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Tokyo 2021: amputated legs after the attacks in Brussels, Béatrice de Lavalette is back in the saddle


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Survivor of the attacks in Brussels in 2016, the Franco-American Béatrice de Lavalette participates in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. With both legs amputated, this young woman, whose life was shattered by terrorism, regained confidence through sport.

Franco-American Béatrice de Lavalette participates, Thursday, August 26, in the dressage events in equestrianism at the Tokyo Paralympic Games under the American colors. Survivor of the attacks in Brussels, the young 22-year-old champion was able to rebuild herself thanks to her love of horses.

“Everything has turned dark”

On March 22, 2016, she was at Brussels airport. She is about to take a flight to the United States to find her family, when a bomb explodes within two meters of her. “I was on the phone talking to my brother and listening to music. I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on around me,” she described to CNN. “The only thing I remember next was that everything got very dark.”

“I remember looking around and understanding exactly what had just happened. And I said to myself: ‘I can’t believe what just happened'”, says the young woman, who was 17 at the time. Amidst the chaos and smoke, she hears the cries of those calling for help. First aid arrives to extinguish the flames surrounding his body. The teenager is seriously burned and injured. Placed in an artificial coma, Béatrice de Lavalette had to undergo about ten operations. Both of her legs are amputated below the knees. “My life exploded at the same time as this attack. At that time, my life was never the same again”, she summed up to France Info.

Get back in the saddle

Waking up is painful. Béatrice de Lavalette has lost all her bearings, but she is alive. No question of giving up. A few months after the explosion, she received a visit from the American ambassador in Belgium. They then start talking about the Olympic Games in Rio. “She told me that they were taking place at the same time and that it would be great for me to be in Tokyo for the next ones,” Béatrice de Lavalette told CNN. “But I didn’t think about it more than that.”

However, the survivor, who was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and who lived in France for 14 years, is an accomplished sportswoman. She has been riding horses since the age of 3. A passion that has not left her despite her handicap: “I wanted to resume my normal life and that meant riding every day.”

The young woman clings and has to readjust for several months. His body is no longer the same. “I had lost all the muscle mass I had. I had to relearn how to ride a horse without balance and without legs. Keeping balance is the hardest thing to do. For a long time, when I was riding, I had to be surrounded to make sure that I did not slip off the horse, “she described to France Info.

Bring back a medal from Japan

She moves to California and trains more than ever. With his new horse, Clarc, the efforts are paying off. Last July, she was finally selected to participate in the Tokyo Games. “It was really surreal. I knew it was going to happen because I had worked hard and it had given the necessary results to make it into the team. But hearing it and knowing it was official was an incredible moment,” she told CNN.

In Japan, the rider hopes at least to bring back a medal, as she told France Info: “If it is gold, it will be even better of course. A medal for my first Games would be incredible. It would be the most beautiful. victories after such a fight. ” At 22, his career has only just begun. She also plans to transform a ranch into a center for handicapped riders and to launch a company of adapted sports equipment.

Despite the trauma, Béatrice de Lavalette was able to transform the horror into an incredible force. A year after the attack, she had the courage to look at the images with her parents: “To see that I was literally right next to the guy (Editor’s note: the terrorist) and that a few moments after the bomb exploded me. made me realize how lucky I am. It is a blessing in disguise as well as being kind of a nightmare. “

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