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On winning the very first paralympic gold medal, Alexis left his mark on French triathlon history. As an exemplary yet very modest athlete, he has an outstanding list of achievements to his name: multiple European and World champion, and also winner of a gold medal in his category (PTS4) at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. To be perfectly honest, we had intended to interview him on the occasion of European Disability Employment Week (EDEW) so that he could tell us how his disability fitted into his life as an employee and as an athlete. But as we prepared to chat with him, it soon became clear: Alexis very quickly made us forget his difference, and we found ourselves doing a special EDEW interview that had little to do with disability. Instead, it was all about dreams, challenges, training and ways to combine high-level sport and working life. Meet an employee worth his weight in gold!

What is the advantage of being a top athlete when working on a construction site or, like now, in your role as a health & safety adviser? 

A high-level athlete has perfect knowledge and command of his own body and knows its limits. And the same requirements apply to working in the building trade. As a health & safety adviser, I can really draw parallels with high-level sport. I offer advice to trainees on their postures and gestures when they stoop or lift heavy loads. I also help them become aware of the importance of healthy living and a good diet if they want to remain in good health! In my presence, they also become more aware that accidents don’t just happen to other people, and that care should always be taken to comply with the company’s safety regulations for the sake of not only their own health and safety, but that of their colleagues as well.  

Finally, as a triathlon athlete I may be alone on the podium, but there’s a whole team behind me to help me achieve such performances: my coaches, my prosthetists, the healthcare team and my family. In short, I'm never alone! In sport as in business, we need to be surrounded by the right people, and it’s perfectly normal to seek help and ensure we benefit from the best possible conditions. I try to convey this mindset to employees.  

How do you think you may have helped to change the company’s attitude towards disability?

On my first day with Bouygues Bâtiment in 2017, I turned up at the construction site in shorts. It was at 7 o’clock on a freezing cold morning in January, but I did it to “lay the foundation” so to speak! Nobody looked me in the eye, everyone from foremen to trainees looked me “in the leg” and wondered what I was doing there. Then for the first fortnight they ignored me, on the basis of their presuppositions, before realising that I was perfectly capable. From then on, the situation changed radically and I was warmly welcomed by all the teams. At my own level, I think I’ve changed the opinion of many trainees by proving it isn’t appearances that count, but competency. I have also contributed to the sense of goodwill: yes, it is possible to work with an artificial limb.  

That year, not a single sick note was seen at that work site. Maybe seeing me enabled them to put their own problems into perspective, and I probably also played a preventive role by reminding them, just by my presence, that a work site is a place where you must pay attention at all times.   

Finally, it’s all about education: inclusion is something you learn. In fact that’s why I speak about difference in the broader sense, rather than about disability. At the end of the day, we’re all different and that’s what makes our society so interesting. We are not clones: we all learn from one another and we must let this difference nurture us, not make fun of it. My difference is that I have a carbon limb, but my running ability is much greater than most people’s. So in comparison to them, I am not disabled, just different.  

To get my colleagues and the trainees to understand this I use a very simple example: if you have to stand on a stool to change a light bulb, a person who has both legs but also a fear of heights will, in fact, have a worse handicap than me. As for a visually impaired person, they won’t even need to change the bulb in the first place!  

Disability is everywhere, it’s a psychological notion of what we are capable or incapable of doing. Rather than “disability”, which can be diminutive and negative, I prefer to talk about difference. People with disabilities are proud to play a part in the company, they are beneficial driving forces. 

Have your different positions in the company required any adaptations to accommodate your disability?
This hasn’t been necessary either at work sites or in the offices. After all, when I’m wearing trousers and safety footwear, my disability cannot be seen and I have access to everything.  
I do my sports training with “healthy” athletes and I like that! I’m a triathlete first, a paratriathlete second. This year I came first in the Deauville triathlon, ahead of hundreds of able-bodied competitors. I don’t place myself in a category at all, and since the start of my career I have never wanted to train with a specific group.  


Same question for the sport! Has your status as a top athlete made it necessary for adjustments to be made at work? 

In January 2022, I renewed for the 4th time my occupational integration contract intended for high-level athletes, with Bouygues Bâtiment Grand Ouest and the the Fédération Française de Triathlon. This contract allows for 30 hours of training in my working week as well as participation in competitions, while offering me a stable position within the Group as a health & safety adviser.  

I am very happy to continue this adventure with Bouygues Bâtiment Grand Ouest. The company very quickly put their trust in me and I feel happy here. I am satisfied at having changed the attitude of certain employees towards difference and inclusion. I hope I can encourage others to try to push their boundaries. You have to believe in your dreams!

What is an occupational integration contract for high-level athletes? 
An occupational integration contract encourages the inclusion of top athletes in the world of work by making their work time compatible with intensive training in their discipline. This means they can prepare for competitions, secure in the knowledge that they can continue in their job.  

