Cancer-battling Belgian decathlete to defend title at Universiade

Gwangju (South Korea), July 6 (IANS) Belgium’s track and field star Thomas Van der Plaetsen, gold medallist in decathlon at the 2013 Kazan Universiade, is determined to defend his title at the Gwangju Universiade sports event here despite a difficult year of battling testicular cancer.

The Universiade is an international multi-sport event organised for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The Universiade is an international sporting and cultural festival, staged every two years in a different city around the world, representing both winter and summer competitions, reports Xinhua.

Plaetsen, 25, was at the height of his career when he suddenly tested positive for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) — a hormone associated with cancer — while undergoing a mandatory drug test for an upcoming competition in September last year.

He first rose to stardom back in 2009 when he won the decathlon, a sport consisting of 10 track and field events, at the European athletics junior championships that are held for two consecutive days.

Two days later, Plaetsen broke the national record with the heptathlon with a combined score of 5,901 points at the 2011 Belgium athletics competition.

It was after winning a gold medal in decathlon at the 2013 Universiade that the Belgian star was officially diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Despite undergoing chemotherapy, even suffering from hair loss, Plaetsen continued to train rigorously every day to break his own national record at the world indoor athletics championships in 2014 with a score of 6,259 points.

Last year, the athlete received the male Golden Spike Award, which is considered to be the highest honour awarded to Belgian athletes annually.

The athlete, determined to bag another gold here, has told the Belgian media that his goal is to score at least 8,000 points at this year’s university games.

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