Paratriathlon: Thibaut Rigaudeau, the strength of human bonding

Friday, 27 august 2021

At the age of 30, Thibaut Rigaudeau, supported by the Banque Populaire Foundation, will be competing in the parathriathlon event in Tokyo: a feat for this athlete from the Vendée region who first discovered this sporting discipline in 2018.

Thibaut Rigaudeau played soccer with the French blind soccer team until the age of 18. But he suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disorder that causes vision loss that worsens over time. This condition forced him to give up a great many activities such as cycling… but he didn’t want to give up sport entirely. He first turned to blind soccer and played for the French team. Then, in 2018, when he was studying physical therapy for the visually impaired, he decided to try his hand at the triathlon… a decision that proved successful considering that he was invited by the French Federation to join the national parathriathlon team.

A decisive encounter 

He would make a decisive encounter on the team. The Triathlon Federation asked Cyril Viennot, a seasoned triathlete (1995 world champion in long distance running, winner of several ironman races) to be his guide. This was a great opportunity for Thibaut Rigaudeau, who was a newcomer to the triathlon but one showing great promise. Cyril Viennot was to become a guide in every sense of the word, both initiating Thibaut in this discipline while simultaneously guiding him physically in the competitions. The two men are tied together in the swimming and running events while in the cycling leg of the competition, they ride a tandem bicycle.
The parathriathlon consists of a 750m swim, a 20km cycling race, and a 5km run. The two men got better acquainted and worked together to become a highly successful duo. In July 2019, they finished 3rd in their first World Cup competition in Canada. They would subsequently rank 8th in the European Championships. Thibaut would continue his rapid ascent with Cyril Viennot until they won their place in Tokyo, where they’ll be competing in the PTVI (Paratriathlon visually impaired) category on Saturday.

Photo credit: CPSF