A sensational 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, at which he won three gold and two silver medals, have earmarked van Gass as one to watch at the Tokyo Paralympics. The versatile all-rounder was selected to ride no fewer than five events in Tokyo on road and track – the mixed team sprint, individual pursuit and kilo in the velodrome, plus the individual time trial and road race.
Van Gass, born in Middelburg, South Africa, came to Britain at the age of 20, to pursue his ambition of joining the British Armed Forces. After completing his training, he joined the Parachute Regiment, and was deployed to Afghanistan. It was during his second tour of the country in 2009 that he sustained life-changing injuries, losing his left arm below the elbow after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and eventually requiring 11 surgeries.
Following his injury, van Gass has undertaken a number of incredible physical challenges and made his international para-cycling debut in 2013.
He quickly established himself as a rider of potential with three top ten finishes – in the individual pursuit, kilo and mixed team sprint – at the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, riding in the C4 category.
A year later, he won his first major international medal with a bronze in the scratch race at the World Championships in Montichiari, Italy, to go with another top ten in the individual pursuit.
After being reclassified as a C3, he won a silver in the road race in Emmen in 2019, before enjoying an outstanding 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Canada. He won pursuit silver before capturing three golds – in the kilo, scratch race and omnium – to underline his talent.
Although the 2020 road season was wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, van Gass returned to action in the delayed Olympic year of 2021 with a seventh place in the time trial and 11th in the road race at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Ostend, Belgium.
But the athlete’s achievements off the bike have eclipsed those on it, with van Glass an ambassador for the Rose Charitable Foundation which supports wounded soldiers. His many fund-raising exploits have included mountain climbing and a 335km walk to the South Pole.
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Selected Career Highlights to Date
UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, Milton (Canada)
Gold, MC3 scratch race
Gold, MC3 kilo
Gold, MC3 omnium
Silver, team sprint
Silver, MC3 individual pursuit
UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, Emmen (Netherlands)
Silver, MC3 road race
UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Bronze, MC4 individual pursuit
UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, Montichiari (Italy)
Bronze, MC4 scratch race