Before the Deaflympics, the Olympics for the deaf, « the promotion of our sport will go through great performances »
Two weeks before the opening of the Deaflympics, the equivalent of the Olympics for the deaf and hard of hearing, on May 1 in Brazil, Sébastien Messager, head of deaf sport at the Handisport Federation for a year and a half, talks about the difficulties of developing deaf sports and the hopes of the French delegation.
What have been the projects carried out by the federation since your arrival in this position?
SEBASTIAN MESSENGER. Our job is to support deaf sports development projects, so that deaf athletes are recognized as top athletes, which is not the case at the moment. We come up against enormous financial constraints, because everything is done with the federation’s own funds. A first deaf sport was recently recognized by the ministry: bowling. The disciplines must meet strict criteria: many Tricolores must practice them, they must be present in a certain number of countries and France must be well ranked at the world level. This first is a strong sign because it automatically opens the high-level lists for athletes.
Can these Deaflympics help deaf sport in this direction?
Personally, I am convinced that the promotion of deaf sport will go through great performances and very competent athletes. State aid is enormous for Olympic or Paralympic sports. Our federation faces the same problems as other non-Olympic practices among hearing people. The ministry is starting to open its eyes to this, it has funded a third of the budget for these Deaflympics, otherwise we weren’t leaving.
What are the objectives of the French team for this competition?
We have not set a medal goal. With the Covid period, there were few reference competitions. We try to build a beautiful and young team. What will interest me is to show that deaf sport is a high-level sport. To show young people that there is a real life course possible, because a lot of deaf and hard of hearing people don’t even know that there are clubs and a French team. In Brazil, we will have a delegation of around sixty athletes from around ten disciplines. And with the level of our athletes, it is sure that there will be great performances.