• Every Thursday, "20 Minutes" welcomes an athlete who dreams of a podium at the 2024 Olympics on his Twitch show LCTC. This week, it's Alexis Hanquinquant.
  • After crushing his leg, the Norman took up triathlon and quickly performed well.
  • Despite the controversy surrounding the quality of the Seine's water, he believes that triathletes have already swum in worse conditions.

Six titles of champion of France, six titles of champion of Europe, six titles of world champion, title of Paralympic champion, knight of the Legion of Honor... Want more? In triathlon, and even elsewhere, since he was, at 24 years old champion of France full-contact, Alexis Hanquinquant won everything. However, at 37 years old, the Norman continues to race and is preparing to compete in the Games, on home soil, in a few months' time, where he will try to retain the title he won in Tokyo.

Alexis Hanquinquant took up triathlon very late, in 2015, five years after having his leg crushed on a construction site. Very strong very quickly, he has established himself as one of the faces of French sport, which he represented in New York a few days ago. For the first time, even though it was not advised by his coaches, he embarked on a marathon, which he finished in just over three hours and forty minutes. All without any specific preparation.

How is it possible to complete a marathon without preparation, with a good time on top of that?

I went to New York with no preparation, just two short races in my legs to see if I still knew how to run after my two weeks of vacation. Running a marathon with a prosthesis is a bit complicated, because the repeated impacts of running tend to do a bit of damage to the stump. That's why I had the idea of doing a semi-spo, and maybe to stop to preserve my skin. But, when I stopped three or four times during the race, I saw that it was holding up well, so I thought I might as well finish.

Why did you choose to do triathlon after having your leg amputated?

When you've just had an amputation, you tend to give up. I wanted to do the opposite, I wanted to prove to myself and to people that a piece of leg was not a big deal, that I was going to bounce back. To bounce back, I needed a big challenge, with a sport that matched my ambition, and triathlon became an obvious choice. It is a sport that requires a lot of demands and versatility. I was convinced that this sport was for me.

Even at the swimming level?

It's true that it's the big question mark when you get into this sport. I quickly joined a triathlon club, I swam with them, and then after two or three weeks, I switched lines to swim with the best. But it's the discipline that required the most investment and the most work. However, I started from a level that was not exceptional at all, even if I have an aquatic streak. Technically, I'm far from being the best swimmer, but since you're not graded on the technical aspect...

Overall, you were very good very quickly...

World or European championship titles were not really a goal. What I wanted was to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics. I had set the bar quite high at this level, but pressure on the rest of the international races. I had no idea of my level, of the competition, but I believed very quickly in my chances of qualifying for those Games, which were five years after my debut, so I had time.

Have you considered competing with the able-bodied?

I'm a triathlete before I'm a paratriathlete. I'm in an able-bodied club, my difference is just that I do triathlon with a blade, otherwise, I'm not disabled, and I'm able to go faster than most. From time to time, I register for regional races with the able-bodied, I took part in the triathlon in Fréjus or Deauville, and this is important for me because it allows me to get out of the paratriathlon spiral and measure myself against the best regional triathletes and improve the image of paratriathlon. A lot of people think it's easy to win in paratriathlon, but when I won the Deauville triathlon last year, it gives you an idea of Alexis Hanquinquant's level. And, in the end, it's not so easy to win in paratriathlon.

You took part in the Paris test event, which was reduced to a duathlon (running and cycling) because of the poor water quality...

We had already experienced this in Tokyo, with the cancellation of swimming during the test event. I see it as an injustice. Switching to a duathlon changes the cards, because athletes who are at a disadvantage in swimming are generally better off in running or cycling. So they no longer become outsiders, but potential future winners. I also did this test event to look forward to next year, to have a real knowledge of racing, and I can't draw any conclusions from it.

Is there a risk that this scenario will happen again next year?

We've done a lot about the quality of the water in the Seine, but some time ago, we already did triathlon races in much dirtier waters, much dirtier than the Seine, and it never got anyone talking. The pressure around the quality of the Seine is enormous, just like on the shoulders of Paris 2024. In this test event, they didn't want to take any risks, but next year, the retention basin will be ready in case of a storm, and we also have the ability to postpone the race by one day if necessary.

You have the ambition to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony...

Of course, I have the ambition to represent my country and be "captain" of the Paralympic team. It would be a huge honour, and I think I am one of the most experienced athletes in the French Paralympic delegation. If I can bring my philosophy, to reassure the youngest, to motivate the most seasoned, to transcend the slightly older like me... It will take someone very iconic, whether it's me or not, to motivate the troops and get lots of medals.

Will these Paralympic Games allow for a better inclusion of people with disabilities, especially in clubs, which are, for the moment, only 1.4% to say they are para-welcoming?

This is the first time the Paralympic Games have been held in France, and it's an incredible spotlight. We really have a way to wake everyone up to what difference is. We talk about disability, I talk about difference. Everyone is different from each other. There is too much ignorance about what a prosthetic leg is, about the situation of guide dogs... And it is this lack of knowledge that is "frightening". I hope that French society will give its buttocks a big boost following the Olympic Games and that this inclusion project will start on its own. Parasport should be more and more represented, so that it makes people with disabilities want to do it more and more or clubs want to welcome people, because sport is made to bring people together. The path is on the way.

  • Paris 2024 Olympic Games
  • Triathlon
  • Paralympic Games
  • Seine
  • Paris
  • Ile
  • Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games
  • Handicap
  • Sport