Josiane Zambenedetti, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, is not done with the sport yet. At 73, the athlete, seven times French rugby champion, is now a member of the Disabled Sports Club in Auch.
“I’ve always had health problems, but that didn’t stop me from doing sports,” says Josiane Zambenedetti, who was diagnosed with a tumor on her first birthday. Josianne was born in Auch in 1949 and only left the Gers department to represent it in competitions.
At the age of 18, after a 3-month internship in Poitiers, Josiane obtained her state examination as a physical education teacher. A few months later, she teaches physical education at the Oratoire Sainte-Marie private general and technical college in Auch. If she does sport during her school days, this represents only a tiny part of her sporting activities.
A lifestyle… sporty
“We took the train to Toulouse with the rugby team on Friday evening at 11:30 p.m. We were picked up 600 km further in Lyon on Saturday morning. We trained and played in Tournus, for example. We returned to Bourg-en-Bresse on Sunday evening and trained again on Monday morning before driving to work,” she says. A busy weekend and travel, often paid for out of the players’ pockets. “It was a different era for women’s sport,” she explains.
As an adult, Josiane played rugby at clubs in Auch, Toulouse, Bourg-en-Bresse and Teste-de-Buch. From 1973 to 1988 she won 7 French league titles and from 1981 to 1988 she was elected to the French team 8 times. In addition to the titles, she has wonderful memories of those years: “When we contested the final in Montaigut-le-Blanc, we were playing on a field that looked like a boxing ring, you could have seen the third half there…” she laughs.
The third half is one of the things remembered by Martine Graille, a former ABC d’Auch basketball player who hooked up with Josiane back in her 40s. “Zambé was a fighter, she never gave up and made us laugh,” she recalls. “One evening in the Salle Mathalin I came out dressed as a vamp, says Josiane, and we don’t talk about it in the Condom…” Because if ABC von Auch had the honor of seeing Josiane play, the latter was also part of the Gimont teams and condom. In this discipline, Josiane climbs in National 2 and National 3.
At the same time, the champion also engages in bodybuilding and athletics. She does high jump and discus, a discipline that she still practices today with the Auchandi Club. This year she also won the title of champion of the Pyrenees in “valid” and the bronze medal at the French Championships in Disabled Sports.
The illness doesn’t stop him
When he retired, however, his life changed after those few words from his doctor: “You have Parkinson’s disease.” Josiane can’t believe it at first. Then she reacts as usual. With her doctors, she sees only one solution in the fight against the disease: sport. A reassuring area in which she has always excelled.
Back then, alongside her hobbies such as fishing and hunting, Josiane started with wheelchair basketball at Pavie JAP, health sports with Florian Delaunay, disabled athletics and, brand new, with Omar Bouyoucef laser running. “If I don’t exercise, I’m screwed,” she says. Even if Josiane finds it difficult to accept her handicap, she doesn’t give up and wants to keep winning titles as a disabled athlete. A warrior mentality stronger than the disease.