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Jaco van Gass

Former Afghanistan paratrooper and motivational speaker, Jaco van Gass, survived a grenade attack.  He went on to make a remarkable recovery and recently became a Paralympic double Gold medal winning champion!

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Motivational speaker, Jaco van Gass, was born in South Africa. At the age of 20, he flew to England hoping to follow his dream of joining the British Armed Forces. By mid 2007, Jaco had completed his training and he joined the well-respected Parachute Regiment. It was during Jaco’s second tour of Afghanistan in 2009, with just two weeks to go when he sustained severe life changing injuries. Jaco and his platoon were engaged by Enemy Forces and after an intense 45 minute fire fight.  He was hit by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). The injuries he sustained included the loss of his left arm at the elbow.  Jaco also suffered a collapsed left lung, shrapnel wounds to his left side, punctured internal organs, blast wounds to upper thigh, a broken tibia and a fractured knee.  As a result he had 11 operations and intense rehabilitation. Incredibly, he survived.

Challenges and adventures

His career dream of being in the army was over. Despite the physical and mental trauma endured, Jaco wasn’t going to let his injuries stop him. He became a first-class downhill skier, and multiple marathon runner, completing the New York Marathon.  Jaco also went on to compete in the Safaricom Half Marathon in Kenya – regarded as one of the hardest in the world.

He was a member of the record-breaking team of wounded soldiers to trek unsupported to the North Pole (joined by Prince Harry).  Jaco has  also climbed Alaska’s 6000m Mt Denali. In 2012 with the WWTW team, Jaco attempted Everest (narrowly missing the summit due to adverse weather).  Since then Jaco has become a member of the GB Para-Cycling team, competing internationally at the World Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He has become a National Champion Cyclist on his road bike multiple times.

Jaco’s love for adventure continued, in September 2016, he summited Grand Paradiso, Italy’s highest point as part of the AGS team.  The team are striving to break records by being the first disabled team to complete the notorious ‘Grand Slam’. In November and December 2016, Jaco cycled the Carretera Austral.  This is a 1200km mostly dirt highway in the remote Patagonia, Southern Chile. Then in June 2017, Jaco with a team of 7 others, completed the Race Across America, cycling from West to East in 6 days. Subsequently, in March 2018, Jaco returned to competing for the Great Britain Para-Cycling team, and won Bronze in the C4 4K Pursuit in Rio De Janiero.

Incredibly in 2021 Jaco went on to claim two gold medals and a bronze for Great Britain after romping to victory on his Paralympic debut in Tokyo.

Motivational speaker

Jaco is a fascinating motivational speaker, visiting businesses, charities and organisations across the world, telling his story, inspiring others by helping them to reach new goals and adapt to change.  He has been invited to speak all over the UK and South Africa, at schools, universities and businesses, sharing his story. Jaco’s presentation encompasses physical hardship, smashing world records and the ability to change. His message is one begotten of terrible circumstances, however, audiences will be attracted and motivated by Jaco’s charm, humour and determination. He tells his story with stories from real life adventures which he instigated due to his injuries and experience. This is a presentation not to be missed.

Jaco is witty and determined and this shines through in the passion he injects into his presentations. He is engaging and has a real drive for others to take the opportunities that he has taken, in order for them to improve their lives, both in and out of the workplace.

An awe-inspiring public speaker Jaco combines politeness, and charisma to make him both memorable and entertaining.  His ability to mix humour in with the intense drama and seriousness of his personal experiences manages to set audiences at ease whilst simultaneously inspiring them. As you can see from the feedback below, those who hear Jaco speak are left moved and inspired by his story and his humbleness.

“ Not only is Jaco one of the most delightful, humble and effortlessly charming individuals you will meet but he has an extraordinary life story, he is able to articulate publicly with honesty, humour … I would recommend him for almost any public speaking engagement but especially as a motivational speaker.” Mark Cann – British Forces FDN

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