In Vichy, until June 10, the Global Games are held, the equivalent of the World Games for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
On the outskirts of the CREPS athletics field in Vichy, Tuesday June 6, it is impossible to miss Marc Truffaut. With his imposing stature and his cap of the FFSA (French Federation of adapted sport, serving people with mental and / or psychic disabilities), he lacks nothing of the shot put event of the triathlon category II2 (impairment function in addition to an intellectual disability), in which Nicolas Virapin competes. Like more than 1,000 athletes from 80 different nations, the Frenchman is taking part in the sixth edition of the Global Games, which runs until June 10. The boss of adapted sport slips some advice in his ear between two jets. Recommendations that pay off since the athlete improves his mark shortly after to take the lead in the rankings.
>> To read also: Enthusiastic public, tough competition… In Vichy, the Global Games highlight the performance of athletes with intellectual disabilities
A true enthusiast and defender of “his” athletes with intellectual disabilities, the 50-year-old man steps away from the slopes for a few moments to answer questions from franceinfo: sport.
franceinfo: sport: What does it mean to organize the Global Games in France for the first time since their creation in 2004?
Marc Truffault: Let’s say we go to another stage. For many years, we have organized several world and European championships, the European Games in 2018… France is one of the leading countries in terms of adapted sport. The Global Games are an opportunity to get people talking about us and, above all, about athletes. The little extra is this good timing, a year before the Paris Games. It is also a way for the general public to discover that there is also adapted sport at the Paralympic Games, even if it is only about 130 athletes out of the 4,400 in total.
After the scandal at the Sydney Games in 2000 where a few able-bodied competitors had pretended to suffer from a disability, several events were reinstated in London in 2012 (athletics, swimming and table tennis) at the Summer Games. But adapted sport still has no place at the Winter Games…
Indeed, the International Ski Federation did not wish to promote the development of sport adapted to the Winter Games and we regret this.
Testimonials from athletes with Down syndrome have also come out, the latter asking to be able to participate in the Paralympic Games – which is not currently the case…
Yes, it’s true. With the creation of class II2 in 2019, there is beginning to be recognition of people with Down syndrome. This is in keeping with the logic of one day integrating these athletes into the Paralympic movement.
Are we still far from it?
Yes and no. Until then in sport, we made a category of people with Down syndrome. This is not the mindset of the Paralympic movement, which does not establish a class based on a pathology. It establishes classes according to the impact of the handicap in sports practice. It makes a big difference. Having this category II2 present in numbers at the Global Games supports the fact that it is legitimate at the Paralympic Games. Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), was there for the opening ceremony and reaffirmed that there is a will to include them, clearly. The deadline remains to be determined.
We talk about this parallel with the Paralympic Games, but the Global Games have existed for almost 20 years. Does this comparison between these two competitions have a reason?
The big difference is recognition. We see that the French media come to Vichy, Japanese media too. The question is how these Global Games allow athletes around the world to be supported by their governments. In France, we are lucky to have the support of the Ministry of Sports, which has supported us since 2009 without distinction of category and Paralympic imperative. All our athletes are on the ministerial lists, have the status of high-level athlete for those who meet the criteria, but this is not the case everywhere. The European and Latin countries are in this logic, not the Anglo-Saxon countries. When you see the Australian team, the most successful in terms of adapted sport: all the athletes pay their registration to come here to Vichy, their trip, their staff… In addition, there is no cash prize [prime au résultat] on competitions. Fortunately for them, they have solid partners, actions are set up at the local level to help them finance. The idea is that the quality of the Global Games encourages governments to recognize that it is part of the family of Paralympic events.
You explain that France is one of the world leaders in adapted sport. What makes it special?
It’s simple, it is the delegation of the Ministry of Sports. It is often questioned but this delegation allows an organization – the French Federation of adapted sport (FFSA) – to be responsible for the practice. You don’t find that in other countries. If there is not someone who is there to call to order or make our voice heard, this specific practice disappears and is no longer identified. At the level of the Federation, there are sports programs ranging from motor activities to high-level sport, including youth adapted sport, competitive sport, leisure sport… There is something for everyone. . Our slogan is: “to each his own challenge”. Today, there are 1,300 adapted sport clubs for 65,000 members.
To return to the sporting level, how would you describe to spectators who cannot come to Vichy the “transformation” of these intellectually disabled athletes when delivering their performance?
Often, when we ask the spectators who come to see us: “so, what did you think of it?”, they will have the same reaction. “But what do these athletes have?” It’s recurring. It is because they see them in a situation where they are experts. If you go and talk to them, all of a sudden, you see that they will sometimes go into their own corner, they will wait for hours without saying anything… Sometimes we can have offbeat, exaggerated reactions. But often, with a bit of experience, I realize that this is going to be a defensive position on their part.
There is a great athlete of French adapted sport, when someone was introduced to her, her strategy was to arrive with a book of metaphysics. A book 10 centimeters high… She had somehow managed to learn two pages by heart that she recited to counter the questions. Then, his interlocutor often moved on to something else. While doing this, no one asked him any questions. It’s a defensive situation, to give the impression that her handicap isn’t visible, that she’s like the others and to avoid getting into trouble.
Many have the same story, especially in team sports. They were all victims of school harassment. Sébastien Mengual, a tricolor athlete, talks about it on his social networks for example. When he performs, he doesn’t hesitate to bring it up again. It is a great pride for him to tell what he went through. We had to hide the handicap, the difficulties… Today, athletes manage to put them forward and make them a strength.