Simon van Velthooven

Bachelor of Applied Science student and high-performance athlete

All athletes – no matter how good they are – need to back up their muscles with brains.

That’s according to Olympic bronze-medallist track cyclist Simon van Velthooven. 

Standing on the podium at the Olympic games is something most of us will only ever dream about, but for the 24-year-old it became a reality at the 2012 Olympic games. Now he’s a household name. 

But despite his gruelling training regime of about 30 hours a week, he’s found time to study – even if it means hiding under a table to sit an exam in silence! 

Simon’s working towards a Bachelor of Applied Science, so that if there ever comes a day he can no longer cycle he’s got options. 

“High performance sport opens up many doors with many different people but a degree backs up your image with brains, so that any job is readily available.” 

With the help of Massey’s distance learning programme he’s able to complete his assignments and exams all over the world – hugely convenient when he competes all around the world and is based in Japan for 4 months of the year racing on the professional keirin (a form of motor-paced cycle racing in which track cyclists sprint for victory following a speed-controlled start behind a motorized or non-motorized pacer) circuit there. 

He says studying at Massey is great for high performance athletes because lecturers understand that you want to succeed in sport and study – so they allow you to sit exams and submit assignments to fit around training and racing.

He plans on finishing his degree once he wins an Olympic gold medal – which he hopes to claim at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Born in the Manawatū, Simon has been brought up riding his bike on the long flat stretches of road in the region, and he started competing in 2004.

Today he has World Championship medals, a Commonwealth Games medal, is a World Cup Champion and has a “dirty old” Olympic bronze medal under his belt.

But there’s still a lot more the ‘Rhino’ (his nickname) hopes to achieve. His focus is now on training for next Olympic games and he also wants to become the first person to go under a minute in the standing kilometre time trial.

“If you keep chasing your goals and succeeding with them, your turn with the big result will come. Just keep pushing yourself like a wounded rhino!”