Nordic skiing for the French Paralympic Team and for all disabled people whatever their impairments

Monday, 7 march 2022

Cross-country skiing, which made its paralympic debut in the 1976 games in Örnsköldsvik (Sweden), is a discipline open to competitors with physical and visual impairments.

Groupe BPCE and its companies are partners of the French Paralympic Team. In Beijing, the Nordic cross-country skiing team will be led by Benjamin Daviet, the flag bearer of the French delegation, who will be competing in the cross-country skiing and biathlon events alongside Anthony Chalençon with his guides Brice Ottonello and Alexandre Pouyé.

The Paralympic cross-country skiing events are divided into different categories:

  • Sitting category: 18km for men and 12km for women.
  • Standing and visually impaired category: 20km Classic for men and 15km Classic for women.
  • Free sprint category: men and women (the athletes compete directly after the qualifications stage; competitors’ starts are staggered, and the first to cross the finish line is declared the winner).
  • Standing and visually impaired category: 10km free event for men and women.

Cross-country skiing, a sport accessible to all athletes irrespective of their disability

Apart from the high-level athletes in the French Paralympic Team, we asked Bernard Jaillet, head of the para-Nordic skiing section of the La Feclaz skiing club, who could practice this discipline. His answer was encouraging.

“We welcome people with all sorts of disabilities,” explains Bernard Jaillet. “Including people in wheelchairs who can be given sleds mounted on cross-country skis with a seat fixed in height. The cross-country skiers use their arms to move forward on the snow. Our volunteers can drag the sleds over the bumps to enable the skiers to enjoy the downhill ride.

But we also welcome people suffering from hemiplegia who can practice cross-country skiing standing up. We make them work on alternate legs before adopting a skating motion if they can, focusing on their stronger foot. This approach enables everyone to develop their abilities. And even for people in wheelchairs, whose movements may be limited, cross-country skiing allows them to learn new gestures. By recreating links between muscles and nerves, they recover abilities they wouldn’t have developed otherwise… notably by using different muscles to complete movements they don’t generally make in everyday life.

Finally, people who are visually impaired represent the 3rd group capable of practicing Nordic skiing. This disability ranges from the visually impaired to the blind. People with partial vision can follow one of the club’s volunteers while blind people are guided by means of spoken directions. Guides use a microphone connected to a loudspeaker on their backs to direct the skier by giving the pace for the leg movements and telling them which way to turn. It’s a two-person job: the specially trained guide and the skier. The quality necessary to do all these activities is first and foremost… a positive attitude!”

Everyone behind the French Paralympic Team!