Full speed ahead!

When he’s not working at CERN, Jean-Yves Le Meur is a top-level skier. Fresh from the Winter Paralympics in Sochi and the French disability snowsport championship, he has agreed to answer a few questions.


Jean-Yves tackles a giant slalom. Image: @FFH.

Few athletes can boast of having participated in the Olympic or Paralympic Games even once in their sporting career, let alone four times... But Jean-Yves Le Meur, a member of both CERN’s IT-CIS Group and the French disabled ski team, tells me modestly during our interview that this is what he has achieved. While the skier might act like it’s no big deal, it leaves me, amateur sportsperson that I am, dumbfounded.

A few weeks ago in Sochi, the sun shining a little too brightly, Jean-Yves left his fourth Paralympics with the same enthusiasm he had for the previous three, and the same bitter taste in his mouth: “Just like in the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, I failed to finish the sitting slalom, despite months of preparation," he says regretfully. “I launched into the slope [a 65° gradient], on which, unfortunately, I hadn't had a chance to practise, and missed a gate in the middle of the course. Maybe I shouldn’t have done so much training just beforehand!”

The French team at the Sochi Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. Image: @FFH.

Two days later, Jean-Yves competed in the sitting giant slalom event, finishing ninth out of 41 competitors, meaning that, he’s sad to say, he didn’t bring any medals home: “We all go with hopes of making the podium," he continues, “and it’s really tough coming home empty-handed.” Empty-handed in Russia, maybe, but, competing in the French Championships barely a week later, Jean-Yves took first place in the slalom event and second in both the giant slalom and the boardercross, not forgetting the gold medal he won at the World Cup in Colorado in January this year, which is how he came to be selected for the Paralympic team.

The French Paralympic team in high spirits! Image: @FFH.

Jean-Yves has certainly brought back his fair share of anecdotes from “Sochi, the most expensive Games in history”. “The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were truly magnificent!” the skier still marvels. “The organisers, the volunteers, the supporters and the public were there for us the whole time and made sure that everything was perfect. But the most memorable thing was the Mexican wave that we [the French team] started when we entered the stadium for the Closing Ceremony. A Mexican wave by 50,000 spectators that lasted for 10 minutes with an incredible roar. Unforgettable!” Add to that a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the warmth of the Russian public and a good atmosphere among the French team. “As always, I had the strong support of my colleagues and managers at CERN,” Jean-Yves emphasises. “It’s really good to know that the Organization is behind me!”

If you’d like to find out more about Jean-Yves’ participation in the Paralympic Games, head to the Georges Sand media centre in Saint-Genis-Pouilly at 8.30 p.m. on 15 May, when the Plume et Bémol association will be hosting a meet and greet with the skier.

by Anaïs Schaeffer