The XVIeSummer Paralympic Games open this Tuesday, August 24 in Tokyo, behind closed doors, Covid-19 requires. Until September 5, thousands of athletes will meet in front of empty stands. This is not quite the atmosphere that Marie-Amélie Le Fur dreamed of to end her career in style on an athletics stadium, at the age of 32, after four consecutive participations in the great meeting of the disabled. “I also went there for human relations, meetings, moments shared with all the people who supported me, she says. We must make do. “
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The athlete from Loir-et-Cher, amputated at the age of 15 with his left leg below the knee after a scooter accident, landed in Japan with the ambition to keep his title in the long jump in its category (lower limb amputees). The final is scheduled for August 28. Coming to the end of the runway without spectators saddens her but does not distress her. “I have no doubt that the sharing between athletes will be good, despite the health crisis, she continues. I am also sure that we will thrill the French public through our performances. “
“This postponement of one year was very complicated for me”
A new success and it would be her fourth gold medal, after those obtained in London in 2012 over 100 meters, then in Rio in 2016 over 400 meters and in length, a specialty for which she holds the world record with a jump to 6. , 14 m passed last February. But she would have gladly retired from sports, as she had initially planned, in 2020. The pandemic decided otherwise. As for the Olympics, the Paralympics have been postponed by one year. “This postponement was very complicated for me, she admits. I really experienced it as an extra year, with a lot of sacrifices in my personal life. “
Because Marie-Amélie Le Fur is no longer just a multi-medalist high-level athlete. Since December 2018, she has been president of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee (CPSF). Since August 2019, she is also the mother of a little girl. “It was a lot of fatigue, with a very busy year, both morally and nervously speaking”, she continues. The end of his preparation was also disturbed by injuries: “I was not used to it, but I have no regrets, because I know that I will have given absolutely everything. “
This year has allowed her to continue to improve, in the face of competition which should be even stronger than it would have been in 2020. Once back from Japan, the future stadium retiree will then be able to devote herself entirely to her leadership role. In July, she was re-elected to a four-year term as head of the CPSF. “Thanks to my position as president, I really understood that it was possible to get involved in the development of sport other than being an athlete, and that fulfills me as much, she assures. It is a commitment in which I believe. “
“In 2024, we will have to have a conquering French team”
The Paris 2024 Games are already in his sights. Invested in their organization, she hopes that they will be a great showcase for disabled sports in France and a springboard for better recognition of Paralympic athletes, while stepping on a podium requires an increasingly important investment. “We will have to have a winning French team and ensure that we are able to detect talents, support them and put them on the high performance circuit,” she comments. We have already embarked on this path, we must go further. “
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The other challenge will be to develop practice thanks to the impact of this event and the results of French athletes. “We must put in place incentive public policies and take a step forward, so that anyone with a disability can find a suitable club near their home, with trained volunteers, she insists. Because playing sports when you have a disability is the best way to cope with your disability, both physically and mentally. “ Medalist or not in Tokyo, she will remain well placed to speak about it.
In Japan, hope sparked by the Paralympic Games
“If the competition allowed the general public to learn about marginalized people, such as those with disabilities or sexual minorities, and take action, it could achieve what the Olympics could not do in terms of diversity. “, launches Tadashi Watari, specialist in the sociology of sport at Juntendo University in Tokyo. The researcher deplores the lack of support from the authorities for organizations that promote sport among people with disabilities.
In Japan, if the law forces companies to employ them, multiple obstacles, such as the lack of support staff and suitable infrastructure, prevent them from having access to sport. According to the Japanese Sports Agency, only 24% of them play sports at least once a week, compared to 60% of able-bodied people.