Disabled TT5 table tennis player Alexandra Saint-Pierre won her winning blow in the final of the Disabled World Championships in Granada (Spain) on 12 November. The result of a dazzling journey of four years of physical effort reinforced by a mind of steel. With her gold medal around her neck, at 24, the Rouennaise, licensed at the Tennis Club de Bois-Guillaume is now aiming to qualify for the Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024.
Reconstruction through sport
Born in Flixecourt (80), Alexandra Saint-Pierre was already playing table tennis and preparing for a career in health. Only, after several illnesses, she was the victim of a first road accident in August 2017 which marked her heavily, followed by an attack in her school in February 2018: “I had a post-traumatic syndrome which is still being processed. I no longer wanted to leave my house, ”recalls the young woman.
Misfortune would befall her again in October 2018. Alexandra is injured. The consequences are tragic since she finds herself confined to a wheelchair. Upon leaving hospital, the Picardy decided to settle in Rouen. In January 2019, she chose to return to sport and enrolled at SPO Rouen Table Tennis where she met her coach Guillaume Marais. Determining for the future…
“Sport helped me recreate social ties and rebuild myself. Even though I had the basics of table tennis, I had to learn the techniques with my wheelchair and to understand the height of the table and the field of vision. It represented hours and hours of training from Monday to Friday. I owe all of this to Guillaume. This is why he registered me on March 30, 2019 in a competition that I won”.
A dazzling trajectory
On May 18, 2019, for her first French Championships in Roanne, Alexandra came home with a bronze medal which “showed that the efforts have borne fruit and gave me ambitions for the future”. Noticed, she prints her inscription in the list of high-level sportswomen at the French Handisport Federation (FFH). A few months later, she followed her coach to the Bois-Guillaume Tennis Club (near Rouen) where, already in her mind, the Paris 2024 Olympics project was being forged.
However, the health crisis will turn everything upside down: “it was a complicated period. I continued to train almost fifteen hours a week, but why? There was no longer any possibility of improving his level against opponents,” the table tennis player recalls bitterly. But nothing has shaken Alexandra. As soon as the competitions resumed, the champion aligned the results with in particular six gold medals in international competitions out of seven participations: “It was my objective for 2021. It was written in my head. I wanted to do my best to qualify for the 2022 Worlds”.
Master the tension
Alexandra has won her bet. From November 6 to 12, the Rouennaise first lined up in mixed doubles with her compatriot Fabien Lamirault. The duo will go out immediately against the Turkish pair Abdullah Ozturck and Nergiz Altintas with the score of 3-0. Then, in the women’s doubles with her usual partner Flora Vautier, the French won a bronze medal after their 3-1 defeat against the Koreans Jiyu Yoon/Young Jung “who were without question possible above us”.
It was as seeded No. 3 on Wednesday, November 9 that Alexandra entered the Women’s Singles table. She then overpowered Argentina’s Nayla Kuell in the 1/4 final “3-1 when I was very tense. I had a lot of trouble getting started.” The score will be the same in 1/2 against her best enemy, the Korean Sunghye Moon, seeded n°2: “It’s the match I was dreading. We met four times and we were tied. It was the beauty that I prepared well. I leave there still a set. It was in my head,” recalls Alexandra.
But it still happens! So, for the final, the para-sportswoman found herself facing Thailand’s Panwas Ringam: “I’ve already won 3-2 at the French Open. She is a very special game. So, despite my stress, I said to myself that we shouldn’t waste time. On a score of 3-0, Alexandra experienced this victory “like a release. You feel your heart beating for your first Marseillaise. I let a few tears flow, but I especially thought of my family, my coach and my journey. It’s a nice revenge.”
After a few days of rest, the sportswoman has already returned to training and is already registered in local competitions: “Now, for four years, I will be the target. Everybody’s gonna wanna score against me [rires]. But, as Guillaume said to me from the last point of the final, we don’t stop there ! We are preparing for the European Championships in England in September 2023 and especially the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. That is still my real objective. This gold medal will help me because today I enter the list of Elites”. See you from August 28 to September 8, 2024!