Jaco van Gass was twenty-three when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in 2009. Losing his left arm to the blast, he sustained life threatening injuries that stopped his heart twice; yet by a miracle--and the skill of the medics treating him--he survived.
Against all the odds, Jaco has fought to build a post-injury life as an adventurer and professional athlete, a journey that has taken him from the slopes of the world’s highest mountains to the North Pole, from the Carretera Austral to international cycling competitions in an Olympic velodrome.
In this account, Jaco tells his compelling and inspiring story, starting with his childhood in South Africa and ending on the podium in Rio. Shedding light on the potholes and pitfalls encountered along the way, he paints a vivid picture of the harshness of Basic Training, the cruel realities of war, the struggle to rebuild his life after losing a limb, the energy-sapping cold experienced at 6,000 metres above sea level, and the complexities of navigating the world of British Cycling. From the dust of the Afghan desert to the blinding whiteness of the North Pole, Jaco’s story is one of horror and of great hope, of near-death escapes and of fierce resolve, and, above all, his unequivocal determination to succeed. Jaco has overcome extraordinary odds, not only in refusing to let injury define his life, but in going on to tackle challenges of which few people would even dream. Not just for adventure and military enthusiasts, Unequivocal is for any reader looking for an honest, inspiring voice that will encourage them to live life to the full.
About the Author
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, after five and a half months and with just two weeks to go when Jaco sustained severe life changing injuries. Jaco and his platoon were engaged by Enemy Forces and after an intense 45 minute fire fight, Jaco was hit by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). The injuries he sustained included the loss of his left arm at the elbow, 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. Jaco had 11 operations and intense rehabilitation and incredibly, he survived.
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 and 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), and he’s also climbed Alaska’s 6000m Mt Denali. In 2012 with the WWTW team, Jaco attempted Everest (narrowly missing the summit due to adverse weather).
He has overcome adversity and is beyond injury.
More recently, Jaco has been 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, who are striving to break records by being the first disabled team to complete the notorious 'Grand Slam'. In November and December 2016, Jaco is cycling the Carretera Austral, a 1200km mostly dirt highway in the remote Patagonia, Southern Chile. In June 2017, Jaco with a team of 7 others, completed the Race Across America, cycling from West to East in 6 days. 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.
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.