On October 27, 2018, Pauline Déroulède’s life changed. The Frenchwoman, then aged 28, was mowed down on a Parisian sidewalk by a car traveling at 80 kilometers per hour, whose driver, a nonagenarian, lost control. The young woman lost her left leg in the accident. Since then, she has gone from an “ordinary” life to a life of high-level sportswoman and dreams of only one thing: to participate in the Paris 2024 Games.
How did you recover from this accident?
I was mowed down by a very elderly driver who lost control of his car and accelerated instead of braking. Unfortunately, I lost my leg instantly, and my life changed dramatically. A few hours after the accident, in the recovery room, I told my relatives: “Don’t worry, I’m going to do the Games in Paris in 2024.” I still don’t know where it came from, but I think I had an association of ideas and I said to myself that, disability and sport, it was Paris 2024.
I needed to set myself this ambitious goal, which made me bounce back over the months. I got back on my feet, both figuratively and literally. After four months, I started walking again, with an iron leg. Then, I started rehabilitation and I started a big phase of re-athleticization because I had lost a lot of muscles and weight.
You already practiced tennis. Tell us about the transition to becoming a professional wheelchair tennis player.
I was lucky enough to be selected by a discovery program called “la Relève”, organized by the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, to be able to practice wheelchair tennis. Tennis was already the sport I practiced before, standing up. In September 2019, I started my new life: I went from a life of a leisure sportswoman to a life of a high-level sportswoman, punctuated by training.
What personal assessment do you make of the year 2022?
I learned a lot, especially at the beginning of September when I had the chance to play my first Grand Slam, at the US Open. I knew I was going to participate in the tournament only a month before, so I ran out of time to prepare, but I was already very happy to be there. I was overwhelmed by the event and lost in the first round, but I gained experience and weapons that will be useful for the future. I came back to France with a lot of material, especially things to work on in terms of mental preparation, to be ready next time. I want to play more and more [tournois du] Grand Slam, the next objective will also be Roland-Garros 2023 – especially since it will be a real rehearsal for the Paris Games 2024.
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