Paris 2024: Desjardins will carry the Olympic torch in aid of Parkinson's patients. 'X'@AnthoParkinson

Anthony Desjardins has revealed his joy of carrying the Paris 2024 Olympic torch in his home city of Montpellier as a young person with Parkinson's Disease.

Next Monday, 13 May, he will carry the flame for around 200 metres in his home town. In using sport as a tool to improve the lives of Parkinson's patients, his sporting experience is crucial. His videos with athletes and elite French sports teams have been instrumental in raising awareness of the disease and encouraging sufferers.

Desjardins will be the Olympic torch bearer for Parkinson's disease. Passing through his hometown of Montpellier with the Olympic flame will be an honour for Desjardins. "It is something I never imagined I would do in my life, disabled or not, young or old," he explained to Parkinson's Europe.

Desjardins will receive the Paris 2024 Olympic torch on Monday 13 May. He will carry it for around 200 metres before handing it over to another relay runner. It has been four years since he was diagnosed with the disease. His passion for sport has helped to mitigate its effects.

He was initially nominated for the role by Jean-Louis Dufloux, president of France Parkinson. However, Desjardins suffered a setback when he was told he would not be able to do it. "I was very disappointed," he said. "But in that email they said I had one last chance to convince them by submitting a 15-second video explaining why I was the right candidate. I recorded this video as soon as I received the email and sent it in. It reinforced my message of promoting exercise as a young person with Parkinson's."

A phone call from the Paris 2024 organisers changed his mood. It fulfilled a dream he had never imagined. "Unfortunately, I was driving and couldn't answer the call. I was so excited that I couldn't wait to hear the answer. I stopped at the first car park I could find to call them back and finally heard the good news!"

When the happy news arrived that he would be carrying the Paris 2024 Olympic torch through his home town of Montpellier, Anthony even received a congratulatory letter from the mayor. However,he still can't believe it's happening. Representing Parkinson's disease on the world stage at Paris 2024 is, as expected, something Anthony is particularly excited about.

"It's been such an honour to hear from people with Parkinson's about how proud they are to see a person with Parkinson's at such an event when I announced it on my social media accounts. It's a great pleasure, pride and responsibility for them to see me as their ambassador. I'm as happy to carry the torch for myself as I am to carry it for the whole Parkinson's community," Desjardins continued.

Footballer Didier Drogba was the bearer of the Olympic flame on 9 May. GETTY IMAGES
Footballer Didier Drogba was the bearer of the Olympic flame on 9 May. GETTY IMAGES

However, Anthony's main focus remains helping people with Parkinson's throughout this life-changing experience. He added, "The main idea of the message is really to encourage people to get out of sitting down and get moving. I think anyone can do exercise, whether it's getting up and sitting down a few times or playing with a very light ball. And everyone can benefit from it, especially people with Parkinson's."

However, the news of his diagnosis at such a young age also came as a shock to his family and friends. Parkinson's disease is unknown outside of the sight of celebrities such as Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali.

More recently, Anthony has focused his message on the benefits of sport and exercise for Parkinson's, using his background in sport (including a previous job with the French Tennis Federation).

"Exercise was increasingly proven to benefit people with Parkinson's and slow down the progression of the disease. So I told myself that was my silver lining: That loving sport would actually benefit me. I decided to make sport and Parkinson's my message."

Desjardins decided to use sports and athletes to spread the message, and his videos went viral. He recorded one at the Open Sud de France in the Montpellier Arena with Hugo Gaston (currently ranked in the top 100 tennis players in the world).

Another highlight was an episode with the Montpellier Rugby Club. There were also episodes with the French women's volleyball team, boxer Jimmy Vienot and three-time Olympic handball champion Michael Guigou. Anthony is uniquely qualified to represent the Parkinson's community as an Olympic Torchbearer for Paris 2024 because of his achievements with Un Parki Chez Les Pros.