Congratulations to Aurel Manga, who on March 3rd won the bronze medal in the 60m hurdles at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow. This engineering master's student finished third in 7"63.
How did you get interested in athletics?
In the year 2000, I was eight years old and I saw my brother (an alumnus of Sorbonne University), break the French record for the triple jump at the World Junior Championships in Santiago de Chile. I had stars in my eyes, it made me want to get started. I started athletics at 11 years old. Since then, my brother comes with me to all my competitions. We live athletics together. It's a family story.
You are studying for a master’s in engineering sciences at Sorbonne University. Why did you choose this degree program?
I chose electronics because I was looking for an area that interests me without being directly related to sports. When I was little, I liked to take things apart, to understand how things work. I liked science. In the end, I also found all this in athletics: physics with biomechanics, electronics, chemistry with energy expenditure and protein intake, mathematics with time and distance measurements.
I decided to enter the university on the advice of my older brother who had himself benefited from the adjusted academic schedule set up for high-level sports students. Arrived in the master’s program, I discovered a friend from athletics, Hugo Hassid (Alumni 2014) who was in exactly the same master’s and he both advised and encouraged me.
How do you reconcile your studies and high performance sports?
It is a tough program. I am in class from 8h30 to 13h, then from 14h to 18h, I train, 6 days a week.
To reconcile the two requires real teamwork: at the university my advisors are Alban Saporiti and Windia Eliezer at the Department of Physical and Sports Activities. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the teachers and administrators who have invested in my project and especially: Ms. Darces, Mr. Roduit, Ms. Belhadj-Tahar, Mr. Valette, Ms. Roussel, Mr. Chetouani and Ms. Chaval.
With understanding teachers, I can arrange my schedule, go on an internship and catch up on courses and exams. I validated my years of the bachelor’s in electronics in parallel with Insep (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance). But despite the arrangements put in place, it was difficult to reconcile the two activities in my last year of the bachelor’s because I had to be very present at the university.
At that time, my athletic performance dropped and Insep closed its doors to me just one year before the Olympics. It was hard. Fortunately, I met my new coach who believed in me and who agreed to prepare me for the upcoming events. At the same time, Sorbonne University continued to support me.
I recommitted myself and in the first year, it paid off: I was qualified for the 2016 Games.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
When my coach agreed to take me on, he said, "Aurel, the goal is 2020.” Today, I'm almost there. I aspire to represent France in Tokyo. For this, I must continue to work very hard, to train regularly and to participate in training internships and many competitions. Thanks to the Sorbonne University Foundation, I am fortunate to benefit from the Passport scholarship for the Olympics to devote myself to training and bringing back a medal from the Olympics. Then, I’ll look to the 2024 Games in Paris. But in the meantime, my goal is to get my master’s.