For his first Paralympic Games, Dimitri Pavadé got back to work. He has only one thing in mind: to go for the silver medal in Tokyo. Yes, silver because Paralympic gold is still far, too far ahead according to him. “Given the opponent in front … he is a yard in front of everyone”, he justifies. “It“is the German Markus Rehm, who last June improved his own world record by 14 centimeters (T64) by falling to 8.62 m.
>> Find the numbers of the program “Unbreakable”, devoted to 12 athletes who will represent France at the Paralympic Games, in replay on franceinfo.fr
After exploding the French record in 2019 and to have been crowned vice-world champion three months later, Dimitri Pavadé is now looking towards Tokyo. Returning to France with a charm around his neck would be an accomplishment for him and a way to engrave his name in the history of disabled athletics. And above all, this medal would allow him “to be recognized as a full-fledged high level athlete”, he hopes.
This athletic career, Dimitri had never imagined. “I had never even seen the Olympic or Paralympic Games on TV. I was not interested in sport anyway,” he remembers. However, an accident will turn his life upside down. In 2007, when he had just completed his mechanical BEP, he was hired as an interim dock worker in the town of Port in Reunion. “From a very young age, I wanted to do this job, to work on the docks, in the port, to be in contact with the boats.” But the childhood dream comes to an abrupt end. Just a few days after starting this new job, Dimitri suffered an accident at work.
“I was talking to the driver of a forklift truck. When he started his machine, he didn’t see me and did his maneuver. He hit me, I fell.” His right leg is then pulled under one of the wheels of the machine. “I didn’t have any feeling in my legs anymore. For a short time, I thought I had become a paraplegic.”
“I immediately understood that my leg was unrecoverable.”Dimitri Pavadé, long jump specialist
to franceinfo: sport
Months of suffering then began for the Réunionese. The pains are so intense that very quickly, he admits the inevitable. “The injury was too serious for my leg to be saved and I was in great pain. So I asked for the amputation several times,” says the athlete.
After three months spent in the hospital without being able to walk, Dimitri, impatient and determined, wants to end these days stuck in his bed. No sooner do they speak to him about prosthesis than the young man already wants to put it on and go for a run. “I wanted to start rehabilitation very early because my goal was to be able to walk quickly, without a walker or crutches”, he recalls.
However, his determination was not sufficient to erase the consequences of the long months of hospitalization all at once. “I started to put my foot on the ground after four months and despite the pain, I clenched my teeth and started walking again.” A few steps synonymous with rebirth. “Everything I have experienced, whether it is the pain, the amputation, or the rehabilitation, has increased my determination to achieve my goals. Today, everything I accomplish is a victory for me”, says the Reunionese.
Years later, a meeting will change her life. While in training to become a prosthetic technician, he meets his future boss who promises to hire him once he has obtained his diploma in Toulouse. And it is even he who will push him towards athletics. Three months after his hiring, Dimitri Pavadé begins to tread the tracks.
A first for him. “For me, starting to run again was great. I was mixed with the able-bodied, and I saw that I was doing well. And then, five months later, I was told that I was going to participate in a big meeting, at the Charléty Stadium in Paris “, he recounts. His boss was right and success was not long in coming. The Reunionese returns with two medals around his neck, one in gold in the javelin and one in silver in the high jump. “I didn’t realize what I had just done”, recalls Dimitri Pavadé.
His good results allowed him to be spotted by the French team, which he joined in selection in 2017. After having touched everything, he specialized in the long jump. Here again, the success is immediate and dazzling. In 2019, he became French champion in the discipline and improved the national record to 7.25 m (he was at 7.20 m). “During the jump, I saw the numbers scroll and I see that I pass the 7 meters. This moment meant a lot to me …, he confides, tears in his eyes, overcome with emotion. This moment was magnificent, I couldn’t believe it. I had broken the French record in one jump and I had my ticket to Tokyo. “
Then follow the title of vice-world champion three months later and a new record for France (7.39 m) in 2020. A meteoric progression that allows him today to dream even bigger. “I’m aiming for 8 meters in Tokyo. It’s a personal dream, even more so if you take into account my small size (it is 1.59 m). My center of gravity being lower, going to 8 meters is a bit crazy, but for me it would be a huge satisfaction to achieve this performance at the Games “, he admits.
If his success was rapid, he never imagined making a career or becoming a top athlete right away. It took him until his qualification for the World Championships in 2019 to really realize his potential. “I took a step forward mentally because I was going to go to an international competition. At that moment, I said to myself that what I had achieved was really not bad”, testifies Dimitri Pavadé.
Now ready to go get a medal in Tokyo, he has no regrets about his past life and savored every moment. “Thanks to sport, I live something crazy! If I were offered to get my leg back, I would refuse because I have a great life. I love my life too much today to go back.” Surely not backtracking, but rather a big leap forward in Tokyo to continue its beautiful story.
1 thought on “Paralympic Games – A manga, an athlete’s life: Dimitri Pavadé, from Reunion docks to jumping records – Franceinfo”
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