March 5th, 1994: a young dad is about to move house. His wife is expecting a second child, they need a bigger house. We’re in Châtellerault, a town in the heart of France, in the midst of French provincial “normalcy”; of “normalcy”, period. 26-year-old Philippe is a worker in the metallurgic industry; he decides to dismount the home antenna without calling in outside help. A steel ladder is sufficient, a few minutes’ work. He gets on the roof, sees his wife and 7-year-old Jérémy watch him, gets ready for a relatively uneventful day. His life is about to change forever; only he doesn’t know that.
September 18th, 2010: a 42-year-old man swims across the English Channel, from Folkestone, England, to Cape Gris-Nez on the French coast. It takes him 13 hours and 26 minutes; three dolphins flank him for a while. There’s nothing “normal” about the crossing, from the icy waters and overpowering currents, to reaching the rocky shore of the Cape in the middle of the night; nothing ordinary about an endeavor that very few people have ever completed – only one of them with no arms or legs. Only one of them who can fly without wings, who can set himself new challenges again and again, who can make the impossible possible and tell the world “there’s nothing that can’t be done” if we really want to do it, if we get ready to do it and work out and work hard, non-stop, for days, months, years. Philippe – since this is Philippe we’re talking of; the same Philippe who saw most of his body burn on that roof 16 years earlier, his limbs electrocuted by a 20,000-volt current – didn’t know how to swim. He learned and learned to do it with neither arms nor legs, devoted two years of his life to train for the crossing, swimming a total of nearly 7,000 kilometers, 35 hours a week, 280 kilometers a month, with the aid of special prostheses, alongside the Gendarmerie Maritime of La Rochelle, who all root for him.
The whole world roots for Philippe, who wants to realize his dreams and has an endless supply of them, dreams for himself and for those who, like him, know what suffering is like and do not take to pity kindly. “I’m not a superhero. I’m just someone who works hard. I’m convinced that each of us has deep inner resources; has the energy to react to hardships and reach for the stars. Only this inner strength slumbers beneath the humdrum routine and indifference of daily life.” Something the Human Tecar team, all of us who flank him in his daily challenges (physical and psychological) are in perfect agreement with. Have always been, since we’ve always maintained that the human body, the most “normal” and ordinary just as an athlete’s or disabled athlete’s, has enormous resources within itself, which need to be awakened and stimulated from the inside.
After his Channel crossing, Philippe set himself new goals. The latest venture is one he’s just completed: the 2017 Paris-Dakar rally, 8,800 kilometers under extremely tough conditions, often at altitudes above 4,000 meters, from Paraguay to Argentina, via Bolivia; at the wheel of a modified BMW Philippe can drive with a hydraulic ‘joystick’ of sorts connected to the stump of his right arm, and a lever he can control with the stump of his left arm, next to his navigator, Cédric Duplé, competing for one of two Croizon-Tartarin teams – Yves Tartarin is a Dakar veteran who believes in Croizon, just as past two-time Dakar winner Nasser al-Attiyah believed in him and helped finance the Dakar venture. Croizon has many believers: one group came together to sponsor a personal physiotherapist who would flank him throughout the rally (Frédéric Bécart, you can see him in the photographs): Human Tecar, our French distributor, Élite Medicale Promokiné with its owner, Catherine Legrand, ITMP (Institut de Formation en Thérapie Manuelle), CEERF (Institut de Formation en Masso-Kinésithérapie) and KAS (Assistance en Kinésithérapie Sportive).
As always, the Dakar rally is one of the most difficult, toughest endeavors you could ever imagine: two weeks of utter hell. Only Philippe has been to hell and back, many years ago. Only 54 of the 79 cars that left Paraguay will see Buenos Aires. Philippe’s is one of them.