When physical education teacher Robert Simpson attended the Défi sportif AlterGo in 2004, he made an immediate decision: The following year, his students from the Mackay Centre School would absolutely have to attend. Fourteen years later, the annual event continues to be a major highlight for the Mackay Centre schoolchildren.

In the early days, Mackay’s athletes, who sport black jerseys with gold lettering, mostly took part in swimming and track and field events. Nowadays, the Mackay Centre also sends soccer, ball hockey and rhythmic gymnastics teams to the Défi. Approximately forty Mackay students will be participating in the week-long School Sports event at this year’s Défi sportif AlterGo. While the athletes are fully prepared to excel in their sports, the number one goal is to have fun.

Returning students start looking forward to the event from the very beginning of the school year. “As early as August, the students start asking me the dates of the next Défi sportif,” explained Simpson, who has been teaching at the centre since 1999.

He always loves to see the facial expressions of students who are attending the Défi sportif for the first time. “From the moment they enter the sports centre, they’re in awe. The way they talk about it afterwards is very touching, and the awards ceremony we hold once we get back to the school really brings it all together. The Défi sportif is a big deal for the kids,” he added.

In addition to the competition, the Défi sportif provides the Mackay Centre’s students with a chance to take stock of the world. It also allows them to see that there are many young people whose experiences are similar to theirs.

“What’s amazing about the Défi sportif is that almost everyone there has a limitation of some sort. The kids realize that outside of our school, there’s a whole world with people just like them.”


Over the past fourteen years, Simpson has watched the Défi sportif AlterGo grow and change. “The Défi sportif doesn’t simply create challenges and then expect the students to somehow adapt. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: The organizers are careful to design the events according to the needs and limitations of the athletes.”

“A few years ago, we had some kids in electric wheelchairs who wanted to take part in the competition, so they created so the wheelchair slalom event. The bigger the Défi gets, the more they consult the schools so that they can meet our needs,” noted Simpson.

The Mackay Centre’s teachers and therapists are dedicated to ensuring that the Défi sportif AlterGo is a unique experience for their students. “We have a great team on hand to support the kids.”

And fourteen years later, Robert Simpson does so with as much enthusiasm as ever.

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