Handcycling pro Tim de Vries is seen by many of his rivals as the man to beat in the H5 class in Rio. The Dutchman has lost count of the medals he’s brought back from international competitions, and he is determined to come away from his first Paralympic experience with a medal around his neck.

“I am not going to say I go for gold,” said de Vries. “Obviously, I want to reach that and deliver my best performance!”

The competition will play out between him, South African Ernst van Dyk and Italian Alex Zanardi, double gold medallist —in both road race and time tria — in the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships. “In the races I have great rivalry with them. But they are both great athletes and they push the envelope in both psychological and physical ways. That makes handcycling really competitive.”

Will the four-time time trial National Champion’s career as an athlete continue past Rio? He wants to wait until after the event is over to make a decision. “I would like to pursue high-level handcycling, but I’m also a big family man and would really love to spend more time with my wife and three children. But I will keep going with handcycling, no matter what!”

De Vries’s life turned upside down in May 1997. At the age of 18, the former gymnast had his left leg amputated after a trampoline accident. With the help of prosthetics, he kept training indoors and took up rowing in 2005, at which he had a few successful years.

From Trampoline to Rowing to Cycling

In September 2010, he decided to challenge himself in another sport: handcycling. In April 2011, he competed in his first UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup, in Sydney, and came in fifth in the road race and time trial events. That performance qualified him for the 2011 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, in Denmark.

Tim de Vries’s first World Champs medal came in 2013: a time trial bronze. That was only the beginning of what has been a glorious, long-lived career.