Who is Thierry?

Thierry in Medemblik, WK2010

I am a Frenchman by birth but have lived in the Netherlands since I was three years old. I spent my youth between The Hague and Zoetermeer. On the beach at Scheveningen I learned windsurfing and catamaran sailing. Together with my father I took part in regattas at club level. In 1983, at the age of 14, I was part of the world’s greatest catamaran regatta: the “Ronde om Texel”.

In 1988 I started my studies in Marine Technology at the Technical University Delft, from where I qualified in 1994. From 1995 until 1999 I worked as “Naval Architect” for a producer of large diesel engines for the shipbuilding industry, New Sulzer Diesel in Winterthur, Switzerland. But next to sailing, I was especially a mountaineer and “extreme” skier making several extremely demanding climbs in the Alpes. I also took part in various climbing expeditions in the Caucasus and the Pamir in the former Soviet Union. In1995, I was a member of the Dutch K2 Expedition, reaching a height of about 8000 meters. Three years later I climbed the Shishapangma in Tibet. During my employment in Switzerland I began with the official training to be a Swiss mountain guide. It was my intention, after qualifying, to give up my work as an engineer, and to continue my life as a mountain guide - a life in harmony with nature.

On November 29th 1998, during climbing a frozen waterfall, I was hit by an avalanche, fell 60 meters and broke my back. After a few days in hospital, the medical verdict was clear: a complete transverse spinal lesion at the 12th thoracic vertebra level.That meant that I would never walk again. But worse for me: I would now never be able to realise my plan to turn my hobby into my profession. After seven months of rehabilitation in the “Schweizer Paraplegiker Zentrum” in Nottwil, I tried to pick up my life again. With the support of my wife , who never, not even for one minute, let me have doubts about the meaning of my new life as a disabled person, I found new openings in sports such as handcycling, waterskiing, skiing, sailing and now kiteboarding. I immediately saw the possibility of becoming a competitively active sportsman again.

Since early 2000 I have been working for the European Patent Office in Rijswijk as “Patent Examiner”. I combine my work with a busy family life (5 children) and an intensive sporting life. This gives me the feeling of living my life again as before. I now divide my energy and time between kiteboarding, skiing with the family and catamaran sailing at sea. To keep in condition I weight train during my lunch break.

In the summer of 2000 I came into contact with competition sailing at national and international level. Because of my handicap I decided to choose a boat which would give me the possibility of also competing against able bodied yachtsmen. The 2.4mR (two point four) provides this chance. Moreover, this boat also has a Paralympic Class. In the 2.4mR, Open World Championships are organised, in which both able and disabled yachtsmen can compete. Besides these, there are the World championships for the disabled only. This aspect could lead to the use of the 2.4mR for both Paralympic and Olympic Games.

At the end of 2002, thanks to a professional approach with attached financial support mainly from the Foundation “Stichting Wedstrijd Zeilen Gehandicapte”, I have been able to obtain an adequate amount of training (an average of three days a week ), to develop and adapt equipment (sail design and adaptations inside the boat) and to obtain a professional coach. The result of this methodical approach was a third place at the World Championships in Athens , in September 2003. This gave me the qualification for the Games with the obvious aim: a medal in my first Paralympics. By continuing with this approach I won a Bronze at the Paralympics in Athens in 2004. I had succesfully achieved my goal.

In 2005 I took part in the National Regattas of the Dart 18 Catamaran Classe. Never before was a yachtsman with a spinal tranverse lesion active in this field. I wanted to prove not only that this is possible, but moreover that achievements can be made. In addition to my need to continually extend my bounderies, I would like to prove that people with a handicap not only can be part of society, but especially that they can be achievers.

At the Paralympics in Beijing 2008, I finished fifth overall. This disappointing result made me change coach and rethink my motivation in sailing at this level. The integration of the Paralympics classes within the Olympic elite program of the Dutch sailing association enabled me to get the same facilities and support as my Olympic colleagues. My most successful years in the Paralympic 2.4mR are between 2009 and 2012: three World Champion titles (2009, 2010, 2011), Vice World champion in 2012 and Bronze at the Paralympics in London 2012. I was elected disabled athlete of the year in 2011 at the National Sport gala (NOC*Nsf) in The Netherlands.


A 7 minutes presentation of my athlete’s life (2011) – in Dutch:


Just before the Games of London 2012, Dylan and Naomi were born. This golden twin gives me the essentials to put my performances in perspective.

I got my second Paralympic medal in London. It was a great moment of joy and also a big relief. I had deliver what was expected. I experienced the pressure and expectations from media and own National Olympic Committee as disturbing. I had the feeling I was not sailing anymore for myself.


It was time for new challenges, which I would have under MY control.

Sitkite was born.


The following news items (one, two) tell the WHY and HOW it all started for me  


My passion to perform at the highest level has never changed in me :-)