“The French parawater team is becoming important on the international scene,” says Sami El Gueddari

While Limoges is hosting a stage of the Paralympic Swimming World Cup from 26 to 28 May, Sami El Gueddari, director of the competition, is back for franceinfo: sport on what the organization of such an event represents for the Paris Games.

From the top of the grandstands or at the edge of the pools, Sami El Gueddari pays attention to detail. He and teams from the French Handisport Federation (FFH) are working to ensure conditions are perfect for the approximately 150 international athletes gathered at Aquapolis in Limoges this Whitsun weekend (Friday 26 to Sunday 28 May). .

The former Paralympic swimmer – former sports director of the discipline at FFH – has added a hat to his many duties by becoming the director of the first stage of the Para Swimming World Cup (World Series) in France. A great event for parasport one year before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, e “a crossing point” important for all members of the French team.

franceinfo: sport: What does the organization of this stage of the Paralympic Swimming World Cup in Limoges represent, the first in history on French territory?

Sami El Gueddari: It is a real pleasure, and also a real milestone in France’s progress on the international stage. We are committed to building a competitive team, but this requires these standards, namely raising the bar in the French leagues and regional competitions. This is why this weekend this event is associated with the Handisport French Swimming Championships. We want to allow all French swimmers to experience a stage of the World Cup. They will join international swimmers, this allows them to exchange ideas, become aware of what needs to be implemented to claim to be at the highest level. And for the best of the French team it is also a question of having a deadline on the national territory with emulation and competition.

Several international swimmers set off in Limoges during the Paralympic Swimming World Cup leg on May 26, 2023. (PICOUT GREGORY/FFH)

Especially since there is a real sporting challenge since it is the last qualifying event for this summer’s World Cup in Manchester (from 31 July to 6 August)…

Indeed, some have already reached their minimums but many come to conquer them to go to the world championships, which will already be a key moment in the allocation of odds for France for Paris 2024. There will be two odds distributed to the top two in each event. And beyond that, many swimmers come looking for something: a first final, access to the French collective, qualification for the World Cup, a good moment… It’s a strategic, key moment that will still be present next year months before the Paralympic Games.

“In 2017 we had four athletes in the French team. Today there are 16 to 18 swimmers who can go to Manchester this summer to compete in the World Championships.”

Sami El Gueddari, director of the first stage of the Paralympic Swimming World Cup

to franceinfo: sports

Is it a form of recognition of France?

The entrustment of this stage of the World Cup by World Para Swimming, which manages the competition, contributes to France’s influence internationally. It means trusting us, recognizing our professionalism and the quality of our organization. Until now they only knew the team of France and our progress in the docks. We are growing and becoming an important nation on the international scene. There were a few gold medals missing, but we had a young generation. Alex [Portal]Hugh [Didier]Lawrence [Chardard] they were very young three years ago, and now they come with other ambitions. I hope gold smiles on us.

The other challenge is to acculturate the public to the parasport and gain a foothold in the rankings…

Completely, having a representativeness of all disabilities, categories of disabilities, both male and female… The Paralympic Swimming World Cup is difficult to understand because it is multi-category, all swimmers are listed in the rating table. We’ve made advancements in the spectator and athlete experience, especially with displaying real-time scores on screen. We have a swimming pool that is nothing to be ashamed of. Olympic or Paralympic athletes, they invest equally and deserve the same attention. The more we will shed light on them, the vision on all pathologies, the more we will arouse envy from practitioners and people with disabilities, the more we will make athletes understand the high level, the more we will accustom the public … There is everything to gain, in all sectors.

• Read also: Paris 2024: how to reduce the cost of access to sport for people with disabilities

Ugo Didier, double Paralympic medalist in Tokyo, competing on day one of the Para Swimming World Series in Limoges, May 26, 2023. (PICOUT GREGORY / FFH)

How is the French collective made up? We have the impression that there are “old hands” like David Smétanine but also a whole young generation that is growing up…

With the Federation, we have a view on high-level strategy, which is to say that David [Smétanine] he has nine Paralympic medals around his neck. Certainly the adversities grow but today he fights even more than before. He continues to exist on the international scene at his age [48 ans], is necessarily a priesthood. He has experience, a rigor that shines through in young people, which allows them to grow faster because he is a force for advice and sharing. Claire Supiot also has this role, Elodie Lorandi also with her grit. We need charismatic leaders who have a track record.

At the same time, we have efficient young people for their age, they come to break the representation of the permanent lament of the French on means abroad. Hugh [Didier]Lawrence [Chardard]Alexei [Portal]they bring Killian in their wake [Portal]Leane [Morceau]Solene [Sache]Quentin [Vieira]… We have 13 disability categories, seven events are in the Paralympic program per category, we can afford to dream big for boys and girls.

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