On April 23, 2018 AlterGo Executive Director Monique Lefebvre opened the 35th annual Défi sportif AlterGo—the unique sports competition she founded. This year some 7,000 athletes participated. With a mere 24 hours remaining in this year’s competition, a look back at the event’s beginnings on April 28, 1984 is in order!

The very first Défi sportif AlterGo took place 34 years ago to the day, and lasted four days. Overall, the event was well-received… after they remembered to provide the food that they had initially forgotten! “Food was something that completely slipped our minds! We ordered pizza or something like that,” laughs Monique Lefebvre. The following years, the organizing committee made sure food was accounted for: “That was the number one thing we learned that year, and we made sure we didn’t make the same mistake twice!”

Despite being a new event, 720 athletes participated at the Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard that year, including Marc Jubinville, who at the time was a member of the Kamikazes de Saint-Hyacinthe wheelchair basketball team. He’s been a loyal Defi sportif AlterGo attendee ever since.

“Just like the name says, it’s a challenge (défi) and I’m lucky to be able to participate each year. It’s important to be here, it’s gratifying, there’s a magic here. I see evolution everywhere—in young players especially, some of them I’ve known since they were so little that today, I could be their father or grandfather.”

Marc Jubinville also remembers how he and his team ‘made’ it to their first DéfiSportif AlterGo: “We had several hundred buttons and sold them at a dollar each so we could afford to come,” he recalls.

Over the years the Défi sportif AlterGo has grown, both in terms of the number of sports and athletes. Equipment, playing style, and athlete classification has changed and evolved to the present day. “In the early years, we’d have athletes playing basketball in jeans and boots! Sports clothing wasn’t like it is now,” Lefebvre explains.

“Basketball itself has really evolved—in the way it’s played and what is used,” adds Jubinville, who remembers the 35-pound wheelchair he used to compete in. “Even today I need to use the oldest chair to play in, the one that’s been welded 4-5 times.” At the time, ‘sports wheelchairs’ were just a concept, but now they’re de riguer. “New technology is amazing! The chairs are so much faster and falls are so much more rare,” he explains.

School’s In!

The Défi sportif AlterGo has undoubtedly grown over the past 35 years, and much of it thanks to an increasing number of schools participating. In less than 10 years, the number of schools has more than tripled thanks to the support of Québec en forme. What was once 2,000 athletes is now 6,000!

“In creating the Défi sportif AlterGo, we always wanted to help kids to get into sports. We always wanted to recruit future paralympians, and get kids to be active,” comments Lefebvre.

Sport every day of the year

An increasing number of sports are being adapted to differently-abled athletes, which means various skills and abilities are highlighted. “It started with basketball, and it’s continued with other sports,” Jubinville states.

“Parahockey is really popular with parents, and boccia enables those with the most significant handicaps to play a sport where they can even potentially play internationally,” says Lefebvre.

While Défi sportif AlterGo is an annual event, its philosophy is to get people moving 365 days of the year. “The whole idea is for them to have a normal life, and access to the same services as the rest of the population.”

Just as it has for the past 35 years, the Défi sportif AlterGo always has, and will continue to be, guided by its raison d’être. While large strides have been made, there is still a great deal of work to do in terms of making accessibility universal.

“So, you’ll be back in five years for the Défi sportif AlterGo’s 40th birthday?” Monique Lefebvre asks Marc Jubinville.
His reply? “Absolutely! So long as I’m healthy, I’ll be here!” confirms the event’s stalwart.