11h 10m 13. In addition to pursuing her studies at university, Monique is a real professional athlete, who lives for her sport! On top of her achievements, Monique plays an important role in inspiring many disabled people around her. She has proven that we have got to look at the ability, not the disability and be optimistic in life. Therefore, Monique gives demonstrations of handcycling in rehabilitation centres to show people the importance of sports, even when having a physical disability. As recognition for her sports and social achievements, the mayor of Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, her hometown, has awarded Monique the city medal of honour. After her Silver Medals, that she won during the Paralympic Games in Beijing, Monique Van der Vorst got her own place in her hometown Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel: Monique van der Vorstplein. News from: moniquevandervorst.com

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