Marie-Amelie le Fur: Society needs to change. Disability is a strength

France star draws glittering career to a close after winning silver at Tokyo 2020, but will lead the home nation out at Paris 2024 as its president.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Marie-Amelie le Fur may have officially retired from competition but the hunger for further success still burns inside.

The four-time world champion and three-time world record holder won the last of her nine Paralympic medals, silver in the T64 long jump, at Tokyo 2020 last Saturday.

But despite the initial disappointment of not ending her career on top spot, the 32-year-old is eager to help others reach their summit.

Here, le Fur speaks to about her experience in Tokyo and hopes for the future as president of France’s Paralympic Committee. How special was winning a silver medal at Tokyo 2020 in your last competitive event?

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "The long jump competition was very special because it was indeed the last one of my career and when I stepped on the course, I said, ‘well, OK, the only thing I need to do here is enjoy it’.

"Of course, the performance, the medal, all this is important. But what I really wanted to do was to enjoy it.

"I mean, I won't hide it, I was aiming for gold, but this silver medal is beautiful and it was won with wonderful competitors.

"It was fantastic." And you’ve ended your career on a high, as a nine-time Paralympic medalist

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "I achieved a lot through my career; a lot in terms of sports, of course, but also psychologically. And now that I'm at the top, it's my turn to teach all that to the younger generation and to the other athletes.

"I'm really delighted to end [my career] on this high level." How did it feel standing on the podium at Tokyo 2020 after such a challenging five years since Rio 2016?

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "It's a beautiful medal and it's true that it's the result of a difficult period because there was this year postponement that meant [there were more] competitors for me.

"It's [also] my personal situation because I've become a mother in the last two years. Nothing was easy.

"But despite that I managed to get back to the top. This means that everything is possible despite difficulties; despite the fact that I'm at the end of my career, that I became a mother, that I was working.

"I know that it was difficult to get here and to get this medal, but beside the medal, it's the message that comes across:

If I can do it, then other athletes can do it, too.

They have to believe in themselves.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images After all the challenges, it must have been a relief to finally arrive in Tokyo

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "When I arrived in Tokyo I was a bit far away from all this business of high performance, of all the [natural] pleasure of the Games, but when I stepped into the village, suddenly… it's magic.

"Living in the village is an exceptional experience. You are living with the rest of the world. You are living with beautiful people. I was super happy; happy to see the teams, happy to see the sports, happy to see all that was happening… the life in the village.

"The hospitality of the Japanese needs to be really underlined. I mean, the training sites, all their helpfulness, all this has maximised my experience as an athlete.

"It was a lot of pleasure. I enjoyed it very much. That was wonderful." You arrived as an athlete and leave as president. How does that feel?

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "I enjoyed being side-by-side with my competitors but now that I have left the village, because now I am the president, well, I can see all the sports!

"I'm out of the village and I can see the other side. And it's a great experience." Paris 2024 is just three years away. What lessons can you learn from Tokyo 2020?

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "I ended my career as an athlete in 2021 and now I will concentrate on my role as president, and that means there are several challenges ahead of us.

"There's the performance: the French team has done fantastically well here in Tokyo, and this means that all the effort we've put into restructuring the way we were doing things is paying out because we've really changed the way we were following-up on our athletes. This effort needs to continue.

"And with the Games, what is important is the legacy: I want the power of sports in France to be accessible to all. I want Para sports to be available, the clubs to be more numerous, to be more welcoming, to attract people to Para sports all over the country."

Picture by 2016 Getty Images How would you like the world to see people with disabilities when Paris 2024 gets underway?

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "My ambition and my dream over the next three years is that people stop looking at disabilities as something that is less, something like a penalisation.

"I want disability to be looked at as a strength, with all competence and ability taken in to account.

"But for that, what we need to do is change society. And society needs to give [people with disabilities] the opportunity to express themselves through their ability and their competence.

"Sport can be a stage for everyone to be able to express that competency." What excites you most about the future?

Marie-Amelie le Fur: "We have a lot of stars right now in Tokyo and the young generation has proven to be ready to go for it, which is really good because with the postponement this younger generation has had the possibility to get prepared.

"We can't really say what's going to happen, but, you know, what is wonderful with Paralympics is to wait for the surprises, the unexpected surprises."

Le Fur