People of Body&Fit: Fleur Jong
In this extra special edition of People of Body&Fit, we’re excited to be introducing our new Body&Fit athlete, Fleur Jong. A Paralympic athlete at the top of her game, Fleur holds the world 100m and long jump record and has a Paralympic gold medal to her name. We caught up to hear her story and find out what ‘fit’ means to her.
Body&Fit: Welcome to the Body&Fit family, Fleur! We’re so proud to add you to our team of athletes and thrilled to learn more about you. Let’s start with your childhood. How was life growing up?
Fleur: “Thanks so much, I’m super excited to start my Body&Fit journey. Let’s see… childhood. Well, I was always taught that you have to be independent. I have a lot of entrepreneurs in my family, so the mentality has always been: if you want something, you go for it. That go-getter mentality has helped enormously during my career as an athlete.”
Body&Fit: Have you always been sporty?
Fleur: “Yes, I was very sporty as a child. I played tennis, danced. I never sat still. When I was 16, I got a bacterium in my blood, which caused my body to go into a kind of shock state. My blood stopped reaching my limbs and, as a result, both my feet and fingers needed to be amputated. At that point, the second part of my life started. Everything that had been taken for granted before was no longer the same. I had to reinvent everything. It was all quite overwhelming.”
Body&Fit: Do you really see it as two different periods in your life? Before and after the diagnosis?
Fleur: “I do. My attitude to life is very different now. I’m still the same person, of course. I’m still very impulsive, but I’ve become a lot more entrepreneurial in terms of my goals and ambitions. I’m more confident, now. If I want something, I just go for it. I really didn’t have that mentality before. Back then, I was discovering myself. The infection made me grow up very quickly. You’re thrown back on yourself. I certainly lost the carefree girl I was for a few years. But I am slowly finding her again. I get to do SO many fun things now. There are so many opportunities, so many goals. I can really enjoy life again now.”
Body&Fit: When did athletics come into the picture?
Fleur: "After I lost my legs, I got prosthetics. I decided to learn to run really well on them. So, I went to a Paralympic talent day. Just to get my bearings and see what sports are possible. I had a new body, after all. I saw all the things people could do with prosthetics — sprinting, jumping, throwing… I thought, I have to learn that too.
Once I started playing sports again, I noticed I was constantly improving in the training sessions. The progression I was making was addictive. I wanted more and more. If I managed to run in a dead straight line, then I wanted to be able to do it backwards. If I could jump up steps, I wanted to do it on one leg. I became addicted to the progression."
Body&Fit: And then a few years later you suddenly find yourself at the Paralympics.
Fleur: "My first Paralympic games came way too soon. In 2013, I was rehabilitated. Only three years later I was at the games. I felt very tough then, because I could show people I was there. Although, I’d focused on my physical progression so much that I had left my mental recovery behind. The pressure really put my headspace in a knot. I look back on it with mixed feelings. I was proud of the physical strides I had made, but I was so far behind mentally.
Four years later, in Tokyo, I felt very different. I felt powerful. I was ready, hungry for it, and all I could think about was winning. I knew who I was. I knew what I came there to do. My first jump ended up being good enough for the gold."
Body&Fit: What makes you happy outside of sports?
Fleur: “I enjoy helping others. I want to teach people that sometimes it sucks to have a disability, but there are endless possibilities. I think it’s important to help the younger generation. After all, I was quite scared when I lost my legs. I hope that my achievements, and all the exposure it provides, can ensure that the next little Fleur is not as scared as I was. That she will still dare to dream, and keep doing things. If only I manage to make people 1% less scared, then for me it’s already a success.”
Body&Fit: We can only imagine how scared you must’ve been. Is this the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your life?
Fleur: “I think I found acknowledging that I was so scared even more difficult. It felt so frightening to come to terms with that. At first, I always thought, no, come on, it ended well, just move on. But that’s not how it works. A sports psychologist help me process my trauma management helped me think like a winner. That’s been my mental curve. It’s pretty extreme, but then it took six years.”
Body&Fit: Can you describe what being fit means to you? Is it mental, or just physical?
Fleur: “For me, it’s a combination of both. I think physically you can very easily be in the shape of your life, but if you’re not there mentally, you’re not going to make it. You can’t have one without the other. If you’re not ready mentally, that’s going to manifest itself physically. So, I think fit for me really means being comfortable in your skin.”
Body&Fit: Where do you get your motivation from? What’s your biggest source of inspiration?
Fleur: “I get my motivation from the fact that in the Paralympic field, there are still many things that have not been discovered. I think we can still jump much further and run even faster. I have the privilege of exploring that. I don’t have to chase anyone. I get to explore how I can go that extra mile. How I can break through barriers. That’s very exciting. I don’t know how far I can go. It’s the unknown that motivates me.”
Body&Fit: That sounds like a huge pressure on your shoulders. Or don’t you see it that way?
Fleur: “No, because nobody knows how far we can go. It’s not as if someone has already done it, who knows how to do it. I can’t get it wrong, so I’m going to try my hardest to break those barriers. I’ll make mistakes, but yes, there is only one way to find out. Full force ahead, and then we’ll see.”
Body&Fit: Can you tell me more about your training sessions? How many training days do you have per week?
Fleur: “I have ten training sessions a week, spread over six days. It really is a full-time job. I always have Saturdays off. My rest day. I’d rather go to the movies in peace than go to a party. That’s the balance I sometimes have a hard time with. If friends go to a festival or concert, I would have loved to be there. While I know that catching a movie at the cinema is more relaxing, and better for my recovery.”
Body&Fit: Do your winters and summers differ in terms of training?
Fleur: “It’s a very big difference. In winter, I mainly work a lot on basic skills and endurance. That means lots of repetitions in the weight room, lots of metres on the track and short breaks. As we move towards summer, I do fewer repetitions and have longer breaks. This allows me to recover better, and then give my all during competitions.”
Body&Fit: What about your diet. How do you eat as an athlete?
Fleur: “My diet is simple. I make sure I eat enough carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables. I eat a lot of oatmeal and fruit. For me, supplements around training are important, too. I make sure I get enough carbs before a workout with fruits or a sports drink. After training, I always drink protein shakes. Or, I eat a protein bar, like your Perfection Bar Deluxe. Preferably the one with peanuts, it’s SO good.”
You can follow Fleur’s journey and all her progress on Instagram. Plus, look out for more People of Body&Fit stories — alongside daily inspiration, healthy recipes and workout ideas — on our own socials. Everything you need to #FINDYOURFIT is right here at Body&Fit.