Over the years, Bouygues Construction’s proactive policy in favour of developing sporting performance in France has enabled a number of athletes to benefit from this type of contract within the company. Among them are: Albéric Cormerais (buyer at Bouygues Bâtiment Sud-Est and world rowing champion), Guillaume Delmas (buyer and Slovenian international rugbyman), Jordan Dorville (block-release trainee in Bouygues Construction’s payroll department and taekwondo champion), Ludivine Mitrope (property development manager at Linkcity Centre-Sud-Ouest and Qwan Ki Do champion), Delphine Racinet-Réau (PPP accounting and account consolidation at Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France and target shooting champion), Dan Nguyen (sales engineer and kickboxing champion)… 

How are you preparing for the 2024 Olympics? Is it different for each competition? 

For Tokyo 2020, the weather promised to be extremely warm and humid, and I did specific training for that with the help of a “thermoroom” that reproduced the conditions I would encounter during the competition. 

For Paris 2024 it’s a little different: at the beginning of September (Editor’s note: the paratriathlon period), the weather in the region is totally uncertain! It might be 35 degrees or just 15, it goes from one extreme to another at that time of year. Nevertheless, preparations are starting already, and I’m still training my body in the thermoroom, as we’ve realised the benefits of preparing for the worst possible conditions.  

Between June 2023 and June 2024: qualification period for the 2024 Olympics. For Alexis this means taking part in a few international events for which he must make it to the winners’ podium. For the athlete who becomes the 2023 champion, participation in Paris 2024 is almost a given. 
18th August 2023: the “test event”, a kind of general rehearsal a year ahead of the Paris 2024 race. Alexis will participate in real conditions, which will help him find his bearings along the course and elaborate the best possible strategies. “This course recce is extremely important. A similar simulation   
for Tokyo really helped me on the day of the actual race: I knew the site, I had no doubts as to how to run the course, and I wasted no time. The information it provides is extremely valuable and I can’t wait to be there.”  

1st or 2nd September 2024: paralympic triathlon race.  

Do you have a tip, for both work and sport? 

Yes: you must have dreams. There’s nothing more beautiful than dreaming. And it’s never silly to want to fulfil a dream, you have to try. Falling doesn’t matter, the main thing is to get up again. In the world of business and the world of sport, you must have a dream, and then go for it. 

Once when I was barely out of hospital, I dreamt I would become a triathlete and take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games. First I dreamt of qualifying, then I dreamt about winning a medal, then I dreamt of gold, and then I achieved it. I knew deep down that I was capable of it and I dreamt about it so much that, after all, everything that happened between the start of that dream and its fulfilment, the European and international gold medals, they were just bonus steps along the way.  

You get nothing without effort, but you have to allow yourself to dream, to look ahead and motivate yourself into accomplishing a challenge. It’s important to follow your dreams through. What’s happening to me now comes from hard work, not luck. 

So what will be the next challenge, the next dream?  

I thought I’d reached my top level last year when preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, and this year I’ve turned out to be even better, so I’m going to keep right on dreaming! I want to leave behind me the greatest list of para achievements in French sporting history.  In concrete terms, I’m dreaming of the two next world titles, the gold medal at Paris 2024, and then Los Angeles 2028. 
I also set myself challenges by comparing with the best athletes in other categories (Editor’s note, Alexis competes in category PTS4 and compares himself with category PTS5 participants who have lighter disabilities).  Last weekend in Turkey, I was 15 seconds behind the PTS5-category winner.  

A rather unusual Olympic race for 2028 
“In 2028, it is planned to organise a mixed triathlon relay race with teams composed of two women and two men. A first “test” race will be held in one month in Abu Dhabi and I’ll be there. Then in 2023, a mixed relay is planned for the world triathlon championship. If it works out, a similar event will be suggested for inclusion in the 2028 competitions in Los Angeles.”  

Tokyo 2020, the world championships, and soon Paris 2024... How do you return to “normal” day-to-day life after all that emotion?  

I enjoy things as they happen, then return to my daily routine, but there’s nothing very ordinary about it! I train so often that it’s my main job. To me there’s nothing monotonous about my “second” job as a health & safety adviser at Bouygues Bâtiment Grand-Ouest. Every day brings fascinating exchanges and new encounters. And I'm still a hyperactive person! I try to convey my energy, enthusiasm and joy to the people around me, to add a little goodwill. The pleasure of being with my colleagues and answering their questions about my “other life” is mutual, and it even allows me to point out lots of similarities between high-level sports and the world of business. You have to surround yourself with the right people, adopt strategies, comply with rules and respect the captain of the team... If I can offer any advice, I'm happy to do so.  

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