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batec mobility batec handbikes

BATEC ELECTRIC 2

 

batec electric 2

 


José Alberto Álvarez García’s life can be summed up in three words: love of sport. This can be seen in the many years he has spent participating in, founding and managing the main bodies for adapted sport in our country: from the Federation of Sports for People with Physical Disabilities of Asturias (FEDEMA), of which he was president from 1994 to 2011, to his current positions as president of the Spanish Federation of Sports for People with Physical Disabilities (FEDDF) and vice-president of the Spanish Paralympic Committee. But in addition to his management work, José Alberto is also a natural-born athlete and has competed in wheelchair basketball and tennis for many years. But, who better to tell you about it than he himself? Here’s the full interview. We hope you enjoy it!

 

Let’s start with a look at your career. You’re an economist by trade and have devoted half your life to adapted sport. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I always wanted to do sport but in Asturias in the early 90s there weren’t any options for adapted sports. Little by little a group of enthusiasts like me came together and we founded the Federation of Asturias (FEDEMA) and, from there, it was my responsibility to manage that body, as its president, but it also let me feel like an athlete for more than sixteen years.

 

jose alberto alvarez garcia a life devoted to adapted sport

 

Apart from having played wheelchair basketball for a long time, you’ve also medalled in tennis and weightlifting at various Spanish championships. Do you keep your medals somewhere special? Which of these sports do you prefer? Because we suppose basketball is your real passion, right? Or are we wrong and you prefer tennis or weightlifting?

Really, I’ve been very active in playing basketball (playing in the Spanish National League from 1995 to 2011) and wheelchair tennis (since 1999). My experience with weightlifting was really more anecdotal, although with good results. Over these years, I’ve won nine medals at championships in Spain and, yes, I have to say they have a special place at home, along with the rest of the trophies.

It’s impossible to choose one sport over another. They’re complementary. Basketball is a team sport and tennis, individual. Physical fitness and tactics are very important in both, but at very different levels. Each of them has had an important place in my life. Now, with the process of integrating tennis into the RFET, I’ve been competing in this event since the beginning of the year and I have to say I’m not in the same shape I was ten or fifteen years ago but I’m just as excited to feel like an athlete as I was at the very beginning, which is something I hadn’t felt since 2011 when I took over the presidency of the Spanish federation.

 

jose alberto alvarez garcia a life devoted to adapted sport

 

You won the Love of Sport award the Asturias Centre of Oviedo gives out each year “for your extraordinary contribution to the development of sport adapted to people with physical disabilities in Asturias”. What did this recognition mean to you? Are you aware of all the people with physical disabilities who appreciate the initiatives you promote (regional and national championships in Asturias, sports schools for children with disabilities, etc.)?

It’s always nice to be recognised at home and even more for altruistic work like what we’ve done at FEDEMA and now do at FEDDF. The most important thing is for there to be structures that allow people with physical disabilities to do adapted sport regardless of their injury. That is the most satisfying. I don’t need awards to see that the time invested in this project yields fruit.

You were president of FEDEMA until 2011 and now you’re at the helm of FEDDF and vice-president of the Spanish Paralympic Committee. What are your main functions? Does it leave you time for other hobbies?

They’re totally different responsibilities. Right now, being president of the FEDDF means, along with the other members of the Board, setting the federation’s strategy for development in different areas: sports, financial, institutional and social. We’re a highly committed group and we’re really motivated. Logically, it takes a lot of time that can overlap with other activities, but you always have to try to find time to do sport on your own, with family, with friends…

 

jose alberto alvarez garcia a life devoted to adapted sport

 

What expectations do you have for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio? Our paralympians are looking strong this year.

This year is really important because the spots for the games next year are in play. We’re aware that we might see fewer medals for Spain than in previous Paralympics but it’s also true that Rio will show the reality of adapted sports in our country. It’s difficult to compete in economic terms with other countries and there are more and more countries participating in the Paralympic movement. But it’s clear that our athletes’ competitive gene is above anything else and at the Games (it being very difficult now to even qualify) is where it shines brightest.

The Spanish media seems to be covering adapted sport more and more. Do you think this is true or, on the contrary, do you think it hasn’t changed and that Paralympic sport is still mistreated, based on your experience heading up the different foundations?

It’s something we all have to do together. Little by little, we have to teach the media what adapted sport really is. It’s clear that a percentage of the population, with or without disabilities, does physical activity. But when we’re talking about federations, we’re talking about adapted sport, not adapted physical activity, and there we have to value that we have athletes, athletes without adjectives (as our dear Juan Palau said). The media is realising this and starting to reflect their successes in the different events. Plus, this is very important for the pull effect it can have in attracting new athletes.

 

jose alberto alvarez garcia a life devoted to adapted sport

 

There are people who want to devote themselves to top-level sport but don’t know how get their foot in the door. What message or advice would you give them to help their dream come true?

My advice is that they set a goal with milestones. Sometimes in adapted sport people trivialise someone who has just been injured thinking about going to the next Paralympic Games. This is increasingly difficult, if not impossible. People with disabilities have to go through the different stages of adapted physical activity from the beginning, as part of the process of recovering from an injury, then in their leisure time and, after they are prepared, moving into adapted sport itself, depending on each individual’s conditions, and moving towards that dream.

Could you tell us a story you remember fondly from your sports career and at the helm of the different foundations you’ve led?

I have enough stories to fill a book, both as an executive and as an athlete, but in the end I think that the time you invest in managing adapted sport has a huge return for our community and it motivates people to do adapted sport and live according to the values sport gives those of us with a physical disability.

 

Apart from his life in the sports world, José Alberto is also a BATEC ELECTRIC user. He found out about our handbikes from other athletes who used them at competitions. Living in Oviedo, José Alberto had no doubt that it would be highly useful in his daily life given the city’s complicated geography. Here’s what he has to say about our handbikes:

What did getting a Batec handbike mean to you? Do you use it often?

The best thing is that you can do trips you never would have even considered without it. From where I live, in the centre of Oviedo, there are some distances that I never did manually and now, on a clear day when I have enough time, I will do it with my Batec handbike. Plus, when I have to travel to Madrid, I always find I have a bit of spare time so I take it so I can enjoy the big city a bit more.

 

jose alberto alvarez garcia a life devoted to adapted sport

 

How did you feel the first time you used it?

A feeling of freedom, that if I kept an eye on the battery, of course, I could go as far as I wanted. It’s always a bit uncomfortable to travel long distances in a wheelchair because you get tired, but that’s over now.

Do you think out BATEC MANUAL is a good option for people with disabilities to do healthy exercise?

I have to say I chose the BATEC ELECTRIC because I knew the use I was going to make of it. But any tool that prevents a sedentary lifestyle, that encourages us to get out and about, will always help improve our physical fitness.

Finally, would you recommend our product to other people in wheelchairs? Top-level athletes too?

I think it’s a very important technological advance. Plus, wheelchair users have to think in the long term and being able to economise our efforts, after a certain age, can be very beneficial in the future.

 

Thank you very much, José Alberto, for sharing your words and experience with us and with our readers and users. What an honour!

 

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