Obiter Dictum

Notes on the adventure of life.

Posts Tagged ‘inspirational people

Verbatim: C.K Williams on poetry

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“arm in my own uterine channel to tug out another,/one more, only one more, poor damp little poem, then I’ll be happy — I promise, I swear.”

Found in “Poets Who Look Death in the Eye” – The New York Times

Written by sabineclappaert

January 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Verbatim: where do sentences come from?

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“Learn to be patient in the presence of your own thoughts.”

“…experiment a little. Make a sentence of your own in your head. Don’t write it down. Any kind of sentence will do, but keep it short. Rearrange it. Reword it. Then throw it out. Make another. Rearrange. Reword. Discard. You can do this anywhere, at any time. Do it again and again, without inscribing anything. Experiment with rhythm. Let the sentences come and go. Evaluate them, play with them, but don’t cling to them. If you find a sentence you really like, let it go and look for the next one. The more you do this, the easier it will be to remember the sentences you want to keep. Better yet, you’ll know that you can replace any sentence you lose with one that’s just as good.”

View full article here.

Written by sabineclappaert

August 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm

When “defeat” is a four-letter word

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Flemish athlete Kris Bosmans came back from a stroke to become the country’s leading para-cyclist.


The handsome, broad shouldered young man that fills the front door looks nothing like a Paralympic athlete. His easy smile and sparkling green eyes welcome me as he walks me confidently to the dining room table where the interview will take place. Yet Kris Bosmans (32) is exactly that: a top Belgian para-cyclist and one of the country’s chances at a gold medal at the upcoming Paralympics in London in August.

But Kris wasn’t always an athlete with a disability. He started cycling at the age of fifteen and in 1998, at the age of eighteen, was one of the top fifteen riders in the junior category and one of the fastest sprinters of his generation.

Then the cruel hand of fate struck.

“I’ll never forget that day: Saturday, July 14th, 1998.  I’d just finished the Ghent-Menen race.  It was seven o’clock; I was sitting on the couch in my trainer’s livingroom when suddenly I felt the left side of my mouth go slack. I remember the voices of people around me, as if in glass bubble, asking me if I was all right. I could hear them but I couldn’t respond. That’s when my trainer called the ambulance.”

A wry smile breaks the thoughtful look on his face. “In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, sirens screaming, I remember thinking: ‘I’ll be back on my bike tomorrow’.”

But nothing was further from the truth.

The verdict was harsh: cerebral thrombosis, commonly known as a stroke. This occurs when a bloodclot forms in one of the arteries that supply the brain; the clot blocks the artery and keeps it from functioning. “The first question they asked my trainer when we got to the hospital was: “Is he taking doping?” Can you imagine? You’re eighteen and they suspect you of taking doping?”

In Kris’ case the stroke was due to a hereditary condition caused by elevated levels of a non-protein amino acid called homocysteine. Kris spells homocysteine for me on the corner of my notebook. It is only then that I notice the awkward way in which he holds the pen and the child-like scribble it produces. “I used to be left-handed,” he shrugs, “but now of course I have to write with my right hand.”

He shows me his left arm, which he holds close to his chest, the hand curled to a tight ball. “I can’t stretch my fingers fully,” he says showing me the effort it takes to uncurl them, “and I also don’t really walk very normal.” Seeing my look of disbelief, he gets up and slowly paces back and forth before me. “Sometimes I drag my left foot, especially when I’m tired. And my arm, of course you can see it in the way I hold my arm,” he adds as he sits back down. “They told me I have cerebral palsy. I have less than half the power in my left leg than I do in my right. And there’s the spasticity in my left hand and foot, of course,” he shrugs.

After his stroke, Kris would spend two months in hospital, another four months in a rehabilitation centre and a total of two years recovering. “I remember the first time I got back on my bike, my mom and dad cycling alongside me… My mom just rode away from me!” he exclaims, the look of complete horror clear in his eye. “Imagine that! And she averages just 15 km/h!”

But giving up is not in his nature and the urge to cycle again drove him mercilessly. “I couldn’t accept that I’d never be able to cycle again so when my therapist said ‘Do ten repetitions’, I would do twenty.”

At first, Kris refused to face his new reality. Unwilling to accept the new limitations put on him by his body – the altered grasp of his left hand, his right side having to compensate for the lack of strength and coordination in his left, Kris took up his regular place at the start of Belgium’s top races for juniors.

“I tried for two years to compete as normal athlete against all the guys I’d grown up with cycling.” He falls silent; a muscular hand sweeps invisible crumbs off the table. He stares out at the summer green hills framed in the floor-to-ceiling windows. “The hardest part was coming to terms with the fact that I would never again be able to reach the level of physical excellence I had before my stroke; that I would never compete at the top level of cycling.”

He calls the years between his twenty-second and his twenty-fifth birthdays his “difficult years”.  “On the one hand I had to come to terms with the fact that I’d never become a professional cyclist and on the other hand I just wasn’t willing to admit defeat,” he says.

Kris’s world changed when he saw a documentary about Belgian para-cyclist Jan Boyen, who won bronze at the 2008 Paralympics in Peking.

“He is such an inspirational athlete. When I heard his story I immediately contacted the Flemish League for Handicapped Sport (VLG). I wanted to know how the handicap categories worked. They sent me to a neurologist at the University Hospital in Antwerp, who did a whole lot of tests to determine in which category I would fall. I’m “C3” (“C” stands for cycling. Cyclists with Cerebral Palsy fall in the C3 category). Para-cyclists are divided into five categories: C1 are those with the most severe physical impairments, those with a C5 classification have the least limitations. All riders in all categories ride on normal bikes though,” adds Kris.

Kris first competed as a category C3 para-cyclist in 2009. It soon became clear that his talent was still there, just waiting to be tapped. Within months, he’d won six races. Soon, a ninth place at a world cup race in Spain followed. A few months later, he was Belgian champion. Before the 2010 season was over, Kris would become World Champion.

Today, Kris is a full-time athlete. He has a Bloso statute (the official statute given to all Belgian professional athletes) and a few sponsors. “It won’t make me rich, but at least I’m doing what I really love,” shrugs Kris, who quiet his job as sales manager for a large pharmaceutical company in 2009.

There are 88 days* left to the start of the Paralympics in London on August 29th.  Belgium announced the final selection for its Paralympic team at the end of June. One of those places belongs to Kris.

He nods toward his bike leaning against the garage wall, ready for his second training of the day, scheduled to start as soon as we’re done. “The next race is a world cup road race in Madrid. Then a week of rest and then we begin the preparation for the Paralympics in August.” His goal? “Gold, of course!” he laughs.

What’s after the Paralympics, I wonder. “My trainer tells me that I’m only at the beginning of my career. My strength has improved fifteen percent each year for the past three years, so I’m going to do this for as long as I can.”

And when he can no longer race, what will he do then?

Kris glances at the clock on the wall behind him, at his bike outside the window. “Then I hope to become a part of the entourage of a top para-cyclist,” he sighs, as he stands, clearly impatient to conclude the interview.

He walks me to the front door and we say our goodbyes. Before I’m in the car, the door has closed. I watch him walk up the driveway toward his bike. He really meant it when he said: “All that matters is the bike. Just let it be me and the bike.”

(Published in Flanders Today, July 2012. View here.)

Written by sabineclappaert

July 18, 2012 at 5:53 pm