Thousands of young athletes with functional limitations from all over the world get active thanks to Défi sportif AlterGo. Hundreds of them were present at Jarry Park on Friday morning for the launch of the 40th edition of the Challenge. In the space of four decades, the event has gone from neglected secret to national treasure.

“To see the package of people that there are here, I think that this secret is not really a secret anymore”, launched Dean Bergeron, after the opening ceremony.

It was cold in the middle of Jarry Park, behind the IGA stadium, for the launch of the mini-marathon. The wind was there, but the heat generated by these hundreds of young athletes gathered almost made you forget this pre-winter temperature.

Bergeron, an 11-time Paralympic Games medalist in track and field, also took part in the Challenge when his life changed after an accident caused in a hockey fight.

“There’s still a long way to go,” Bergeron concedes. Nevertheless, the one started 40 years ago is already making a huge difference: “We must take the example of the Challenge. »

Quebec is the only place in Canada where there is this kind of event for disabled athletes. Bergeron hopes to see more such initiatives from coast to coast: “It has to happen again elsewhere in Canada. It’s such a beautiful model. »

Maxime Gagnon, President and CEO of AlterGo, sums up the Challenge in one word: “perseverance”. “I would like us to be even better known, he admits, but there is more and more room for people with functional limitations. With over 6,000 athletes and 27 countries involved, the Challenge remains the benchmark for disabled sport: “We are often said to be a hidden treasure. »

The idea of ​​the Challenge is also to create mini-challenges in the regions, to reach as many athletes, parents and teachers as possible. At the launch, students from 28 schools were present, including Gatineau, Repentigny and Quebec. “We are trying to equip them […] to precisely help the regions to get their young people moving and to lead them, ultimately, to surpass themselves in sport,” explained Mr. Gagnon.

Despite wearing toques and mittens, the young people were delighted to be present for the launch of this 40th edition. Everyone had their hearts set on celebrating. Spiderman and Wonder Woman were even there. The buses followed one another and young people with pink, green and blue bibs invaded Villeray Park.

Amid the persistent music and the athletes losing their place, one of the spokespersons for the Challenge, diver Lysanne Richard, was overwhelmed by the number of tasks to be done before the official start of the race.

“It’s so much fun,” she exclaimed after addressing the crowd. They had such bright eyes. They are creating the best memories of their lives right now. »

Although she is not a disabled athlete, Lysanne Richard accepted the invitation of the organizers without hesitation: “We all share a common passion. These are athletes who surpass themselves on a daily basis and it is an honor for me to attend this event. »

“Sport is unifying,” she summed up. Better still, “it’s the best way to experience strong emotions and to know yourself differently. It’s clearly a way to build yourself.”

The Défi sportif AlterGo will continue until April 30.