THE organising committee of the Tokyo Olympic games made a symbolic shift this week when they appointed Seiko Hashimoto as their new head. 

This is a high-pressure role under the microscope which this former Japanese Olympic speed skater and track cyclist has taken on. 

A veteran of seven Olympic Games, she will hope to give athletes reassurance that Tokyo is doing everything possible to hold a safe games. 

The question of whether we can even have these games is one which splits opinion.

For me, it is great to see that the world of sport is working around the current challenges.

It is easy for people who are not in a position to compete at an Olympic Games to criticise the fact that they are going ahead, but as I said to one person this week, 'what if it was you or your child that was on the brink of an Olympic Medal?' Would you feel differently then?' 

I've been thinking about this ever since I spoke to my good friend Jaco Van Gass on the phone this week. 

Van Gass was my team-mate on the British cycling team from 2013, when we came onto the team together and quickly became great friends. 

Since then he has been at the side of my hospital bed after every surgery - he is someone who I know is always there for me.

So naturally I would love to see him compete in Tokyo. 

Having missed out on Rio as the authorities took a hardline stance on only selecting athletes who they felt had a genuine medal-winning chance, Jaco never gave up. 

Last year he became a triple World Champion - setting him up perfectly to realise his dream at the games.

It would be hard to not want to see Van Gass stand on the podium after not only years of working day in, day out on the cycling team, but going through challenges in life that are unthinkable. 


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On his second tour of Afghanistan in 2009, Jaco was 22 and had only had two more weeks of his tour remaining when he was part of a team who were following intelligence that a suicide bomber was going to attack the elections. 

A successful operation, it wasn’t until the team were on the way back over the desert in darkness on their way to the helicopter that Jaco’s life would change forever. 

A change in location for the pick-up point put the team in unfamiliar territory and before they knew it they had entered a Taliban stronghold.

At this point it is probably hard for any of us who have not been in this position to know how we would react. 

But within minutes shots were fired which set off a very intense 45-minute firefight. During this encounter Jaco was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade. 

I remember on one training ride when we were chatting about this, I asked what that experience was like.

I wanted to better understand what my friend had been through. 

Jaco casually replied, “the rocket hit me and the next thing I knew I was trying to lift my weapon and I couldn’t. At that point I knew I had lost my arm.” 

When we think of pressured situations we might currently be facing in our own life, can we pause and ask ourselves what would you have done at this point? 

Staying calm - as the medic kept telling him to do - kept Jaco alive as the firefight continued. 

The one thing that I will never forget from this bike ride was Jaco telling me that he started to lose consciousness and that he didn’t want to die on the ground. 

As the medic worked on keeping him awake, he fought to stay alive until he heard the noise of the helicopter. At that point he knew he wouldn’t die on the ground.

Then, once on the helicopter he closed his eyes. 

I often think, 'what would I have done at 22 years of age if it had been me?'

Six days later, he opened his eyes to find himself in the UK needing spoon-fed.

This young man had gone from an elite solider to needing cared for 24 hours a day. How would you deal with this?

His injuries would change his life forever, leaving him with no arm, a collapsed left lung, damaged internal organs, broken bones and 11 operations to save his life.

It is hard to image this guy became a World Champion athlete. That's how Jaco dealt with it. 

I never see Jaco as an injured guy. 

I just see him as my mate and like most of my mates he is missing a limb and has an incredible story.

It is a tale about never giving up, but also not letting what happened to him define him.

When it comes to following your own personal legend, we can all learn something from Jaco.