From April 24th to April 30th, the 24th edition of Défi sportif AlterGo's takes place in Montreal. This multisport event brings together 6700 athletes, with all types of disabilities together to participate in sport competitions at all different levels - school, development, or elite. It is unique in the world that athletes of all levels and disabilities are united through this one event!
Confession here: I worked with this magical event for 6 years, so I am not objective in my enthusiasm about this unique opportunity.
This year, I am in the front row all week, volunteering at the opening ceremonies. I will watch with tears of joy in my eyes, as the thousands of school age athletes enter the gym at Claude-Robillard Sports Center in Montreal for their full day of competition!
At Défi, our school athletes are warmly welcomed – they are celebrated as local celebrities. Every morning of the event, they make their entrance with their school or rehabilitation center, greeted by a fanfare of hundreds of volunteers who high-five them. it is their Olympics or Paralympics! These young athletes are beautiful to watch - some are excited, others a little overwhelmed by all this energy focused on them ... and then there are those who run for a "high five", other little ones who look at you a little embarrassed, and then you have those big teens with attitude (Because even though you have a disability, you are still a teenager)!
At Défi sportif AlterGo, all skills and stages of development are encouraged at school level. Some events are adapted, others not. In ball hockey and basketball, for example, you can't really see the difference with regular competitions. In volleyball, on the other hand, where walking children and wheelchair-using children share the field, a very large and light balloon ball is used instead of the traditional ball that would move faster.
The slogan of Défi sportif AlterGo is 5000 victories, 5000 stories. 5000 for the number of athletes, but you will appreciate that the event is victim of its own success and this year the popularity of the event and that its slogan was surpassed to welcome over 6000 athletes this year! In the 7 years that I have been a part of, I have heard many beautiful stories... young people and youngsters all over Quebec, who move, and for whom the Défi sportif ignited their passion for sport and the energy that an event like this can bring. I had this same experience, as I found the event to be a great opportunity for my own pathway (read my story here)!
A few years ago, I met Wilfredo at the Défi sportif AlterGo. He participated with the Victor-Doré school (which I will write about soon, they are a school that is demonstrating inclusive physical literacy everyday). One day I bought a handbike for the Loto-Québec Sports Trials Zone (because yes, at the Défi sportif, you can try adapted sport for FREE). Maxime Gagnon, director of the Défi sportif, who then coached Wilfredo sledge hockey, told me: "Wilfredo would like to try the handbike and borrow it to ride this summer! "
And that's where my friendship with Wilfredo started! At Défi sportif, we went out and Wil was able to try the bike. The smile on his face was definitely worth every effort that had been working on the Trial zone. At one point, we stopped to chat Maxime, Wilfredo's dad and me... Wilfredo, impatient, interrupted us and said: "Well, can I start cycling again now?" Since then, Wilfredo, who was already quite active, goes on his handbike all summer long, in addition to playing sledge hockey in the winter! I'm glad to meet him every Saturday at the arena now!
This story is one of many, because Défi sportif AlterGo has a huge impact on the athletes participating at the school level, not only during the event's week but also throughout the year! The Défi sportif AlterGo is really the culmination of inclusive physical literacy! There should certainly be more events like this in Canada!
Do not forget to visit the Inclusive physical literacy Facebook page to see our coverage of the event!