A Story of Determination

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Monique van der Vorst was born on 20 November 1984 in Gouda. At the tender age of 13, due to a failed operation, her left leg was paralysed and her right knee stopped working properly, resulting in her being bound to a wheelchair.

Fast forward to year 2000, Monique participated in her first attachable handcycle race. She surprised everyone by winning the race as a debutant. In 2001, she proceeded to become the European Champion on the Road Race and Time Trial and she won the European Handcycling Competition (EHC) for the first time.

In 2002 she won the World Championship on the road race in Germany and won a silver medal on the time trial. She became a National Champion and won the European Competition again.

She did not stop there. In 2003 she had many national and international victories. She won the EHC for the third consecutive time. In 2004 she became World Champion for the second time in Switzerland and won the EHC title for the fourth time. In 2005, Monique crowned her success with a new World Record on the marathon. In 2006, Monique became World Champion on the road again in Switzerland. She took the silver medal at the time trial. In addition, she won many great events, like the Tour of Australia.

In 2007, fate handed her another blow: She met with a car accident. She was hospitalised and suffered a whiplash. She needed six months to recuperate and get back on track but she did not have that luxury of time; it 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 Paralympics’ Games in Beijing 2008. She finished third in the time trial, just enough for her to keep her nomination!

In 2008 she was on a roll again. She won the Marathon of Miami with a new Personal Record!

But life handed her another challenge.

During training, Monique and her training partner Chris Peterson were hit by a car. Monique was knocked unconscious and had to be transported to the hospital by helicopter. Monique suffered a heavy concussion, a whiplash and a spinal cord Injury. Despite this, Monique remained positive and felt very happy that she survived!

Monique had to undergo a heavy recuperation program as she was unconscious for a long period. She never stopped fighting back. She said, “Whatever that doesn’t kill me, can only make me stronger”.

In 2009 she went back to racing and took two National Titles! She participated in a seven-day race in Alaska and won all eight stages. She also won the European Championships in Holten and the 1/2 Ironman competition in Antwerpen. To top it all, she was chosen as the disabled athlete of the year at the National Sports Gala.

In 2010, she got involved in an accident and was hospitalised for a long period. But this time, it was a blessing. She suddenly felt some twinkling in her paralysed legs; something she has not felt for 12 years. Later she could move her legs. She worked hard in the hospital and rehab centre. Eventually she began walking again after being in a wheelchair for almost 13 years! What a miracle!

This is the impressive story of the only 26-year-old Monique van der Vorst. At this young age she won two Silver Medals at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, the World Championship three times, the European Champion six times and held eight National road race titles and two on time trial. Monique won the overall ranking for the EHC for five consecutive years. She won almost every race in which she participated in, nationally and internationally. She won the World Championships Ironman in 2009 with a new record.

On top of her achievements, Monique plays an important role in inspiring many disabled people around her. She taught them to focus on their abilities, not their disabilities; and be optimistic in life. She gave demonstrations of handcycling in rehabilitation centres to demonstrate the importance of sports, even when suffering a physical disability. As recognition for her sports and social achievements, the mayor of Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, her hometown, awarded her the city medal of honour.

She has this advice for all of us, “If you don’t like something, change it, if you can’t change it, change your attitude, but don’t complain…”

Her life shows that the greatest armour that we can have against negative events is a strong mind. With a strong mind, we will be able to ‘focus on our abilities instead of our disabilities’. We will be contented and grateful for what we have instead of being a slave to our cravings. When we are faced with situations that make us angry, we may become angry but we will not become an angry person. That is because an emotion can never take over a strong mind which is filled with awareness.

An astrologer once said, “Knowing something but not doing anything about it is as good as not knowing it”. Let us do more than that. Let us persevere in our spiritual practice and strengthen our mind so that we are prepared for all eventualities. Anything that does not kill us will only make us stronger.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. balachandran
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 14:39:33

    This is amazing what ever that dosent kill you only makes you stronger,this should be a reminder for many negative people out there .Death is only for the body,not for the sprit soul,what are you afraid off,nothing can harm you,trust in him who is within you you are not alone,ask sincerly and he will give you,it may take sometime,but surley he will give you,There are times when you feel lost,things dont work the way you want it,dont worry its the way he work things out,surrender at his feet,pour it out in prayer,dont despair only belive that he will deliver,no time at all it will be at your doorstep,i know this things cause it has happened to me many times.


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