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Nantenin Keïta, paralympic athlete: "It's not because it's not easy that it's impossible"


A leading figure in French Paralympism, the Franco-Malian athlete, Paralympic champion in the 400 meters at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, fights to make inclusion "everyone's business".

His joie de vivre is infectious.

At 38, Nantenin Keïta knows where she is going.

Despite the path strewn with pitfalls, despite her visual impairment (0.7 and 0.8 tenths in the eyes, with distinction of colors and distances), nothing holds her back on the track.

She runs, wins medals… In short, we can't stop her.

This fiery temperament, the Paralympic champion owes in particular to her father, Salif Keïta, a renowned Malian musician, also albino and who did everything so that his daughter did not have to suffer from her difference.

Thanks to sport, Nantenin Keïta gets his revenge.

His next goal?

Getting on the podium at the Paralympic Games in Paris, of course, and “advancing the issue of inclusion”.

"Because it's everyone's business, not just minorities," proclaims the bubbly athlete.


Madame Figaro

.- Three times world champion in the 200 and 400 meters visually impaired, Paralympic champion in the 400 meters at the Rio 2016 Games… We have seen you running on the slopes since the early 2000s. is gold at the Paris Games.

Where do you get this mind of steel from?

Nantenin Keïta.-

It's in my temperament, even if I don't have confidence in myself.

From a very young age, I was prepared to face hardships.

My father warned me that my life would not be easy because of my difference.

That being the case, he always told me: "It's not because it's not easy that it's impossible."

And I grew up with that mindset.

Admittedly, I knew I was going to struggle and but I wanted to prove to others that even if I wasn't capable like them, I was capable differently.

Basically, 2+4 = 6, 3+3 = 6. We don't all take the same path, the main thing is to arrive at the same result, right?

Did you have to make a lot of personal sacrifices to achieve such a record?

I have a particular look at sacrifices.

For me, to sacrifice is to do something without return.

For my part, if I have ever had to deprive myself, I have always known what I was gaining.

Nantenin Keïta's typical day, what does it look like?

That's a lot of workouts.

Monday: between noon and 2 p.m., during my telework day;

Tuesday evening after work;

early Wednesday morning;

then all day Thursday and Friday: two to three sports sessions and often a physiotherapy session.

Top-level sport is not an exact science

Nantenin Keita

You do not hesitate to mention your failures.

Is there one in particular that marked you, and made you move forward?

I had so many



I don't know if there was a significant event.

On the other hand, each failure allowed me to put things in place to improve myself.

For example: at the end of the London Games in 2013, I said to myself that I had to change my way of seeing the 400 meters, as well as my way of training.

And then also during my very first competition in 2002. At the time, I went there being almost sure of getting on the podium in the 100 meters and finally I finished fourth or fifth… The cold shower.

This is where I say to myself: "Okay, I have to train seriously".

This disappointment was quite a kick in the ass!

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Nowadays, many athletes have spoken about the pressures they go through, and the effects on

mental health

, which is less and less a taboo subject...

Many athletes suffer from this problem.

Much more than those who dare to speak of it.

And this, for several reasons: because we sometimes find ourselves alone in difficult times, because coaches can not be simple, because the media can praise us one day and tear us down the next. , as soon as you get a little slack... Because it's better to remember: top-level sport is not an exact science.

We must not forget that behind a name there is above all a human.

Athletes are not robots and we may have prepared for months or even years, but we are never safe from poor performance.

We can completely miss out on the competition, sometimes only because someone else has just been very good.

Read alsoThe “3-30-300” rule or how nature can improve our mental health

Simone Biles sent everyone the following message: "My health first"

Nantenin Keita

When you practice the sport at such a level, isn't it pressurizing?

Are you able, for example, to cancel a competition like the American gymnast

Simone Biles

because of mental health problems?

I don't know if I would have had the courage that Simone had.

I think she was very smart.

Only she and her trainer know the commitment she has made to get where she is.

If she gave up, it's because she must not be doing well at all and I can't even imagine the pressure she was under.

However, she managed to stop to save herself.

She sent everyone the following message: “My health first.”

It's a great example!

We forget that sport is above all about having fun.

In the Paralympic too, the pressure is very strong.

For my part, in 2010-2011, I went through a very complicated period.

I couldn't get out of an injury and I felt like giving up more than once... But I

Along with mental health, another taboo is falling: the impact of the menstrual cycle on performance, as the Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhu mentioned in particular.

Have you been faced with this question of rules yourself?

It's never been taboo for me because I've had the chance to come across coaches who have always taken my whole person into account.

When I was sick or when I had painful periods, I always dared to warn my trainer.

What others sometimes fail to do.

On the other hand, it is true that for a long time, I was not aware of the impact of my periods on my sessions, and my performance.

Read alsoShould you adapt your sports practice during your period?

Besides, what relationship do you have with your body?

Have you always been comfortable with him?

I started training very late, and my body was already formed and developed.

So I've never had a problem with having a woman's body.

On the other hand, I had to make sure to keep the most athletic body possible.

That's hard.

You have to be constantly careful to keep a healthy weight, not gain weight… And it's sometimes complicated when you like sweets like me!


For a very long time I believed that because I was albino I was not beautiful.

Nantenin Keita

On October 13 on Instagram, you announced some news: “Well… thanks to my super-efficient eyes you know that I am starting a great adventure with the @lorealparis group.”

What does it mean for you to partner with the world's number one cosmetics company?

What happened was I Instagrammed a photo with the caption, "Guess who I'm signing with?"

Except that I hadn't seen that in the photo, there was the L'Oréal logo everywhere behind me



For a very long time, I believed that because I was albino I was not beautiful, so the fact today of being supported by a cosmetics group, with values ​​around women, values ​​that affirm that everyone is beautiful in their own way, it's a point of pride.

It boosts my self-esteem.

The albinism you suffer from, you were talking about on September 13, 2017, the date when Paris was awarded the 2024 Games. On that day, you declared: “Difference has always been part of my life.

I am albino and visually impaired.

But at the Games, I am an athlete.

Because at the Games, there are as many countries as



At the Games, difference has its place.

At the Games, difference is a strength.”

But in everyday life, have you managed to make your difference a strength?

It was less simple.

In sport, we are on the field, we show our skills and performances, we evolve together.

In the street, it's something else.

People are very clumsy, even mean.

For a very long time, I didn't understand that this wickedness was mainly related to fear.

When I finally figured it out, I tried to confront these people and ask them what was bothering them.

I don't think I'm wasting my time doing education, because I've gained everything if I could change their outlook if they come across an albino child tomorrow.

Sometimes people say to me, “I didn't know you were cool.

" Yes !

Nantenin Keita

I have a sensory handicap with my visual impairment, as well as a social handicap because I don't look like everyone else and that's ok.

And I have to juggle between the two.

Sometimes people say to me, "Ah, I didn't know you were cool."

Yes !

And the more we highlight the difference, the less we will see it... In this, the Games have been good because we have associated disability with beautiful things, we give hope to children and parents of children with disabilities.

Especially when you see paths like those of Michaël Jeremiasz or Marie-Amélie Le Fur.

The values ​​of sport are good for the world.

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Source: lefigaro

All life articles on 2022-12-16

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