He had opened the ball, and undertook to close it in the same way: as a virtuoso. Skier Arthur Bauchet sounded the first Marseillaise of the French Paralympic team at the very start of the Games in Beijing, Saturday March 5, by winning gold in the downhill. The 21-year-old champion executed his last score perfectly to claim the slalom title on Sunday March 13 on the Yanqing track.
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Between the two, the licensee of the Briançon ski club will also have won gold in the super-combined and bronze in the giant slalom. Perhaps the most precious metal for him, which was still missing from his collection after the four silver medals brought back from PyeongChang in 2018. Because this bronze, he went to get it “very, very, very far” as he tells it, after a terrible effort, getting on the podium after a first round where he was only ranked sixth. A feat that he paid for after the finish, having to endure a crisis of tremors for half an hour.
“A mutant with rotten powers”
The young man can in fact take everything in his path with his whirlwinds of communicative joy, his spastic paraparesis, a disease that affects the spinal cord and manifests itself in pain and tremors in the muscles of the legs, reminded him almost every time, barely finished his competitions. “I am a mutant with rotten powers”, he often jokes.
We have seen him forced to sit on a wheelchair or lean on crutches while waiting for the ceremonies. So what ? “I ask a lot of my body but I know why I’m in pain”, he lets go. With four medals in total, including three gold, he is the hero of the tricolor delegation, also designated standard bearer for the closing ceremony.
Fewer medals than in 2006 and 2018
A glory that he willingly shares with Benjamin Daviet, who also leaves with four charms around his neck: two in gold in the individual biathlon and the cross-country skiing sprint, two in silver, the last of which was acquired on Sunday March 13 with Anthony Chalençon. in the cross-country ski relay. In total, the French Paralympic team returns from Beijing with 12 medals, including 7 gold. The same number of titles as in 2006 in Turin or in 2018 in PyeongChang, and the same place in the medal table: fourth.
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At the foot of the podium therefore, because a few disappointments came to seize up the blue machine, which ultimately won fewer medals than in 2006 (15 in total) or 2018 (20). Marie Bochet in particular ended her phenomenal Paralympic career in real frustration. Only one silver reward, in super-G, and two really infuriating races (she takes her shoes off in the descent and falls in the slalom), far from her usual harvest (4 medals in Sochi, 4 others in PyeongChang). Marie Bochet cried a lot, but in the end retains the best: “It’s always more pleasant on the podiums but I don’t regret this emotional check-up. »
→ PORTRAIT. Beijing Paralympic Games: Marie Bochet, “the tigress has calmed down”
Ukrainians on a mission
Emotions, the Ukrainian delegation has filled its suitcases. Despite the context, an almost unexpected arrival in China after days of hardly training, the Ukrainians have done better than hold their rank. With 29 medals, they broke their record (25 in 2006 and 2014), also exploding their golden record: 11 titles (against at best 7 in Turin). “The fact that they compete here and stay focused on the competition, knowing what’s going on in their country, it’s amazing,” had greeted in the middle of the week Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympic Committee.
Another great moment for Valeriy Sushkevych, the father of Ukrainian Paralympism since the end of the 1990s, confined to a wheelchair from a young age by polio, and who still chairs the Ukrainian delegation. It is he who is at the origin of the Invasport network which, in Ukraine, facilitates the practice of disabled sports designed as a tool for rehabilitation and socialization, and which constitutes a breeding ground that has been feeding the high national level for nearly twenty years, for both winter and summer sports (Ukraine was 6thand world ranking in Tokyo with 98 medals). Olympic history will remember that more than ever in Beijing resounds the Ukrainian anthem: “Ukraine is not dead yet. »
China, from nothingness to triumph
Until then, their record was starved: only one medal for Chinese Paralympic athletes since their first participation in the Games in 2002. It was in PyeongChang in 2018, they had won gold in mixed curling. In Beijing, they now largely dominate the medal table: 61, including 18 gold. A surprise, especially since with the pandemic, the Chinese had hardly participated in international competitions for two years. They were preparing out of sight, with colossal means released by the government, many coaches recruited abroad and extreme training for the organizations. The Chinese were particularly surprised in alpine skiing, like the young Zhang Mengqiu, just 20 years old today, sensation of these Games with five medals including two gold.