For three years the blind ex-soldier Daniël Knegt and his running mate TU Delft student Koen de Leeuw ran together and planned to run in the paratriathlon in Tokyo. Their highest point in their sport was winning gold for the tandem at the 2017 Invictus Games, an event for wounded soldiers. De Leeuw (MSc Offshore and Dredging Engineering) looks back at three wonderful years.
Was it a tough decision to stop?
“Yes, for sure, but it was a conscious joint decision. We didn’t get enough points for a place in Tokyo and decided that it would be better to stop. A project like this almost takes over your whole life.”
Was it all for nothing then?
“Absolutely not! I have had amazing experiences and have met so many people. It made me wiser and I have a better understanding of what I can and can’t do. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
‘I should have allowed myself more rest’
Were the Invictus Games the high point?
“Yes, but mostly in terms of everything around the games. One valuable lesson was to never judge people quickly. You are in a completely different culture when you’re immersed in a team of soldiers. It’s a culture of collaboration and support for each other. Its strong team spirit is a great environment in which to perform. I could also go to them for advice, such as on exams.”
How did you combine the top athletic activities with your studies?
“I ask myself that same question! But I managed it. If you’re in an airplane for 24 hours flying to Australia, you have the time to study. But it was heavy. I should have allowed myself more rest – that would have been better for me. If I wasn’t doing sports, I was studying. I never just sat down to relax while relaxation is a very important factor in performance.”
‘I’m really going for the sport’
What are your plans now?
“Daniël has gone back to judo, his old sport. My goal is to qualify for the World Cup Cross Triathlon 2020. It’s through the mud – just my thing. You show how strong you are as an individual. After training for a month, I’m making good progress. But I have to be realistic. You can’t live off triathlons so after graduating in December, I’ll just do any job to keep going. I’m really going for the sport and will see what happens.”
What are your chances?
“I was third in the National Championship Cross Duathlon last year. Cycling and running, no swimming which is my favourite part. I was the fastest cyclist and that gave my self-confidence a boost. I do competitions every week and really enjoy it. It’s so important to enjoy it. I’m 26 and still learn a lot every day. I still learn how to run better, swim better. As long as I still learn, I will improve.”
- Read our previous interview with Koen de Leeuw here. (Dutch only)