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I’m no hero

Thank to our cooperation with the Jeden na jednoho (i.e. One on one) NGO, visually impaired Jan Bošek stood at the start of the 2015’s ICT triathlon.

What is it like riding a bike you aren’t controlling at almost 40 kph or running over roots you can’t see? About this, but not only this, we were talking with Jan.

Honza, triathlon is not the only sport you do. We know you’re in the Czech goalball team. What does it involve and what other sports have you tried?

I live with sports and I like trying anything new. I do goalball from dawn till dusk: I go to a training three times a week and there are often training camps on weekends.

(Editor’s note: At the first sight, the principle of goalball lies in smacking yourself on the ground and waiting if a heavy ball with jingle balls hits you in your face or genitals. (Sample video from Paralympics in London).

Additionally, I do a bits of other sports: cross-country skiing, triathlon, run-tour… Once I went playing golf, but that doesn’t count, I didn’t get sweaty.

That’s a pretty busy programme. How do you manage between that and work and study? What do you actually do?

I studied Sport Management at a higher vocational school but now I’ve started a goalball team and placed less emphasis on school but I might get back to studies again.

I work as a masseur in the physiotherapeutist Mr. Jan Hejma’s studio attended by a lot of basketball players and top athletes. I do a “pre-massage” on them for him, he then tears them in various ways ands puts them together. On some days, I massage only my own clients. Join in their numbers, I’ll be happy!

Are you from Prague?

Originally, I come from Pilsen, where I studied an engineering school. Then my eyesight got worse and I didn’t see the board even from the first row desk. I moved to Prague, to a business college for the visually impaired and after finishing the high school I stayed there. Even my goalball ambition can be met easier there.

You fall into the B2 vision impairment category. Although the definition speaks clearly, it’s not fully comprehensible: ability to recognize shapes and contours, visual acuity ranging from LogMAR 1.50 to 2.60 (inclusive) and/or visual field constricted to a diameter of less than 10 degrees. What does it actually mean during a triathlon? Why do you need a guide?

B2 is a broad category. In B1, there are blind people. In B3, there are people with a slight impairment which their surroundings might not even notice. B2 includes everything in between. I see myself much closer to B3. I’m definitely not blind, my friends would make me pay for such a label. That’s also why I don’t consider myself any “hero” even if the race presenter talked about me like that. I need a guide mainly on the bike. I could ride by myself but I would go too slowly. In Račice, I appreciated Jirka’s presence even in the water: there weren’t large buoys which I usually use for orientation, I didn’t even see the bank and I was getting lost.

It hasn’t been your first race but you’ve done a triathlon for the first time. How did you like the atmosphere along the route?

I either do a shorter triathlon for the handicapped in Karlovy Vary or larger races for healthy athletes where one is alone shortly after the start. In the IT Triathlon, there was always someone to race with, someone to catch up with.

I don’t perceive fans very much but from the bike, I recall Etnetera fans support from the tribune.

You’ve reached an excellent result (89th place out of 180 starters, editor’s note). What were your feelings? Were you satisfied?

Definitely, it was my best time. I regretted the run but there wasn’t any strength left. On the other hand, I do not train for races, I go directly at it. Just for fun, within goalball training. But I have a tandem bike at home, if anyone wanted to have a try.

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Controlling a tandem bike isn’t easy. Are you worried about entrusting your health to an “unknown” person?

I’m always afraid when I’m on the bike, even with people I know. I try and peep over my guide’s shoulder even if I can see much worse than them. We’re plummeting down a hill and I don’t have the situation in hand.

You don’t have a permanent guide, you’ve been with Jirka Štěpán for the first time. How was it, riding with him?

I was totally satisfied with Jirka. We matched our pace (except for the damned run), we didn’t get lost… What else can one wish for?

What does the cooperation look like? In the water, on the bike, during a run?

Usually, the guide swims beside me. In the IT Triathlon I had a feeling I was zigzagging so Jirka was swimming in front of me and pulling me a little. On the bike, we can chat a bit but I can’t hear much because of the wind. Usually, only the guide talks and I, in the back, pretend to understand. During a run, I run behind him  and limit myself to the “I can’t cope any more” statement.

The IT triathlon run goes along narrow paths in a forest. What about roots, stones, branches?

At one moment, I ended up on my hands and knees but I quickly shrugged it off and got up. In addition to all my other handicaps, I also suffer from night blindness. Unlike me, Jirka changed his shoes between the bike and the run and I run ahead. I was happy he caught up with me before the forest.

During the race, did you go through any crisis situation?

Just once. It started during the first minutes of the run and ended in the finish. 🙂 I do not excel at any of the disciplines, neither do I fail at them, I’m versatile. The more disciplines there are, the better for me.

What do you think about during a race. Do you, for instance, hum any earworm tune?

During the swim, I think of how I have to get it rolling and I heckle myself. On the bike, I think about what Jirka is just saying… and during the run I just think of a dewy beer mug at the finish.

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What are your sport goals?

To repeat Račice in the next year. On Sunday 5 July, the Goalball European Championships in Lithuania starts. This year, we also have the opportunity to qualify for the Paralympics in Rio. It will help us a lot if you like us on Facebook, our sponsors will like to see that. Next year, I’d like to go surfing on the beach.

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