“At first, I hated running. From 12 to 15 years old, I always came in last in competitions. And then one day, when I was 18 or 19, I beat an Australian friend who was a champion himself. It felt good, it was the first time that someone had beaten him and it changed my life. I gained self-confidence and since then I’ve been able to run…” José Desfosses explains that at that time, two years after leaving Mahebourg with his father for Perth, Australia, he met this friend, who encouraged him to join the Scarborough Surf Life Saving Club.
“I hated sports at that time. Little by little, with effort and willpower, I discovered that I was able to run on soft sand, despite the difficulties it posed. Since then, it has become my favourite activity. Running is my greatest love,” says our compatriot. His blue eyes shine like the stars when he talks about his pleasure in seeing youths “suffer as they run on soft sand”. At 27 years old, José Desfosses ran his first marathon and only stopped 13 years later. “I noticed that it was damaging my tendons, so I stopped.”
At the club, the young José also learned how to surf ski. Attracted to the sea due to his Mahebourg upbringing, he easily got involved once he was in Australia. “It’s exciting to go out on the open sea when there are huge waves and the sun is shining”, the world champion claims.
José Desfosses trains for competitions. “I train every day except Saturdays.” Every Sunday, he participates in competitions within his club, and every three weeks in the interstate championships… His training starts at 4 am. “The first thing I do in the morning is go for a run while the sun rises. I feel free as a bird. It’s really beautiful.” The champion also trains in the afternoons. “Training is very important in order to stay at a very hard fitness level.”
Even on holiday, he keeps up his training, like right now in Trou-aux-Biches. Waking up at 5 am, he’s on the beach an hour later. “I do 15km of surf ski, 10km of running on soft sand and around two kilometres of swimming,” our conversation partner says in a soft voice. With his greying hair and tanned complexion, José trains for two or three hours every day. “I follow the deep-sea fishing boats that leave Trou-aux-Biches in the morning. I enjoy following them, taking advantage of the waves that form behind them.” For about an hour every day, he goes back and forth between the beach and the open sea. “I follow one boat. When it stops, I go back towards the beach and sometimes along the way I catch another boat and follow it until it drops anchor too.” His training ends around 8:30 or 9.
On some mornings, he trains the youngsters who jog on the beach and introduces them to surf ski. “When they train, it’s easy to see what they want to accomplish but they don’t know how to go about it. I ask them if they mind if I show them how.” So José trains them before going home for breakfast.
José has noticed that Mauritius has a passion for sports. Unfortunately, he says, there are many young people who are unable to make their dreams a reality due to a lack of means. He would like for young Mauritians to receive training in surf life saving, based on the Australian model. He recalls that in the early 90s he had circumnavigated the island by kayak in order to raise money to open a training school. Unfortunately, although the activity was a success, the project wasn’t completed. José would like for lifeguarding clubs to be opened all over the island, and even in schools. He points out that sports such as surf ski foster respect for oneself and one’s body. “It’s healthy. Instead of destroying yourself by taking drugs, you can enjoy sports from every angle. They encourage people to respect and love their bodies.”
Article by Munavvar Namdarkhan
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