“The Défi sportif AlterGo is a shrine of resiliency and a celebration of diversity.” This is how Mr. Martin Trépannier, president of Quebec’s Office des personnes handicapées, presented this one-of-a-kind event during Accès libre (Free Access) radio show recorded at Claude-Robillard Sports Complex during the event. As other guests on the show that morning, he was answering hosts Isabelle Ducharme and Luc Fortin’s questions on Canal M, Vues et Voix Radio (formerly La Magnétothèque). To listen to the interview in French, clic here. Accès libre is a weekly show dealing with handicap-related news, services and issues.
In that one sentence, Mr. Trépanier summarized in a nutshell the two-hour show which included testimonies from elite athletes, a teacher and a school-level athlete. In simple terms, they described their daily life as athletes and full-fledge citizens. Then came in DSA spokesperson Jean-Marie Lapointe, OPHQ Executive Director Céline Giroux, AlterGo Executive Director and Défi sportif Founder Monique Lefebvre, as well as Hélène Carbonneau, from Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
Elite athletes José Rebelo and Ronald Vaillancourt explained that athletes competing in adapted sports train just like other athletes, as intensely. Also, the rules for their sport are the same as for any non-adapted sport.
José Rebelo is on the Canadian sitting volleyball team, silver-medalist in Sydney in 2008. Rebelo is director of a community sports organization in Montreal’s Centre-Sud borough. He is married and has children, and his family must adapt to his busy schedule and travels, as for any other athlete of his level: “I have a normal Olympic-athlete’s life. I have to juggle with my training and my family,” he admitted matter-of-factly. As he has been wearing a prosthesis on one leg since the age of two, he does not perceive it as an obstacle. “It is more of an obstacle for other people,” he said. To listen to the interview in French, clic here.
Sledge-hockey player Ronald Vaillancourt is on Quebec’s provincial team. He works full time. He took a week off to be a volunteer photographer during the Défi sportif and he even had to flee one whole day from his volunteer duties in order to deal with an emergency at his business place. He explains that sledge hockey follows the same rules as hockey, that there can be rough plays, but without hockey’s dangerous excesses. He adds: “In sledge hockey, we have to make a constant effort, we cannot stop skating.” He then goes on about the importance of the team, about types of shots, “just like in standing hockey”, and about their twice weekly training from end of August until March. To listen to the interview in French, clic here.
Mrs. Monique Paradis has been teaching physical education for many years at Cap-Jeunesse school in St-Jérôme. Despite her retirement coming up in a few weeks, she promised her students that she will keep preparing them for the next Défi sportif. She even wishes to become a DSA volunteer. She explained that, unlike in regular school sports, “in adapted school sports, it does not matter whether we win or lose, perseverance is what really counts.”
Noémie Beauchamp competes in athletics and ball hockey. She shows a certain maturity in explaining why she takes part in a sport: “In life, we all need balance, and sports give us energy.” Sports help her live with bipolarity since it helps her release “negative energies”. Additionally, the team acts as a large family and helps her gain self-confidence. To listen to the interview in French, clic here.
Défi Sportif spokesperson Jean-Marie Lapointe describes himself as extremely selfish “because it brings me such joy and happiness, makes me feel useful, and allows me to better myself.” As a spokesperson for the past 11 years, he explains that he first accepted the invitation because he enjoys sports and knew he would discover new ones. But his motivation transformed as soon as he came in contact with the athletes.
Jean-Marie Lapointe saw Défi sportif grow over the past 10 years, with more athletes, more students, more sports, more days of competitions. Yet, what he notices mainly now is that there are more people in the bleachers to support athletes. It shows that there has been some progress in the perception society has of people living with disabilities. That is why, in his opinion Défi sportif “is a jewel.” To listen to the interview in French, clic here.
Academic Research Fellow
“In addition to promote the pleasure of practising a sport, Défi sportif helps show parents that sports have a positive impact on family life since they make kids happy. Young athletes taking part in the Défi do not look like they are bored.” That is one of the positive impacts of DSA, according to Hélène Carbonneau, from Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, responsible for evaluation and research for the Choisir de gagner (Choose to win) project, set up this year with financial support from Québec en forme.
The project promotes healthy lifestyle (active lifestyle, healthy eating and sports development) for young Quebecers living with disabilities. Such a promotion already exists for non-disabled kids, but “the approach is different with disabled kids due to the diversity of disabilities and variety of contexts of action.” To listen to the interview in French, clic here.
According to DSA Founder Monique Lefebvre, the event grew over the course of the last 29 years because it benefited from the “energy and passion of the teachers from over 75 schools, of over 900 volunteers and 150 coaches involved.” Also, the typical volunteer has changed over the years. At the beginning, people volunteered because they knew a participant and hence were already familiar with the cause. These volunteers now make up only 20% of the group. Some businesses free-up time for their employees to volunteer at Défi sportif. In her view, the Défi sportif virus spread efficiently in the general population, as a symptom of a certain progress in attitudes regarding persons living with disabilities.
However, for Monique Lefebvre, work is never over, even after almost 30 years. “I am still motivated because my vision of accessibility is not totally brought to the forefront,” she stressed. For example, she is looking forward to the day when adapted sports in school will have a competition structure at par with any other school sport. To listen to the interview in Fench, clic here.
Accès libre is presented on Canal M, la radio de Vues & Voix accessible in digital form on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., on Sundays at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.; and from Monday to Thursday at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Canal M on the Web, by cable and satellite in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
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