After a serious accident which cost her her left leg, Pauline Déroulède dreams of participating in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games in wheelchair tennis. Determined, the Parisienne trains for the Yvelines committee to rise in the world hierarchy.
Pauline Déroulède displays her ambitions and determination to participate in the Paralympic Games in 2024 in wheelchair tennis. However, two years ago, the Parisian, assistant director, was far from considering a high-level sports career. Her life changed at the end of 2018 when she was hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk. “I lost my left leg”, she says. Shortly after her accident, she found the resources to bounce back. “One of the first things I thought about was ‘I want to do the Paralympics’. It is a goal that made me survive. “ Pauline Déroulède knows the little yellow ball well: “Tennis has always been my sport. I did competitions, I had the diploma to teach with children. I was a tennis teacher alongside my professional activity. “ However, wheelchair tennis was far from his first choice. “I had a psychological block. I didn’t want to go into the chair. I am lucky to have a prosthesis and to be on my feet every day ”, she explains.
” The irony “
In March 2019, Pauline Déroulède participated in one of the sets of La Relève, a national detection program launched by the French Paralympic and Sports Committee in order to find high potentials likely to wear the colors of France during the Paralympic Games of Paris 2024. She was more inclined to triathlon, but “The French Tennis Federation (FFT) sold me dreams and offered me the possibility of joining a training structure. However, I was still not very excited about the chair ”. A few weeks later, the FFT invited her to Roland-Garros, where she met Stéphane Houdet, also the victim of an accident which caused the amputation of his left leg. The words of the winner of 23 Grand Slam wheelchair tennis titles – “I arrive standing, I sit in my chair to play my match and then I leave standing” – triggered a click in Pauline Déroulède. In September 2019, she was welcomed by the Yvelines Tennis Committee, which provided her with a coach, Aurélie Somarriba, and a physical trainer. Fifteen hours of tennis and six hours of physical preparation per week is the rhythm of a top athlete. “It was a little girl’s dream to participate in the Games”, confides the tenniswoman. “I almost did sports studies, but my parents preferred that I go to a more traditional course. Today, without my left leg, I have the life of a top athlete. It is the irony of fate. “
“I’m not just going to participate”
Arrived in the discipline a year ago, Pauline Déroulède made a strong impression by beating the French numbers 8, 9, 10 and 11 in the national ranking. She even caught the eye of Michaël Jérémiasz, sponsor of Operation La Relève and quadruple medalist at the Paralympic Games in wheelchair tennis, who believes in herself for Paris 2024. Fifteenth in the September standings, her goal is to join the top 3 tricolor and to arrive among the 24 best players in the world to get her ticket for these Games. “When Paris won the Games in 2017, I was already happy as a spectator that my country is hosting such an event. Since I have my handicap, I told myself that there was something to be done to participate. The goal of Paris 2024 literally allowed me to get up after my accident. It’s a very prestigious competition. I will be very proud to wear the colors of France, in addition to my home in Paris. With my competitive spirit, I’m not just going to participate. I would like to go get a medal, and why not the most beautiful. “ The Paralympic Games are being prepared well in advance. “The idea is to get involved in a lot of tournaments, national to gain places in the French ranking, but also international to prove myself at world level”, underlines the tenniswoman. “I did a few tournaments in September, but in October they were all canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “
Next step the French team
In the meantime, Pauline Déroulède is training with Charlotte Fairbank, the French number 3. “We get along very well and we exchange a lot. We even mention the possibility of making a double. “ Next step for the Paralympic Games, join the France team. A first selection could arrive as early as March 2021 for the World Championships. “If I continue like this, there is no reason that I cannot join the national team”, advances the Parisian, who endeavors to put all the chances on her side. In August 2024, the tenniswoman will be 33 years old, but her age does not concern her. “In disabled sports, careers are staggered. Charlotte Famin, the French number 1, is 47 years old, and Stéphane Houdet soon to be 50. ” A new encouraging sign for Pauline Déroulède’s second life, which could lead her to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games and further afield.
Photo credit: Cedric Lecocq / FFT
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