PORTRAIT. Karine Pradier, marathon champion, puts sport at the service of the most disadvantaged in Paris

Marathon runner, Karine Pradier runs Up Sport, an association that supports disadvantaged people by offering them the opportunity to play sport in Paris.
Marathon runner, Karine Pradier runs Up Sport, an association that supports disadvantaged people by offering them the opportunity to play sport in Paris. (© Tiana Soares / news Paris)

For five years, the marathoner Karine Pradier changed careers, leaving her championship titles marathon to put its sport at the service of the most disadvantaged. She set up her association, Up Sport, in the 15th district of Paris.

The Up Sport association, Karine Pradier’s “baby”

Karine Pradier stretches gracefully on her navy blue groundsheet. The 52-year-old marathoner breathes slowly and knots her chestnut hair into a tight ponytail. Her hazel eyes are staring Laetitia Gestas, the volunteer yoga teacher. At her side, four members follow the movements of the young coach.

Silence reigns in the Cévennes gymnasium. Or almost. Karine’s cell phone rings twice. Before changing posture, the athlete cannot help but take a quick glance at his WhatsApp, an essential tool to keep in touch with the poor people whom he supports on a daily basis.

La Niçoise, now Parisian, has been running Up Sport for almost six years. “I feel like it’s my baby,” she says with a smile. The association offers running, cycling or muscle building sessions to the homeless, migrants, and isolated women. Many members live in extreme precariousness and breathe here. Some, powerless, are rejected of their asylum request.

« Sport is a tool for socialization »

“We see a lot of very complicated situations. It’s sometimes difficult to find the right distance, ”she concedes. Karine, also a mother of three children in her twenties, is involved day and night. “I can get phone calls at 11 at night. I get asked for things that I’m not supposed to handle. »Improve your French, create a CV, send an email, find an internship… Requests are pouring in. And she always responds present. Karine, however, tries to convince herself: “I can’t be everyone’s mom. « 

Karine also welcomes members without any particular social difficulty. In the yoga class at the gymnasium, even in very small groups, this diversity is already present: two women in a precarious situation attend the session alongside a business lawyer and a retiree. “Sport is a tool for socialization,” she explains. Activities and tournaments help break the ice and facilitate exchanges between different members. Strong links are created and endure. « Some members have left Paris, but we manage to keep in touch thanks to social networks », welcomes the director.

Endurance and marathon champion, precocious athlete

Karine discovered the Up Sport association in 2015. At the time, the structure was alive and well. A few months after his arrival, the former president left the ship. Karine Pradier replaces him for a tough endurance test. But she has a perfect command of long-distance races.

In 2007, after weeks of training, she won the amsterdam marathon, category over 35 years old. On the finish line, she burst into tears. Proud of her performance, she is exhausted: she has not slept all night, as before each race.

In high school, Karine was already distinguished by her athletic prowess. At 15, she was part of the reserve for the French alpine ski team. She stopped everything to devote herself to long art studies at London. The taste for sport returns to his 35 years, during a jog with a friend. She then decides to participate in the London marathons, new York and Paris.

This determination inspires in the association. “Karine has incredible dynamism. He is a person that we want to follow in all his projects, ”confides the yoga teacher.

« By supporting each other, we are stronger »

In 2004, Karine taught visual arts for four years at the French Lycée Charles-de-Gaulle in London. It was at this point that she discovered the “power of the collective”. In class, she asks her students to make a tiny drawing. By bringing together all the works, a large-scale portrait is born. “The children were fascinated because they were able to create together. At that time, I found that with the collective, we were able to do a lot of things, ”she analyzes. A collective asset that she still works on.

She finds it today during her triathlon training. “There is always a discipline where we are less good. But the athletes help each other. By supporting each other, we are stronger. She draws the parallel with her association.

The day before a sporting outing, she takes the time to call all the members, one by one, to check their presence. Most of them learned about the association through their respective reception centers or through word of mouth. If they cancel at the last moment, Karine reminds them of their duties towards the group. The activities require substantial organization and represent a certain financial cost. She does not hesitate, either, to « lecture » them about respecting the schedules and the material provided.

In the dance hall of the gymnasium, Karine observes her members and the volunteer yoga teacher. « Gachucha, try to bring your right foot in front of your knee, » she says to a member. Even though she is not leading the yoga session that day, the association director cannot help but guide others. Karine, she’s like that.

By Tiana SOARES.
In partnership with the Training and Development Center for Journalists (CFPJ).

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