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Meet Nantenin Keïta, An Athlete And The Daughter of the Music Star Salif Keita: “Do what you want to do, despite the handicap”

Nantenin Keïta, top athlete, was born in Mali 31 years ago. Visual impairment impairment due to hereditary genetic peculiarity of albinism, Nantenin was world champion of Paralympic Athletics in 2006 in Assen (Netherlands) and in 2015 in Doha (Qatar). Medalist at the Paralympic Games in 2008 in Beijing (China) and in 2012 in London (England), Nantenin holds a Bachelors of Education Sciences. She works in Paris, in the company Malakoff Mederic in the field of human resources. We met in Paris a few weeks before leaving for Rio (Brazil) where XV Paralympic Games will take place .The Mag Reporter: How did you discover athletics?

Nantenin Keïta : I was 13, I was in class 5 th at the Collège Pierre Villey, visually impaired youth facility in the 18 th district of Paris. My professor of EPS (Physical Education) scored all our class in an athletics competition for visually impaired school. It was my first competition.Without specific training, I finished 2 nd and my best friend, 1 st . It was great. I did not do anything special until the next school competition two years later. I was in class 3 rd . I finished 1 st and my friend 2 nd . This is where the French Federation Handisport offered to do an internship. We accepted because it was nice to go both in Nîmes, in the South of France. We were not looking for an athletic career. During the course, we had two workouts per day, which was very demanding physically. At the end of the week, I could not run, I hurt, I hurt all over.Then we continued through the Club of Nancy, in eastern France. The Club had taken us under his thumb. We participated in inter-club championships, the championships of France.My girlfriend and I always arrived ahead of the disabled sports competitions. We left up in the game of sports competition. In 2002, they enlisted us in the World Championship. This was my first international meeting, but I had trained only during the fifteen days preceding. To my surprise, it is the “400 meters” that I was better, I arrived 2 nd . I thought the queen of “100 meters” and yet I have finished as 5 th . It was a big disappointment. This allowed me to understand the value of training.


To achieve this high level, so it took you a coach?

Yes. Philippe Lefèvre taught me a lot. Since 2014, Marc Vecchio which leads me. With him I have a new approach to 400m.


How do you combine your professional obligations to the training and competition?

Malakoff Mederic sign special contracts with elite athletes. This frees us all the time necessary.Personally, between Monday and Saturday, I have fifteen hours of training. These appointed times are a real chance. We can carry our sporting career without abandoning our career.Beyond 35 years, when we have to leave the competition, we reintegrate the company full-time.


You run under the French flag, is not it?

Yes. I live in France since the age of 2 years, I did all my schooling, I am French; So, it is very legitimate to run for France. But, I am Malian; I was born in Mali, my parents also. I wish sometimes run for Mali too. Besides, in 2005 in Mali, I handed my file to disabled sports authorities. Despite the very good reception, my approach was not followed.



There are many disabled people in Mali. How do they benefit an organization “disabled sports”?

This is not easy, even if there is a formal structure. This is probably a question of means. The Paralympics of 2012, in my discipline, there was a Malian athlete amputated arm, which competed at 100 and 200 meters. Opportunities therefore exist.


The next Paralympic Games will be held from 7 to 18 September 2016 in Rio (Brazil).France Télévisions will devote 100 hours of live broadcast competitions, is not it?

Yes, this is a huge step forward. The English had done a great job to prepare the public for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. People knew their disabled athletes as well as their able-bodied athletes. It was found in the stadiums. People cheered them by name. It was wonderful. France has delayed, but it is catching up. France Télévisions gives some visibility to a few world championships, especially in athletics, under the thumb of Patrick Montiel.


Why not include the Paralympic Games in Olympic valid?

I dream of this integration, but it is too early. In ten years maybe, when mindsets have changed, when the wheelchair will have drained the attention it deserves. For now, it would be wrong, valid for those tests occulteraient disabled. Let us be patient.


What hope your sporting success can they generate among people with disabilities in general and in Albino, in particular?

What I like is to do what I want to do, despite my severe visual impairment. Running is show people that when you want, you get there. Of course, more or less, depending on the disability, but no matter, the important thing is to do. Running is being Albino show, despite physical disability, despite the social handicap, it’s not the end of the world. Everyone has their life context, of course, but people must understand and admit that we can get by being Albino, we can get by with a disability. I admit that it is more difficult in Africa than France. But things really budge unless we ourselves make them move.


You are the symbol of the struggle for the rights of albinos?

Be a symbol, it is heavy to carry. I have not yet done enough things to be the symbol of anyone or anything. By cons, through me, people can realize that it’s possible, if they try.


Nantenin, I leave the last word?

If African authorities in general and Mali in particular were the detection sports talents among the disabled, it would allow these young people see life differently, to look to the future otherwise. Paralympic, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia already come to bring in and provided performance teams. I hope that sub-Saharan Africa will be achieved soon. When my career is over, I will not refuse to put my experience to develop disability sport in Mali and give it international.


Interview by Françoise Wasservögel

Source: The Reporter



Written by How Africa

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