Sports Soldiers: They Run a Triathlon to Heal War Wounds

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Wounded in the wars of the French army, they found an outlet for their psychological suffering through sport. Eight of them have taken on a crazy challenge with the Terre Fraternité association: a 24-hour triathlon.

On the terrace of a bar, on the outskirts of Toulouse. A motorbike passes very close, backfire. Brice puts his mint diabolo on the table: “The sound of an engine, a helicopter, my son crackling fireworks… It evokes memories. †

Brian is 39 years old. On August 18, 2008, he was scouting with the International Assistance and Security Force in the Uzbin Valley, Afghanistan, when nearly 150 Taliban pincers took them away. The ambush of Uzbin left enormous trauma and 10 dead and 21 wounded in the ranks of the French army, including eight soldiers of the 8th RPIMa of Castres to which Brice belonged. “I lost 10 brothers in arms, I picked them up… It calms down. It’s war, it’s not clean, it’s not beautiful, and you have to live with it. †

So, Brice has been attending for 14 years. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. After Afghanistan he clings to the army, but ‘all it takes is a grain of sand. We see the dead in Mali, we take a blow, then another and after a while we don’t want to work anymore. And then the psychiatrist says stop, we stop. He has been on long-term leave since 2020. There are ups and downs, tantrums that explode for no reason, sleepless nights spent “on Twitter watching videos of corpses” when the war in Ukraine broke out, and “the frustration of thinking we’re not using anything. But amid the torment, islands of solace may appear, and Brice, like many others, reaches them through sport.

24 hours triathlon

This Friday he will leave Fontainebleau with eight other wounded and an officer of the Cabat (Army Wounded Aid Cell) for a 24-hour triathlon, in relay, which will take them to the quay André Citroën, in Paris.

The majority of the team suffers from post-traumatic stress; others were physically injured in operations, such as this 22-year-old soldier paralyzed after jumping on a mine in Mali. “The mental strength of these guys is impressive,” admires Brice, who says he “put things into perspective” when he saw them: “Me, I have my two arms and my two legs; my paraplegic colleague, he was still doing a 50m freestyle swim only with his arms and a buoy around his waist. That’s what struck me, which made me want to take on this challenge. There are young people who are suffering, who have gone to Mali or elsewhere for France, they come back and their lives are ruined. But they keep smiling, to give themselves the means to move forward, to have projects. †

For example, one of the team members will focus on participating in the Olympic Games in 2024 or 2028. Tony Estanguet, the boss of the Olympic Games in Paris, should be present on André Citroën’s platform when the triathlon arrives.

“When we’re between us, we forget our injury”

Brice learned it: “You can rebuild yourself by exercising. He hesitated a little before enrolling in one of the many courses organized by the Cabat or the CNSD (National Center for Defense Sports) in Fontainebleau. He “wondered what he was doing there when he first sat on the train. “But I did well, I know that.” †

Today he speaks of “family” to describe the bonds that unite him with the other members of the group. “When we are between us, we forget our injury. Nobody talks about it, everyone goes to bed, even on disabilities, there is no taboo. We’re in our bubble and that’s really good for us. All sports are suitable, so no one is sidelined. †

The Paris triathlon is his idea, born after the cancellation, because of the Covid, of the Marine Corps Trials in the United States. An event that brings together wounded soldiers from different countries. “I was completely absorbed in it, it allowed me to think about something else, to evacuate. “For the first edition, which asks for others, he has already managed to unite around the project, from judo champion godmother Margot Pinot to Thibaud Flament from the Stade Toulousain or cyclist Rémi Cavagna.

Recently, an auction (with Stadium and TFC jerseys in particular) has been organized: all funds will be donated to the Terre Fraternité association, which helps the wounded in the army. At the end of his leave, Brice isn’t quite sure what he’s going to do, but he’s sure of one thing: “It will be with the injured. †

To follow or support the triathlon: Instagram: 24h_de_triathlon_blesses_adt
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