Special Olympics | Emanuel’s freedom

Emanuel Bou Lutfallah was 15 years old when his family had recently immigrated to Canada and he started figure skating. ” I feel free ! », exclaims the 29-year-old man, suffering from Down syndrome.

As Emanuel is flexible, his parents had enrolled him in jazz ballet classes in Lebanon. It was therefore natural to have him try figure skating once in Quebec.

At the time, Louise Gagné, coach at the Saint-Laurent Club where Emanuel was registered, had already taken under her wing a young autistic man, Emile Baz. She was the only one to hold all the qualifications required to coach neuroatypical or intellectually disabled athletes.

“Parents contacted me to ask if I wanted to work with Emanuel,” she says in a video call with The Press. We’re on board! »

It’s almost 15 years since Emanuel learned from Mme Won. “I know him quite a bit!” », says the coach.

Emanuel is very lit, she explains to us. (…) It’s very easy because he’s a good boy. Very well mannered, very polite. He has some pretty wonderful parents who look after him. He is very lucky to have very available parents!

Louise Gagné, coach at the Saint-Laurent Club

On screen, Emanuel smiles upon hearing these compliments. “I like her a lot, Louise,” he suggests.

“I’m a bit like your second mother, huh? When it’s not correct, I say it, and when it’s correct, I say it,” adds Mme Won.

“Yes,” the skater agrees without the smile leaving his face.

Still, when you start taking private lessons with Mme Gagne, about fifteen years ago, Emanuel had never skated. Gradually, the coach showed him the basics, “like any skater who is 5 or 6 years old.” “It took a lot of work. (…) He learned and he still evolved quickly,” she relates.

Towards the Worlds

Gradually, Emanuel made his way, increasing the number of competitions. Today, he trains three to four times a week with Mme Won.

“At a certain age, there are skaters who plateau, like anyone in any sport. (With Emanuel), we are still capable of evolving. He gives me nice surprises! »

When he succeeds in a new trick, Emanuel derives great satisfaction from it. “I feel proud,” he says.

“Like your sit spin ! M ratingme Won. Before, we didn’t go down, and now, your seated pirouette, it’s really sitting down. You’ve really improved. »

The coach is learning, too. She learns to adapt her teachings. “It’s like trying to teach someone who has two left feet. They have a talent, but it must be developed with their abilities. »

Emanuel had qualified for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games, but the pandemic forced the event to be postponed until 2023… in Russia. The war with Ukraine finally got the better of the competition. Everything has to start again for Emanuel.

“There, we try to requalify ourselves to follow the same path,” says Mme Won.

It is with this in mind that Bou Lutfallah will travel to Calgary for the Special Olympics Canada National Games, which take place from February 17 to March 4.

Well, it’s not really in this perspective, because Emanuel’s primary objective is not victory. When asked what participating in such an event means to him, he reflects. ” It’s an experience. We see our friends,” he says.

His ambitions? Learn, have fun, meet friends… and “become a world champion”!


Emanuel Bou Lutfallah with his mother Manuella Émile Boulos and his father Najib Bou Lutfallah

Different, but champion

This year, parents of Special Olympics athletes must pay $300 to allow their child to take part in the event. Plane ticket, hotel and food are paid for them. And the athletes are dressed “from head to toe,” notes Louise Gagné, who goes there voluntarily as a coach.

All this is thanks to the various sponsors and donations. Tim Hortons recently launched its Special Olympics donut initiative; from February 2 to 4, a limited edition donut in the colors of the Games is sold in the various restaurants. The money raised will be entirely donated to the organization of the Special Olympics. It is precisely Emanuel who appears in the company’s advertising, his mother, Manuella Émile Boulos, tells us.

“I was born different, but I am a champion,” says the Montrealer in said ad.

Before we end our interview, Mme Gagné would like to highlight the work carried out by the people responsible for Special Olympics Canada, who “highlight children with a difference”. “They do everything to give them the chance to flourish. »

It’s time to hang up. Before leaving us, the coach speaks to Emanuel: “We’ll see each other later!” »

“Yes, we’ll see each other later… on skates!” », replies the athlete. “We can say thank you for telling,” he suggests.

“He wants to say thank you for the interview,” adds his mother.

It was a pleasure, Emanuel.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

Leave a Comment