Q&A with Twan van Gendt: How An Olympian Turned Designer with SOLIDWORKS

Twan van Gendt is a Dutch racing cyclist who represents the Netherlands in BMX Racing. He was selected to represent the Netherlands at the 2012 Summer Games in London where he placed 5th in the Men’s BMX final. In June 2015, he competed in the inaugural European Games, representing the Netherlands in Men’s BMX cycling where he earned a silver medal.   Van Gendt is now preparing for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which is will be his last.

Twan Van Gendt performs in Made, The Netherlands on January 31, 2014. Image courtesy of Red Bull Sports.

The successful athlete was just four when he first got the BMX bug and soon thereafter could commonly be found dirt jumping and racing around BMX tracks. Another interest of his from an early age was designing, which originally started with Legos and grew bigger later when he put his burgeoning design skills to use restoring old boats as a hobby. While studying Industrial Design in school, van Gendt got his exposure to SOLIDWORKS.

When his athletic career is over, Twan has set his sights on becoming a designer and entrepreneur. We were curious as to what inspires him and how his keen eye and knowledge of design might propel him to Olympic success so we asked him a few questions.

Q: What type of competitive advantage does advanced design (products) provide in a sport like BMX?

A: The advantage is that you can convert you own ideas to 3D designs and develop your own parts. This gives you the opportunity to be more progressive.

Q: What types of projects do you design in SOLIDWORKS? Do you have favorite project that you’ve completed or are working on?

A: At the moment, I am developing a crank in a unique length, which I’m hoping will optimize my power transmission.

Q: Will you be returning to school to pursue an engineering degree? Or become an entrepreneur through the “maker” track (i.e incubators, etc.)?

A: I don’t think I will return to a full-time study, to be honest, but I would like to develop my engineering skills by taking various courses starting with the SOLIDWORKS essentials course at CAD2M, my local VAR.

Q: How do you find time to design while simultaneously training for the Olympics?

A: Actually, it is purely in my free time and during my recovery time in between practices. But I bring my portable workstation when I am at training camp. That way I can continue designing all over the world.

Q: How do you think design has affected athletics on a global stage? For example, we’ve interviewed bobsledders in the past and sled design has a huge impact that could be the difference between the winner’s circle and fourth place.

A: Bobsledding is a good example where a good CAD design can make the difference between winning and losing, and I think that there are many sports where little things can be improved. Manufacturers are mostly occupied with enhancing their own products for mass production, instead of discovering new products that can improve the performances of athletes.

Q: How do you think BMX riding has prepared you for an engineering career? Are there lessons you can bring from the bike to a computer screen?

A: Yes I use my commitment, discipline and determination in my entrepreneur/designing career. It is difficult to say if there is a resemblance between the things that I learned on the bike and behind the computer. These are two completely different worlds, but I am convinced that you always need to give 100 percent to become number one.

Q: Describe what it’s like competing on a global stage? I’m guessing it’s a bit more stressful than trying to meet deadlines at a desk job.

A: Yes, you would think that. I am in my comfort zone when I am on my bike, because I’ve been doing this since I was 4. Of course, the tension gets high before a race. But apart from that, you live in the moment. A deadline at work is comparable to racing. You need to be well prepared. Once you’ve done that, you are excited to show your skills.

Q: What is your favorite memory of competing in BMX?

A: My favorite memory is the Olympic Games in London. My goal was to go home with a medal. Although I ended up in 5th place, I held my head up high. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.

See van Gendt in action by watching the video below:

Barb Schmitz

Barb Schmitz

Senior Marketing Communications Manager at SolidWorks
Barb Schmitz is a Senior Manager in Marketing Communications with BA in Journalism and over 30 years of experience in the CAD software industry. She started her career as a journalist covering technology and served as an editor for several leading industry publications for over 20 years. Besides being a sleuth of tech, she is a loyal dog owner, travel bum, mom, lover of hoppy IPAs, red wine, and alternative music lover living in the great city of Chicago.