“When I started competing two years ago I never thought I would be swimming with my idols. Our whole team is incredible, specially Elodie Lorandi whom I watched at the Paralympics. She is a hero to me."
Ugo Didier has many talents. He is a class S9 Para swimmer who has just won two medals at his first European Championships and in September will begin studying engineering. Amazingly he is just 16 years old.
“I’ve been accepted at an Engineering school in Toulouse, the city where I come from. I am going to study there and swim in the same club where I started when I was only eight,” said the proud French athlete.
Splitting his time between swimming and studies is nothing new as Didier had to miss a lot of classes when he competed at the World Championships in Mexico City last December.
He came back as a world champion in the 100m backstroke S9 and had a surprise reception when he returned to school.
“There was a banner with my picture, my name, my time and the result in Mexico. It was amazing. My teachers also helped me a lot to finish all my exams because of the classes I missed.”
Even better than that was the chance to share the pool with some of his idols.
“When I started competing two years ago I never thought I would be swimming with my idols. Our whole team is incredible, specially Elodie Lorandi whom I watched at the Paralympics. She is a hero to me,” he said about the seven-time Paralympic medallist.
The natural choice
Didier says he never had any doubt about the sport he wanted to be part of.
“I can’t jump, I can’t run because of my impairment. I have always wanted to learn how to swim.”
Now, he is back in France as one of the two gold medallists at the World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships.
The 16-year-old won gold in the 100m backstroke S9 and silver in the 200m individual medley SM9.
“The week in Dublin was incredible. I worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices every day. I am really proud to win medals at the Euros.”
But once he is back in Toulouse he will not only be thinking about the races in which he medalled. Missing the finals in the 400m freestyle is something he has not forgotten about.
“I was a bit disappointed [with the result] but I am really motivated to be back in the swimming pool and practice even more for this event.”
While competing at his first Paralympics at Tokyo 2020 is obviously in his plans, Didier is already looking forward to another Games in six years’ time.
“Paris 2024 is going to be an incredible event for France and for the Paralympic Movement. I hope I will be there competing. The support of the French fans will give us a lot of motivation to improve our performances,” said the future engineer.
Visit the Dublin 2018 website for full results, highlights and reviews.