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The challenge of the Canadian title is serious, but we can still feel the good-natured atmosphere there and the pleasure of the athletes and their entourage to meet in tournaments.

The competition will take place during the Défi sportif AlterGo, Canada’s largest event bringing together athletes with functional disabilities, which will take place in Montreal until May 1.

After two years in virtual mode, it is also a return to face-to-face for the Défi sportif. Despite the environmental happiness, we cannot yet speak of back to normal because there are still sanitary measures that complicate the organization, but also because we observe a certain sporting failure.

In 2019, the last year that the Défi sportif AlterGo took place face-to-face, more than 8,000 para-athletes took part. This year it is half that. About 4,000 participants came to the races in Montreal and Longueuil.

Jérémie Brisebois, event director at Défi sportif AlterGo, puts these figures into perspective.

We had no idea what the answer would be, she told Radio-Canada Sports. We are very happy with people and happy with different events. We still have seven types of leagues and it’s not bad in our averages. We have also made choices. By holding competitions in schools, we expected to have fewer people in person. We’re happy with our 4000. We can’t wait to get back to 8000. But for a comeback, it’s good to go with a little less.

The Défi sportif AlterGo is representative of participation in para sports in general. Team sports, such as rugby and wheelchair basketball or football electric chairare particularly affected by the drop-out from sport, which has accelerated in the past two years.

A wheelchair basketball match during the 39th Défi sportif AlterGo.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Josie-Anne Taillon

According to Anne-Renée Thibault, general manager of Parasports Quebec, about a third of paraathletes have not renewed their club membership since the start of the pandemic.

The reasons for this slow return to para sports are the same as for other sports.

Access to branches was complicated, Anne-Renée Thibault recalls. After a while, if you haven’t practiced your sport, it gets out of your routine. In some sports it was necessary to be more vigilant, as the clientele is even more vulnerable. Waiting times and precautions have been extended. It puts more emphasis on quitting.

However, it should be noted that several athletes returned with great enthusiasm. This is the case of Lionel Tamoki, a 19-year-old wheelchair basketball player.

A wheelchair basketball player throws a ball at the basket.

Lionel Tamokic

Photo: Courtesy of Lionel Tamoki

Some of his teammates are not back, but there was no question of him giving up his passion.

I sat in my desk chair and waited for the email that said “We’re practicing again”he said.

His goal is to make the Canadian team. He was also invited to the selection camp.

He acknowledges that the pandemic has probably lost him for a year or two.

At the start of COVID, we were supposed to have a tournament with Team Quebec, but that was cancelled. The new players, we didn’t have time to prove ourselves, we couldn’t be invited to the selection camp precisely because they had nothing to base us on. If I had gone to that tournament, I would have had the chance to make it to Team Canada sooner.

A quote from Lionel Tamoki, wheelchair basketball player

Practices and tournaments have resumed in recent months and are going at an insane pace. Lionel Tamoki isn’t going to complain about it, but laughs to admit that he’s a little lost in his schedule.

In March there wasn’t a weekend that I didn’t have tournaments or training camps, I couldn’t work for five weeks. I was like: tournament, tournament, training camp, tournament, but I’m not complaining.

The problem is not just a matter of unsubscribing, but also of new memberships.

In any sport, there are always people who come naturally out of it, says the general manager of Parasports Quebec. But normally people come in too.

In wheelchair basketball, in particular, the lack of new players is acute.

I think of mini basketball, at 18 you don’t play mini anymore, you go to a higher category, adds the general manager. Young people have been getting older despite the pandemic, but no one has gotten into the system. We see that the teams have really declined.

Much is at stake as wheelchair basketball could be withdrawn from the Quebec Games if the pool of players under 18 is not large enough to form the required number of teams.

We are looking for a way to overcome this because the stakes are highadmits Mrs. Thibault.

We really don’t want to be banned from the Quebec Games because eligible young people want to go.

A quote from Anne-Renee Thibault, General Manager of Parasports Quebec

In solution mode

Recruiting new athletes has been difficult in the past two years. It is often necessary to tailor the approach to the functional limitation of the person.

