Student in master sciences for engineering and top-level athlete
When I was a kid, I liked to take things apart, figure out how things work. I liked science. Eventually, I found all that in athletics, too.
Aurel Manga is both a student and a top-level athlete and is heading for success in both areas. At the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham in March 2018, he won the bronze medal in the 60m hurdles, with 7"54, and again a bronze medal at the European Championships in Glasgow in March 2019, with 7"63. He benefits from the Olympic Passport scheme set up by the Sorbonne University Foundation.
What does this medal symbolise for you today?
Aurel Manga: This is the culmination of my last three years of work, my first international medal and a first result for the public. While I see progress daily with my coach, this is a visible result for all to see.
What brought you to athletics?
A. M.: My older brother, a former student of Sorbonne University (UPMC at the time), broke the French record for the triple jump when I was a kid, which made me want to start athletics at the age of 11. Since then, he has accompanied me in all my competitions. We live athletics together. It's a family affair.
You are a student in the masters in sciences for engineering at Sorbonne University. Why did you choose this course?
A. M. : I chose electronics because I was looking for a field that interests me without being directly related to sport. When I was a kid, I liked to take things apart, to understand how things work. I liked science. Finally, I also found all this in athletics: physics with biomechanics, electronic devices, chemistry with energy expenditure and protein intake, mathematics with the measurement of time and distance.
I decided to go to university on the advice of my older brother who had himself benefited from the support policy put in place for top-level athletic students. When I started the course, I met a friend from athletics, Hugo Hassid (Alumni 2014) who was taking exactly the same path and advised and encouraged me.
How do you reconcile your studies with top-level sport?
A. M. : It's quite a journey. I'm in class from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., then from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., I train 6 days a week.
To reconcile the two requires real teamwork: at the University I am monitored by Alban Saporiti and Windia Eliezer from the Physical and Sports Activities Department. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the professors and administrative officials who have invested themselves in my project, 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 internships and catch up on classes and exams. I validated my years and received an electronics degree in parallel with the Insep (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance). But despite the arrangements that were put in place, it was difficult to reconcile the two in the last year of my bachelor’s because I had to be very present physically at the University.
At that time, my sporting performance started to decline and the Insep shut its doors to me with only one year to go before the Olympic Games. It was hard. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to meet my coach, Giscard Samba, who believed in me and agreed to prepare me. At the same time, Sorbonne University continued to support me.
I hung in there and from the first year it paid off: I qualified for the 2016 Games.
Work always pays.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
A. M. : When my coach agreed to take meon , he told me: "Aurel, the goal is 2020". Since then, I have been progressing little by little with intermediate stages: 2017 was the European indoor championships and the World championships. March 2018 was the World Indoor Championships (and the medal!). Next meet: the European championships in August. For the moment, I’m focusing on 2020 because it's an important step.
Then the 2024 Olympics in Paris. In the meantime, the goal is to get my master's degree.