Titled in the team pursuit and points race at the Junior World Championships in Tel-Aviv (Israel) last August, Heïdi Gaugain is the first disabled athlete to become world champion among healthy athletes. The young woman, who forbids nothing, arouses admiration.
Friday, August 26, 2022, Sylvan Adams Velodrome, in Tel Aviv (Israel). The race for points for the Junior World Championship is on. We are going for 80 laps and 20 km at full throttle. Two days earlier, Heïdi Gaugain and her French teammates Clémence Chéreau, Aurore Pernollet and Lara Lallemant won the team pursuit. First place on the podium, gold medal and emotion during the Marseillaise. This first title set her free, but Heïdi Gaugain knows she has to stay focused.
the points race is a physical challenge : You have to have the cash register, drive fast and rack up sprints. It is also a question of vigilance, vision and strategy. Do not be scared, because it is long and short at the same time, because there are not many opportunities. Patience and liveliness: a feline affair. The champion is in control: when the opening is presented, she walks out of the pack, alone, and takes a turn. ” From there, she says, I positioned myself as a potential medalist. »
Ten minutes later, crossing the line for the last time, he knows he has won. In the burning body, the pressure drops. Excitement and joy overwhelm her. She slows down and then stops. Before falling into the arms of the squad, Heïdi Gaugain unclips the handlebar rim to replace her missing left hand.
From DIY to Performance
Suffering from agenesis, Heïdi Gaugain, who came into the world to grab it with one hand, is the first to achieve this feat: a disabled athlete, here she is now a double junior world champion among the “valid”. In a voice whose sweetness belies an unwavering determination, the young Ella says that she has never suffered from her handicap, that deep down she is nothing more than an external designation. “I always felt like a normal, integrated and capable girl” she says, when asked the story of her debut.
Born into a family of cyclists, it was at the behest of her father, a former cyclist and president of the “Vélo Club Saint George Aventure”, that Heïdi Gaugain started her first race. She was eleven years old. This was followed by debuts in the cycling school section and successive licenses in the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
Sports for the disabled, where it seemed clear that his record could reach the top, did not arrive until long after his first license, after the sports results multiplied. After her first two years of secondary school in a sports studies section in Laval, the young champion left her club and her native Mayenne for Bayonne, where the Urt 64 club and the Pôle Espoir de paracyclisme offer her the conditions education adapted to a high level athlete.
“At the time, I wasn’t very well equipped. As a prosthetic, I just had a stiff sleeve extended from a dummy hand that I duct-taped to my handlebars. It was DIY and of course it didn’t hold up very well. » Now he benefits from a specific prosthesis, this articulated ring that slides around the handlebar and allows him to “take all positions on the bike, go from the normal handlebar to the chrono handlebar and, both on the track and on the road, to [se] put on ballerina and sprint. »
More than a fork, we must speak of a double course. As he has just given convincing proof, Heïdi Gaugain does not plan to abandon her career ” valid “ but well and really have it both ways, and go as far as you can.
Their stated goals testify to that. In chronological order, there are the Para-cycling Track World Championships, which will take place from October 20 to 23 at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines national velodrome. It is also with a view to “raise your level, to the possible detriment of the number of victories” that he had chosen to run mainly among the healthy this year. Beyond that, he thinks about the 2024 Paralympic Games. He does not refrain from dreaming of a professional career, but concentrates on the essentials. “I want to get as high as possible, always raise my level”, repeat like a mantra. Her craziest dream – she says it half-heartedly – is to imagine herself one day “To participate in the Valid Games and the Paralympic Games in the same year! »
At the moment, she continues to admire her elders, Clara Copponi at the helm, a professional FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope and a talented track runner. Which, informed, answers with round eyes: “What? It would be better for me to be admiring!”. Enough to encourage Heidi Gaugain in her quest for success.