Yannick Bourseaux (FRA) was recently named the International Paralympic Committee’s October Athlete of the Month. Bourseaux was shortlisted for the award after winning his fourth world championship title in the men’s TRI-4 division in Auckland this year. The Frenchman previously won the race in 2005, 2006, and 2011.
The lineup in the men’s TRI-4 race was more fierce than ever this year with two-time world champion Peter Boronkay (HUN) and 2012 paralympic swimmer Martin Schulz (GER) on the start list. At the start, Schulz capitalized on his swimming skills and bolted to the start. Bourseaux, who trains with able-bodied athletes, followed him into transition, with a plan to overtake everyone on the bike.
The plan was a good one.
Bourseaux pulled even with Schulz within 12 kilometres of the 20-km course. The pair entered T2 together, but Bourseaux took off on the run, setting a tempo Schulz couldn’t match after the first kilometre. From there, the day belonged to Bourseaux, as he reeled in his second world title with nearly a minute advantage.
While Bourseaux’s sizeable win was impressive, a race perhaps more telling of his character was his very first world title in Hawaii in 2005.
As a youngster, Bourseaux showed great promise as an able-bodied triathlete. In 1995, he won silver at the Triathlon European Championships in Stockholm. He then went on to be named to the French Long Distance National Team, successfully competing for the next decade at elite races.
However, all of that changed in 2004.
Bourseaux was training in the French Alps with 2012 London Olympics fourth-place finisher David Hauss (FRA) when Bourseaux lost control when rounding a curve and rode off the edge, falling onto moving traffic on the road below. Despite suffering a bludgeoning blow, the rescue team managed to revive Bourseaux. He then underwent and long sessions of rehab, miraculously leaving him with just a paralyzed right arm.
While the fall would have left most athletes fearful of ever mounting a bike again, Bourseaux was anything but afraid. He returned to triathlon the very next year to compete as a paratriathlete at the world championships in Hawaii. It was as if he hadn’t missed a beat in training, as he sailed to the win with a big gap.
Encouraged by his podium finish, Bourseaux decided three disciplines wasn’t enough for him. He supplemented his summer training with biathlon and cross-country skiing, qualifying himself for the 2006 Torin and 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympics and effectively raising his sport count to five – swimming, biking, running, skiing, and shooting.
This year, while most athletes called it a season after their races in Auckland, Bourseaux was anything but done. He immediately flew home to be with family, which includes his three-year old daughter and then he went to work preparing for the Nordic skiing race season.
In just a few short months, Bourseaux will compete in the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Sweden for a shot at a third winter Paralymipcs berth. While his focus will be on the world of winter sports in the coming months, you can be sure Bourseaux also has his sights set on competing in paratriathlon at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.