“Come on, follow him! » This injunction of a disabled ski coach, the visually impaired skier Hyacinthe Deleplace still remembers. It was in Tignes, in 2016, during a training camp for the France team. “I had rented skis and boots, I managed to get in touch with the leaders of a French team course, I insisted so much that they ended up letting me try it. , they put me behind a guide, which I had never done”, says six years later Hyacinthe Deleplace, who has just won a bronze medal in the downhill, Saturday March 5, at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Seventh in 400m at the London Summer Games
In 2016, Hyacinthe Deleplace had not yet started on a competitive slope since the age of… 8 years old. He had then taken advantage of terrible weather with zero visibility, making the track invisible to all children, sighted or visually impaired like him. “I’ve always loved skiing and I was born into a family where there was no question of me staying in cotton, so I was going for it like the others, but I quickly found the limits and I headed for something else “, says the man who then left the mountains for the Lyon region, where he tried almost all the sports open to a young visually impaired person.
→ REREAD. First French medals at the Paralympic Winter Games in China
It was ultimately athletics that led him to the London Games where he ranked 7and in 400m. “Okay, I didn’t have a medal, but I was at the end of a form of excellence, and these Games will remain as one of the greatest experiences of my life, with for the first time a real square. Then I got injured. Then came the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, where I saw these crazy people launch themselves down the slope behind a guide. My childhood memories came back, I said to myself: “This thing is crazy, I want to try it”. explains the skier, far from imagining the escarpment of the path that awaited him.
“I did a little bit of everything to earn a living, salesman at Decathlon, truck driver behind a garbage truck”, says the young 32-year-old athlete, who took a long time to establish himself in the closed environment of disabled skiing. “The level is very high today and we only select athletes with real competitive potential, the life of the team requires 100% commitment and certain personal sacrifices, confirms the director of the French team, Christian Fémy, the man of the Chamonix test. It’s true that Hyacinthe had Olympic experience but, in skiing, he was far off the mark because it’s during adolescence that you learn the most in sport, and he wasn’t skiing at that time. »
Progress came slowly
The French team officials let him wade through to test his motivation, while watching him out of the corner of their eye and giving him a little helping hand when needed. Hyacinthe participates in small cups of France, unearths a guide capable of accompanying him voluntarily on the sometimes very distant competition sites. By dint of perseverance, progress comes little by little, then more and more quickly, until the first selections in the France team which ends up opening the door to him. Happily, since he won three gold medals at the Worlds in January and a bronze medal in Beijing, while waiting for better in slalom and giant in the coming days.
→ STORY. “A beautiful story of friendship”: at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, these skiers who follow their guide
The team. A new world for this boy accustomed to fending for himself. “I had to adapt to the rules and fit into the habits of the French team where we have to line up in all disciplines, slalom, giant, super-G and downhill, he continues. I had to confront the stakes, whereas what I like is going straight ahead! Several times I was shaken because I behaved dangerously, for me, and also for the staff. »
Want to drive a race car
Before tracing his route, Hyacinthe Deleplace had to forget the aerial gestures of running to adopt the aggressive and collected posture of a competitive skier. “Athletics is the matrix of all sports, you learn to put your feet, to train certain parts of the body, but the whole aspect of commitment, piloting, is different… besides, I would love to pilot one day”, confesses the young man, confident in the progress of technology which may one day abolish the borders for the visually impaired. Until driving a racing car? The challenge seems insane. But taking up ski racing at the age of 26 was not very reasonable either.
China and Ukraine lead the medal table
After four days of competition at the Paralympic Games in Beijing on Tuesday March 8, China was ahead of Ukraine in the medal table. The organizing country carried out a raid in alpine skiing, depriving nations accustomed to podiums, such as France, of their usual harvest. With three gold medals, a silver and a bronze, the French selection is in fifth place, below its objective of being among the top three. Ukraine has six Paralympic titles for 17 podiums, a record almost exclusively due to para-biathlon where the Ukrainians have won everything.