Susie Rodgers, Paralympic swimmer and triple bronze medallist at London 2012, writes about her visit to Paris where she celebrated the victory of pupils from the Collège Léon Jozeau Marigné in Normandy, winners of the British Council English for the Games Competition.
Their entry portrayed their perfect Paralympian athlete and hero, the now legendary French swimmer Philippe Croizon who has swum all 4 channels that link the world’s 5 continents. The French pupils’ talented entry and inspiring video won in the age 8-11 category against stiff competition from schools around the world.
Arriving on the Eurostar into the Gare du Nord in Paris on Wednesday 19th December last year, I was looking forward to some Parisian cuisine after a long journey. Irene Daumur, Project Manager, met me at the station and we went to a restaurant close to the British Council offices to have some delicious poulet and frites before heading into the office. In the taxi, I caught lovely glimpses of the Eiffel Tower and started to get very excited about being back in a city I know quite well from my days studying French at University.
We arrived in the office and I met the staff including the Director Chris Hickey – I was amazed by the beautiful view over the Eiffel Tower from the main function room! So beautiful! We hastily prepared ourselves for the arrival of the winners of the English for the Games competition – a group of French school children and their teachers. I put on my team GB kit, got the medals and prizes ready and then waited for their arrival!
In all honesty I was nervous about meeting them, mostly because I thought that being a “special guest”, they would at least expect a French athlete! However, when I walked in the door, they were immediately attentive and excited. Although I studied French at University, it feels a little rusty 10 years later, so I stuck to simple English and the children were asked questions to confirm what I was saying. I talked about my training, nutrition and the experience of being an athlete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Finally, I brought out the medals and got the reaction I have now come to expect when I show them – everyone surged forward to take photos. There were photos of the medals, photos of me wearing them, photos of the children with them! That took at least 15 minutes! We then moved into the back room after I gave them their pin badges and prizes as well as their winning certificate.
The children then came up for autographs (which I am still not used to signing!) and one particular boy asked for 5 signatures! (I think he may try to sell them!)
It was a wonderful occasion that I was glad to be a part of and the winning video really was brilliant. Hopefully the children and teachers enjoyed their day. Thanks to British Council Paris staff for being so welcoming and accommodating! I am hoping for a return visit again one day!
Susie Rodgers, Project Officer at British Council, London and Triple Bronze Paralympic Medallist.