Making sport inclusive: the traces of these associative actors

“If you swim 3.8 km, you have time to ask yourself existential questions.” Vivien Fontaine is deputy director of the association Pupilles de l’Enseignement Public 06 (PEP06). In 2019, while participating in the Iron Man in Nice, he realized that he was defending the integration of people with disabilities, values ​​of inclusion that he did not put into practice. †I realized that words had to be turned into deeds.”

He therefore campaigns forno one left, regardless of their profile or disability”, being denied the right to participate in a major sporting event such as a triathlon. To ensure that no one is left at the starting line, he calls on the clubs to take an interest in individuals, with their particularities, their weaknesses, to adapt the practice to the abilities of each.

1% of clubs guarantee the care of people with disabilities

According to a 2016 survey, 87% of French people with disabilities consider it important to exercise.

Although sport is an important factor for social inclusion, 77% of respondents said they exercised alone. It is not without reason that 26% of them have seen their registration rejected by a club. The study finds that out of 270,000 French facilities, only 1% meet the necessary conditions to accommodate an athlete with a disability.

Most clubs are afraid of doing something wrong.

Figures from the Ministry of Sports identify 5,000 structures that guarantee shelter and an offer that gives people with disabilities access to adapted and quality sports. These sites are referred to in the Handiguide.

One of the reasons for this lack of openness: “Theafraid of doing wrong”. Jean-Luc Cedro is President of the Departmental Committee for Adapted Sports 06 (CDSA). †We are here to reassure, to remind that a disabled person is above all a person with a personality, a character of its own, beyond the disability.”

The individual and his pleasure at the heart of the practice

In order to raise awareness without stigmatizing and offering inclusive activities, the CDSA trains sports educators to obtain the modified sports qualification certificate. Jean-Luc Cedro explains: “You have to adjust the discipline, but the logic of the activity does not change. The concept of fun should be central. Then why not turn to competition? But above all, it is a story of discovery and sharing, it creates social bonds, it helps to get out of the medical-social environment.”

For achievement, sport is fulfillment.

In the eyes of Vivien Fontaine, sport is still too often an exclusion factor. †The mindset is this: you question the person before questioning your own structure. There is this normative framework that is imposed on individuals until they adhere to it.

One of the concepts he wants to rethink: competition. †Sports are mainly about performance. But it’s really a matter of satisfaction.” Vivien considers it necessary to reverse this mentality”reconsider the activity according to the profiles and therefore adapt the practice by offering different formats”.

The T’Cap, Nice’s first inclusive triathlon, allows everyone to participate in a major sporting event by adapting the courses to the challenges of each. Christopher GIRAUDEAU.

Everyone has their own challenge

From there, the T’Cap triathlon was born, which was held in Nice on Sunday, June 12, 2022. The goal: to get everyone to do a triathlon. Volunteers and guides offer help for people with a physical or mental disability. The distances are also adjusted.

Thus, different courses are available according to the abilities of each. The choice is huge: to swim, it can be 1 toe in the water or swim 200 meters; on the bike, it is played between a few pedal strokes and up to 12 km; before the race, the promenade can be covered over 500 meters or 6 km. †That way no one has excuses and everyone can challenge themselves at their level.”

The opportunity to share a passion between triathletes and people with physical or mental disabilities. Among the registered Cédric and Raphael. The first is the sports teacher of the second, an 18-year-old young man with autism.

Everyone is welcomed and encouraged, regardless of the performance.

Under the watchful eye of volunteers, everyone goes at their own pace. Accompanied by Cédric, Rafaël swims to a buoy installed about twenty meters away. For those who find it less comfortable, there are inflatable belts, fries and kayaks available. Once out of the water, everyone is cheered and encouraged, regardless of the performance.

For Rafael, towards the bike. †We’ll have to frame him there because he likes to go fast.” foresees his educator who taught him to pedal ten years ago. †You always have to adapt the learning method for a person with a disability. It can be through an imitation effect, or through physical support, or even directly through verbal instruction. With Rafael, all this work has been done gradually and now he is responding to what I tell him.”

Handbikes, tricycles, tandems and blue bikes are in stock so no one is left out. Highly concentrated and with an average speed of 16 km/h, the young autistic man, full of energy, eventually drives 12 km of the initially planned 6 km.

After ten years of support, Rafaël, who suffered from autism, learned to respond to verbal instructions from Cédric, his educator. It is the fruit of a long adapted pedagogical work.
Alexander Ori.

Rewarding practice and reassuring sharing

On the job side, Bertrand, his father, remembers his son’s difficult inclusion in the school system. †He was not allowed to play sports, because there were no specialized educators. Fortunately, he was entitled to the adapted summer center of the city of Nice during the holidays. But that’s up to the majority. Then it’s up to the parents. When I see events like this I tell myself that we are not alone, it is reassuring. But you have to persevere every day.”

It feels good. It gives purpose and it is worth it.

Final challenge: running. On his handicap wheelchair propelled by the strength of his arms, Benoît has just won his bet: beating his two friends. Reddened by the effort, the one who repeats a triathlon for the second time in twenty years is happy with “this spirit of sharing. It feels good. It gives a goal and it’s worth it.”

After 1 hour and 12 minutes of successive stages, Rafaël crossed the finish line. Like the others, he is entitled to his champion medal. †He really surprised me today. He did his best.” confides in his educator. When asked, the concerned director assures him: “YI had fun.”

For Jeff Bregeon, co-organizer,there are still things to improve, but it’s already a very good start. When you see all those smiles, that’s the biggest win.” Next year, the T’Cap triathlon is to be repeated.