Climbing enhanced my sense of self-worth
Lecturer Fedde Benedictus is ambassador for Dutch paraclimbing. It wasn’t easy at first, but climbing has become an important part of his life. Fedde calls it ‘advanced physiotherapy’.
I started thinking in terms of opportunities, rather than limitations.
“A brain tumour left half of my body paralysed. I could barely walk, and my first time climbing was a difficult, painful experience. But I felt challenged to keep at it. It wasn’t long before I was enthusiastic about paraclimbing, and I’d go to the climbing wall every week. In the process, I started thinking in terms of opportunities, rather than limitations.”
Fedde wears a tank top during the interview. “Now that I don’t have to teach classes, I have time to train during the day. A break from calculus and maths. In the gym I can simulate difficult movements by training individual muscle groups. I train around two hours per day on average. That includes riding my trike to the climbing hall or the supermarket, or rowing on the rowing machine.
Training for the Olympics
“In 2015, climbing was made an Olympic sport, and the barkeeper at the climbing hall asked: ‘shouldn’t you compete in the Olympic Games?’ It wasn’t long before I met the Dutch team’s trainer, who told me about the one-person paraclimbing team. So I started training with them the next week, and three months later I was climbing at the World Championship in Paris. As ambassador for the sport, I bring anyone who’s interested to the climbing wall. The sport is growing fast; two years ago there were fifty participants at the Dutch Paraclimbing Championship in Sittard.”
I can do a lot more than I thought I could.
Dr Fedde Benedictus: “Paraclimbing means a lot to me. I can do a lot more than I thought I could. So climbing enhanced my sense of self-worth. I think that I’d probably be in a wheelchair permanently if I hadn’t kept climbing.”