With the Beyond the Limits program we go to rehabilitation centers, says Anne-Renée Thibault. When someone has a new condition, I think it is important to know quickly that there is a good range of services (in parasport). It’s not perfect, but there are possibilities. And that’s one of the most unfortunate things, it’s that we couldn’t go to people and give them hope or a new purpose.

Lionel Tamoki’s first contact with wheelchair basketball came about through a chance encounter.

fan de basket. En secondaire1, je revenais de mes cours avec mon ballon et je driblais dans la rue et, du coup, il y a MarcAntoineDucharme, qui est le coach de l’équipe féminine canadienne, et qui m’a vu et qui m’a dit : \”Je travaille dans le domaine et est-ce que ça t’intéresserait de venir jouer?\””,”text”:”J’ai toujours été un fan de basket. En secondaire1, je revenais de mes cours avec mon ballon et je driblais dans la rue et, du coup, il y a MarcAntoineDucharme, qui est le coach de l’équipe féminine canadienne, et qui m’a vu et qui m’a dit : \”Je travaille dans le domaine et est-ce que ça t’intéresserait de venir jouer?\””}}”>I’ve always been one fan of basketball. In secondary 1 I came back from my lessons with my ball and I was dribbling in the street and suddenly there is Marc Antoine Ducharme, who is the coach of the Canadian women’s team, and who saw me and who said to me, “I work in the field and are you interested in coming to play?

Three wheelchair basketball players on a court.

Lionel Tamoki (with the ball)

Photo: Courtesy of Lionel Tamoki

It is finally two years later that he will learn wheelchair basketball after realizing that his disability did not allow him to be part of his school’s standing basketball team. The coach had contact with parasport and that was the spark plug.

I was instantly hooked and I expected it, he recalls. I knew I’d like it, it’s basketball! And I have the chance to get strong.

Parasports Quebec was unable to demonstrate in rehabilitation centers during the pandemic and had to find other solutions. She turned to health professionals by training and educating them on para sports so that they become their transmission belt.

An initiative that is bearing fruit.

We opened doors to centers that didn’t really know us, admits the general manager. We will be able to meet more people in more regions.

Both Parasports Québec and Défi sportif AlterGo do not have a target to return to the participation figures for 2019. The leaders rather go from day to day as the pandemic is not over yet, as is the unpredictability that comes with the.

However, the reflection is in full swing. One of the solutions: offer more activities during the summer period, when there is often a rest period in COVID-19. Historically, our sports have been winter or indoor sports. We’re trying to work on itemphasizes Anne-Renee Thibault.

When we think of mini-basketball, we think, for example, of an annual end-of-summer championship. A kind of Quebec Cup to bring young people together. And we’ll try to offer it outside or play three-on-three. You have to be creative and not get discouraged and just wait to do what you were doing before.

A quote from Anne-Renee Thibault, General Manager of Parasports Quebec

The situation may give rise to interesting initiatives. The lack of players in a level forces teams to come together, such as during the last Canadian wheelchair basketball championships that took place in Montreal in mid-April, where Manitoba and New Brunswick joined forces.

There is a good relationship between the regions and the provinces because they want to play. That would not have happened in a normal year.launches with a grin Anne-Renée Thibault.

After two years in virtual mode, Lionel Tamoki is happy to participate again in the Défi sportif AlterGo, a tournament he loves.

The AlterGo Challenge has more of a fun, festive side. Everyone is here. You’re going to play against teams you’ve never played against, or you’re going to play with people you’ve never played on your team, it’s a change.

The organizers of Défi sportif and Parasports Québec therefore have the mission to attract new paraathletes in the coming months.

However, they can count on enthusiasts like Lionel Tamoki who don’t want to be defeated by COVID.

Sometimes I say to myself, “If I’d practiced more, I’d be better, I wouldn’t have missed a shot like that. I’ll be better on defense.” But I tell myself I can’t give up if I want to achieve what I told myself I wanted to achieve. I may moan for 30 seconds but life goes on and I have no choice but to move forward in life.

A quote from Lionel Tamoki, wheelchair basketball player

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