Lotois Matthieu Thiriet in the running for the Paralympic Games in wheelchair rugby

Lotois Matthieu Thiriet in the running for the Paralympic Games in wheelchair rugby
Lotois Matthieu Thiriet in the running for the Paralympic Games in wheelchair rugby

the essential
Orthoptist in Cahors, Matthieu Thiriet, left quadriplegic after a diving accident, practices wheelchair rugby. He will represent France at the Paralympic Games this summer in Paris.

It was a big day at the Barguelonne-en-Quercy school group, this Thursday, June 13, where we received a distinguished visitor. The students had decorated the room nicely, wrapped gifts, rehearsed songs and their dance from the Games, and honed their questions.

The school director Stéphanie Martin and her educational team had in fact invited the wheelchair rugby champion Matthieu Thiriet, member of the Stade Toulousain Handisport Rugby (STRH) since 2012, and selected for the French wheelchair rugby team since 2017. Two representatives from the Lot Disabled Sports Committee, Alexandra and Dany, who had led an action to raise awareness of disabled sports in the morning, gave weight to this meeting.

“Learn to live normally again”

Matthieu Thiriet is well known to the Lotois since he is an orthoptist at the Quercy clinic, part-time to free up time for training, courses and competitions. From August 28 to September 8, he will participate in the Paralympic Games in Paris. Already in 2021, the Toulouse resident had experienced the great adventure of the Tokyo Paralympic Games with the Blues team which placed 6th. “It was in the middle of the Covid crisis,” he remembers, “without spectators. It was a special atmosphere! » Will follow two European championship titles in 2022 and 2023, and a 6th place in the world championship in 2022.

This list was enough to arouse the interest of his young audience who subjected him to a barrage of questions relating in particular to his disability. The high-level athlete explained that he became quadriplegic in 2011, at the age of 22, after a diving accident, with damage to all four limbs.

“Wheelchair rugby makes me forget my condition and my disability”

Determined to live happily, he decides to fight and turns to sport. “I preferred a team sport, for team spirit, with players in the same situation as me. I discovered wheelchair rugby during a disabled sports day in Toulouse. It’s a completely invented, very physical contact sport, called ”murder ball” across the Atlantic; a mix between rugby, American football, basketball and hockey. Two teams of four players compete on a basketball court with a light, round ball. »

There was much discussion about the custom-made sports chair that Matthieu Thiriet had brought, a chair designed to move faster, be stable, and equipped with safety features to prevent the player from falling.

But how to get back up after such an accident in life? “At the beginning, it’s hard,” admits the athlete. We had to re-educate ourselves, become independent, relearn how to live normally. My entourage supported me a lot. If I hadn’t had this accident, I wouldn’t have played sports or traveled. I practice a unique discipline, which gives me the strength necessary to push the chair, make transfers and movements. Sharing our experiences with my teammates helped me physically and morally. Suddenly I forget everything, even my condition and my disability. Wheelchair rugby completely frees me from all my problems. »

Between kindness and pity

The Stade Toulouse disabled rugby stadium has opened a social section which organizes interventions in schools and businesses, to promote inclusion through work or sport, and to provide another perspective on disability.

“Some looks are benevolent, others full of pity,” confides Matthieu Thiriet to his young audience. For this fighter with a mental steel, being able to participate in the Paralympic Games “is just incredible. All sports are represented, which is very appealing. »
The objective is clear for the reigning double European champion: to win a nice medal in Paris this summer.

A brilliant track record

As soon as he joined the French team in 2017, Matthieu Thiriet participated in the European wheelchair rugby championship where the Blues won bronze. In 2018, it was the world championship in Sydney and a 5th place. In 2019, the team won bronze at the European Championship, then in 2021 (one year after the initial date due to Covid), it was the Tokyo Paralympic Games (6th place). In 2022 and 2023, the Blues are crowned European champions and place 6th in 2022 at the Birmingham World Games. In October 2023, in Paris, they will finish 4th in the discipline during the international cup. All that’s missing is a Paralympic medal from this brilliant list.

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