By Simon Galinier
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He is one of the seriously injured rugby professional. At 27, the former scrum-half of Nice (Nationale), Paul Champinwas forced to hang up his boots this summer, after being declared unfit to play top-level rugby due to a “serious injury to the external malleolus”.
Trained to Beziers then passed through the training center of Montpellierbefore returning to the ASBH to discover the Pro D2, between 2015 and 2018, and finally experiencing a season at Bourgoin Jallieu and last three at Nice stadiumhe looks back on this “huge blow” and talks about his reconstruction and his new professional projects for Rugby News.
“You have to preserve your health beyond your sports career”
Sportingly, Paul Champin’s descent into hell began in January 2022. While he was rotating Stade Niçois, since he had just played 8 National games, including 5 as a starter, the scrum-half was seriously injured in malleolus during training, after a harmless contact with his Fijian teammate Sakiusa Bureitakiyaca. “By tackling ‘Saki’, he fell on my leg and my foot remained in overhang. I had to be carried out urgently, because the malleolus was well fractured, ”recalls the person concerned who repeated a long obstacle course to try to find the land, in vain.
He continues: “I did a big sprint to try to come back at the time of the final stages. I had set myself the objective of resuming for the play-off against Valence-Romans, but that could not be done, since I was unfit at the end of May with a medical counter-opinion for the continuation of my career at Professional level. “After this huge blow, followed a dark period which he agreed to remember, for Rugby News :
It was very painful to take, because I was coming to the end of my contract in June 2022 and I was keen to end my cycle in Nice well. But I also quickly put things into perspective, because I know that there are much more serious things in life and that you have to preserve your health beyond your sports career. (…) I could have continued rugby at amateur level, but currently I still have enormous pain in my ankle. I have no feeling when I run and after my jogging, my ankle is swollen for 3 days.
“If it’s for not being able to play with my kids at 40, it’s not worth it”
At the beginning of September, it was the French international Virimi Vakatawa who was banned from continuing his professional career in France. An announcement that has a resounding echo on the rugby planet and a particular resonance for Paul Champin, even if the circumstances of the stops in their respective careers are not the same, since the former center of Racing 92 was stopped for an anomaly cardiac.
“It above all raises awareness of the importance of preserving your body and your health, and of not taking any risks at any level of competition whatsoever. If I understand correctly, Vakatawa still has the opportunity to pursue his career in Japan, but is the risk worth it? I don’t think so…”, asks the 27-year-old former scrum-half:
For my part, I could have it forced and convince all the doctors in the world of my aptitude, but if it’s not to be able to play with my kids when I’m 40, it’s not worth it…
“I dreamed of being a lawyer, but finally, I will join the police”
Still living in the Nice region, Paul Champin is trying to digest this “little death of the sportsman” and to rebuild himself, as best he can, alongside his family and loved ones. And the full-headed Biterrois, who has a Master 2 in Criminal Law, validated during his rugby career, already knows which professional field he is going to move into.
Basically, I dreamed of being a lawyer, but given the times we live in, I finally prefer to go to the other side… So, in January, I’m going to take the police lieutenant exam in Monaco , because I want to engage in public safety and the good of all. It’s nothing glorifying. I’m not going to be a firefighter or a doctor, but rather I wanted to defend people who are on the good side.
While waiting to validate this competition in the police, the former number 9 of the Stade Niçois is currently commercial for a renewable energy company generated by his wife, in Nice and its surroundings.
“One way or another, I would never really leave the world of rugby”
In his new life, Paul Champin has kept a very strong link with the world of rugby and in particular continues to closely follow the news of the Stade Niçois, his last club: “Last Saturday, I attended the match between my two former teams, Nice and Bourgoin-Jallieu, and it made me feel a little pinched in my heart, ”admits the one who was called up on stage with the France U18 team and was promised a bright rugby future. “I’m also lucky to have my best friends who play in the Top 14, Reda Wardi and Lucas Bachelier, so it gives me the opportunity to go see them play, respectively in La Rochelle and Perpignan”, adds -he before continuing:
One way or another, I still have the opportunity to stay in the world of rugby and I will never leave it. In addition, I had already started coaching, so I might come back to this environment, but especially to coach young people, because I really like it. I have kept good ties with Guillaume Cazenave, the head of the Stade Niçois Academy, so I hope I could work with him in the future.
Even if he is very saddened to have ended his career prematurely, Paul Champin is therefore far from being disgusted by rugby, in particular professionally: “Since I made sure to have a university background alongside the rugby, I have always kept an eye on the outside world. And even if I am saddened to have had to end my career in this way, there is life after rugbyso I have to bounce back and I know it will…” Indeed, life is not always about being an athlete.
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