Belgian decathlete Thomas van der Plaetsen won the gold medal for the decathlon at the 2016 European Athletics Championships. And he came in fourth in the long jump at the 2016 Olympics. But on Tuesday, van der Plaetsen injured himself on the runway while attempting the decathlon long jump.
The decathlete had to be transported off the track in a wheelchair. Some observers suspect a hamstring injury. Others suggested it’s a knee injury, what they called a hyperextension.
Watch a video of van der Plaetsen’s jumping injury here:
Twitter Reacts to Belgian Decathlete’s Injury
Reactions on Twitter were largely sympathetic, with many tweeps wishing van der Plaetsen the best as he was wheeled away.
“OMG— hoping #BEL decathlete Thomas Van Der Plaetsen is ok,” one Twitter user posted. “That was scary how he just fell face first on the sand. 😳 #Olympics #LongJump #Athletics.”
“Belgium athlete just fell flat on his face at the long jump,” another user tweeted. “Wheeled off in a chair. Hope he’s ok.”
Others showed a bit less empathy, merely marveling at how van der Plaetsen did a faceplant in the sand. And they pointed out the obvious: that the decathlete had failed to pull off his jump.
“I may have just seen the worst long jump attempt in the #Olympics,” one user tweeted. “#Heptathlon fail.”
“Man what happened here,” another user wondered, including a video clip of van der Plaetsen’s painful jump.
Van der Plaetsen Had Been Doing Well
Until his injury, van der Plaetsen had been doing well, but Tuesday’s development basically eliminates him from competition for a medal. Following the long jump, the athletes are slated to compete in the shot put, the high jump and the 400m. After that, they tackle the 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500m.
Before the fateful jump, van der Plaetsen made a first attempt to leap, stopped, then started over.
“It didn’t look good. He aborted the first take-off, walked rather gingerly back feeling the back of his hamstring and then went again,” Eurosport commentator Martin Gillingham noted.
The decathlete is a cancer survivor. According to News.com.au, he received his cancer diagnosis in 2014 after an anti-doping test raised questions about his health. Van der Plaetsen underwent chemotherapy, and by the 2016 Olympics, his health had recovered enough for him to compete.
The injury Tuesday marks a heartbreaking setback for the decathlete, who has been through so much to make it to Tokyo. He was in 17th place early Tuesday, after finishing the 100m heats with a time of 11.05 seconds.