How Sports Can Help Overcome a Disability

With We are people, a wonderful documentary broadcast on Canal+ on Sunday (9 p.m.), Paralympic champion Michaël Jéremiasz wants to create awareness and change mentality.

Did you know that just over a century ago, people with intellectual disabilities were euthanized shortly after birth? Do you know Rosemary Kennedy, the long-hidden sister of JFK, the former president of the United States, because she suffers from mental disorders? In 1h37, the documentary We are people aims to make people aware of disabilities. The common thread is the link it maintains with sports practice. Directed by Philippe Fontana and produced by the Paralympic wheelchair tennis champion in Beijing (2008) Michaël Jéremiasz, this film, by turns edifying, moving, unrelentingly critical, surprising, multiplies the schools of thought. Sometimes even frustrating, so great is the desire to know more about certain speakers, about certain themes.

The wish with Philippe was to make available in the public space a tool that tells this little-known story and gives keys to understanding that sport is not only made up of packed stadiums and rich footballers.”, explains Jeremiasz. †Sport is a powerful tool whose impact and power is still poorly measured in our societies. With regard to people with disabilities, it is a political and social instrument, it is a matter of public health. This is what we wanted to say.This issue is all the more important as more than a billion people on Earth live with disabilities, or 15% of the world’s population. Spend the first fifteen very didactic minutes to re-situate the context, especially from a historical point of view. jumper in height Arnie Boldt, navigator Damien Séguin, snowboarder Amy Purdy…

The list is long and yet so short of these champions, sometimes glorified with condescension or paternalism. †Too often there are only two approaches to disability: either extremely compassionate, or vice versa we turn Paralympic athletes into superheroes‘ says the tennis player. †But there is almost never a middle ground. We are not telling you why access to sport is so important for everyone. Why sports can literally change lives. Top sport is just a niche.And this one to continue, always with the same conviction and passion:Sport is above all an instrument of freedom. Of course, the performance of both is impressive. It’s unbelievable to see a blind man capable of running errands for ten hours in total autonomy in the middle of the forest. But sports is not just that. What I remember from my career as a top athlete is not only the achievements, the titles, but all the doors that the sport has opened for me. Everything she has made me place in my life as a man, regain self-confidence, discover my new limits, become independent.

In the documentary, my small story is in the service of the big one.

Michael Jeremiasz

From the pioneers who were deaf before the previous Games in Paris in 1924 to the next to be held in the City of Light in two years’ time, the documentary examines a century of sporting practice seen through the prism of disability. Handicap to be precise, so much so that the film starts from the individual Jéremiasz to speak of universal. †In the documentary, my small story is in the service of the big one. Therefore, there are many allusions to what I have been able to experience, because I had the desire to also move forward from what I know. But there was no purely personal commitment, except to begin with from my perspective, from my experience to provide the general public with a reflection much broader than a single person’s itinerary. This is also the reason why we have dealt with the subject from an international point of view and without limiting ourselves to a single handicap. We wanted a more global approach.

Real superheroes?

Jéremiasz especially wanted to get out of the extremes, especially this approach that consists of making disabled sports champions superheroes: “It took, to bring to light, that for the 2012 Olympics, the English created a campaign of “supermen” to present the Paralympic athletes. As if we had superhuman gifts. It worked well, so much the better. But once that’s done, what do we do? And most importantly, make us look like superheroes, okay. But how do we explain that sometimes it’s harder for us to find a job or go shopping than it is to get a gold medal. So yes, we can be high level athletes, who can deliver incredible performances, but we are also excluded who cannot go to certain places with their children because they can refuse us entry because they are not suitable. We can arrive at a nightclub with friends and not be able to get in. I can give you a billion examples as I am lucky enough to have a rather privileged life because of my low profile, so imagine for mere mortals?

I can tell you that behind every Paralympic champion is his share of neuroses and suffering, just like every human being.

Michael Jeremiasz

And the 2012 Paralympic champion concluded:When we perform astonishingly, it must be said, but not because we are handicapped, but because the performance is insane. Our daily life is not as beautiful as you would like to see it. Our daily lives are not about winning a medal and showing incredible courage to recover from a terrible life accident. What defines us is that we have not sublimated in some way what happened to us. I can tell you that behind every Paralympic champion is his share of neuroses and suffering, just like every human being. They are not superheroes. They are just people who have worked very hard to succeed. Otherwise they are just like you, they may have problems with their couple or with their children. Until we succeed in making it clear to people that we should value our sports performance for what it is, namely a sports performance. The rest of our lives are a banality, apart from the obstacles we face and our handicap. And if you are not responsible for what happens to us, but you can certainly make our daily life much more pleasant and convenient. For me that’s the problem.That deserves even more than a 1h37 documentary, even if it is already a beautiful gateway.