Three-time Paralympian, chocolate maker Gosens says “yes” to all things sweet in life

Looking for something sweet to give your date on Valentine's Day? Australian Para triathlete Gerrard Gosens, who runs a chocolate business in Brisbane, Australia, may have the perfect solution 14 Feb 2023
A man stands in front of a display of chocolates
Gosens launched his chocolate business with his wife Heather two years after competing at Beijing 2008.
ⒸGerrard Gosens
By Ayano Shimizu | For the IPC

Gerrard Gosens is known for many things. He competed at three Paralympic Games, two as a runner and one as a goalball player, reached Camp Base III at Mt. Everest and appeared in the popular TV series Dancing with the Stars. 

And as the cherry on top, Gosens, who was born with a vision impairment, also runs a chocolate business in Brisbane, Australia. When he is not doing sports, he spends most of his time making chocolate bars and truffles that come in a range of flavours. 

While sport and chocolate making seem like two entirely different things, it was his career as an athlete that initially led Gosens find his passion for making what he claims is the best chocolate in Queensland. 

“In travelling the world for athletics, it was very difficult as a person who is totally blind to pick up a gift, or as a thank you, a present to bring back to give to friends or family,” he said. “Chocolate was always an easy thing to pick up in a store overseas and bring back to Australia to thank people. 

“I got to develop knowledge and awareness to chocolate around the world and an opportunity came up.”  

Gosens, left, and his guide Hayden Armstrong competed in Para triathlon at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. @Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

A sweet dream

A sweet aroma fills Gosens’ kitchen as he tempers the chocolate, combining it with locally sourced ingredients, such as honey, liquor and fruits. 

Instead of a recipe, Gosens follows his sense of smell and taste. He comes up with different treats by experimenting with different kinds of ingredients to create a rich flavour. 

“I won’t go by a recipe, I go sheerly by taste,” the athlete-turned-chocolatier explained. “I’ll use distinctive tasting notes of different liquors or different fruits or nuts, depending on where they’re picked and where they’re sourced from to make sure that the chocolate is distinctive enough.”

As an athlete, 53-year-old Gosens has competed internationally for decades in goalball, Para athletics and most recently, Para triathlon. He has taken part in many major tournaments, including the Paralympic Summer Games in 1996, 2000 and 2008. 

Two years after competing in Para athletics at Beijing 2008, where he finished sixth in the men’s 1500m T11, Gosens launched “Chocolate Moments” together with his wife Heather following advice from a local chocolate shop owner. 

“I went to a chocolate shop and I got talking to a person and he said to me, ‘Hey, listen, why not start your own chocolate store?’ so (I thought), ‘Let’s give it a go’, because I was pretty passionate about what I saw in chocolate,” said Gosens, who now has two retail stores in Brisbane. 

Since then, he has been experimenting with chocolate and different ingredients to create moments of joy for people who purchase his products. 

Every Father’s Day, Gosens uses six types of beer to create the perfect gifts for dads in the area, while for Mother’s Day he combines chocolate with wine or champaigne. 

“The sky is the limit. You can really play around with the flavours,” Gosens said. “Let’s say, for example, if I do an orange and mango chocolate, I might make the orange stronger than the mango. And next week, I might do the mango stronger than the orange and I can play around. 

“When a person buys my box of chocolates, I don’t have a menu in it… When you try my chocolate, you know exactly what it is because I make sure the flavours are there.” 

Saying yes

Juggling between chocolate making and competing in sports is not an easy thing to do. But Gosens follows his motto of always saying “yes” when an opportunity presents itself.  

This ”yes” was the answer he gave when invited to appear in the Australian edition of Dancing with the Stars in 2009, which ended up becoming one of the biggest challenges he ever faced. “Yes” was also his answer to climbing Mt. Everest in 2005. 

“Everything in my life has been about opportunity, and I’ve always been the guest person. So it’s about taking those opportunities and making the most of them,” Gosens said. 

That is exactly how he took up Para triathlon in 2016. The Paralympian was approached by his soon-to-be guide Troy Grice at a local swimming pool that he occasionally went to. 

“(Grice) said, ‘Hey, listen, Gerrard. Have you ever competed in triathlon? (I told him) I’ve never done a triathlon and he said, ‘Do you want to give it a go?’ I’m always a ‘yes’ person and gave it a go,” Gosens said. 

One of his biggest milestones in the sport came in 2022 when Gosens competed at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, finishing sixth in the men’s PTVI event with guide Hayden Armstrong. 

While Gosens does not plan to represent his country in Para triathlon anymore, he cherishes the memories of competing at the world’s biggest sporting events. 

“I’ve obviously never seen the Australian flag or never seen a green and gold tracksuit. It’s not about that. It’s about not needing to see to believe in something,” he said. 

“For me, it’s the spirit that’s on the inside that you know what it’s like to be an Australian.“ 

Brisbane 2032

Of the three Paralympic Games Gosens competed at, his favourite memories date back to the home 2000 Games in Sydney.

With Brisbane set to host the Paralympics in 2032, Gosens wants to help create a memorable experience for athletes, spectators and volunteers by being involved in the organisation of the event.

“I saw how well Sydney 2000 went for the Paralympic Games,” he said. “I saw the passion, the love of the volunteers. I saw their success with the Games and what it brought to Australia.

“And that same success can be replicated in 2032 in Brisbane. That’s going to be a whole new level for Paralympic sports, not just Australia but Oceania.”

Gosens competed at the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. @Gerrard Gosens

Gosens hopes that more Australians will become interested in watching or takeing up Para sports in the lead up to the Paralympic Games.

“In Brisbane, the next 10 years are going to be pretty exciting for the Paralympic journey,” he said. “I certainly intend to make sure that come 2032 the Paralympics are well represented in how we manage the Games here in Queensland.”