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2024 Paralympic Games: when Liévin highlights the paratriathlon

Our special correspondent in Liévin.

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2024 Paralympic Games: when Liévin highlights the paratriathlon

Our special correspondent in Liévin

“An event such as we are experiencing is exceptional. Ten or fifteen years ago, this was unthinkable. This means that the consideration of disability is really changing. Today, of course we talk about Paralympism, but in fact we mainly talk about sport. It’s what brings us together and makes us want to surpass ourselves.” In front of an assembly of around 180 students from Hauts de France gathered at the Arena Stade covered in Liévin, Théo Curin (4th in the 200m freestyle at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016) paid a beautiful tribute to the event organized by EDF around a full-scale discovery-initiation of what paratriathlon is in particular, and parasport in general.

An opinion also shared by students, including Matthis, in L3 Staps in Valenciennes: “The outlook has changed. There is more awareness at school, middle school and high school on the issue of disability. It’s a good thing to improve mentalities.” Violaine, her teammate during the paratriathlon, agrees. “I think that the view on disability is evolving and that it is no longer seen as something separate. Everything is confused now and everyone considers what para-athletes do as a real sporting performance, regardless of their disability. They have a lot of merit.”

It is therefore in a very enthusiastic atmosphere, and with a real competitive spirit, that the students competed in qualifications and semi-finals this Thursday of the paratriathlon in order to win their place for the final, which will take place this Saturday March 29 in sunrise curtain of the indoor triathlon World Cup event in the magnificent Liévin venue. A motivation which even led, during the last semi-final, a young student to a painful fall a few meters from the line, during the blindfolded race following a 100m swim with her legs tied at the ankles and five laps around the track on a handbike, an adapted bike allowing you to pedal using the power of… your arms, not your legs.

Necessarily destabilizing experiences for these students. “This is the first time that I have participated in this type of event,” Matthis told us. “The most destabilizing thing, in my opinion, is running for someone who is blindfolded, who therefore has no reference points and must have total trust in their partner. It's really not simple. For swimming on the other hand, as I have been practicing water polo for several years, it was not a problem to have my legs tied. I did well.” A different story for Violaine: “I'm a cyclist and there, on the handbike, it's not easy to cycle with your arms. In class, since I am in adapted physical activity, I had however already tested swimming without my legs and blind running. It changes completely on a sensory level and you quickly get lost, so it requires regular training.”

But the students were not the only ones to take part in the exercise since several athletes and para-athletes from Team EDF were also present, and took part in the game in the company of a few influencers, including Domingo. Thus, it was surprising to see Romain Cannone, Olympic champion in Tokyo in 2021 in the epee, doing well in the water, and even more so on the handlebars of his handbike with which he took over Dorian Foulon, recent triple champion of the world of track para-cycling in Rio, started like a cannonball but exhausted in the last laps. Or Heïdi Gaugain, elected champion of French para champions by the daily L'Equipe in 2023 after her exploits in cycling among both the disabled and the able-bodied, in running mode, blindfolded. A real moment of conviviality contested in a festive and noisy atmosphere.

The opportunity for Alexandre Boulleray, responsible for sports sponsorship for EDF, to recall that the electricity production and supply company “has been involved with the French Disabled Sports Federation for 32 years. We were its first partner. We have supported parasports and parasportspeople since this period and with the signing of our partnership with Paris 2024, we have set up a program, “Issues for the Future 2024”, in which we are committed to changing the way we look at the disability on the one hand, and promote learning to swim on the other hand. Or two important societal subjects in French society. Organizing an event such as this in Liévin makes it possible to reach young people and introduce young people to parasport. We are going to organize the Paralympic Games for the first time in France and it is a fantastic opportunity to talk about disability in society and professional integration.” There is no doubt that events such as this paratriathlon in Liévin will help to change mentalities.

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