UTC Sport Elite

Arnaud Van­i­cat­te is Direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty Phys­i­cal and Sports Activ­i­ties Depart­ment, which enables stu­dents prac­tis­ing top-lev­el sport to com­bine their stud­ies with the prac­tice of their per­son­al dis­ci­plines under the best pos­si­ble con­di­tions. In short, it is a sup­port role for ath­letes such as Louise-Esther Fab­re in rug­by, Leonie Ler­oux in cycling, Liam Bris­son in row­ing, Romain Bel in fenc­ing and Adrien Picard in aerobatics.

«My role is to help them define their dual project, often before they inte­grate UTC and some­times even before they apply to the Uni­ver­si­ty, in order to see if the project is fea­si­ble, first of all because the appli­cants are work­ing on two high-lev­el projects. These are the engi­neer­ing course on the one hand and high-lev­el sport on the oth­ers. We check whether all the con­di­tions are in place for stu­dents to pros­per and flour­ish here in Com­pieg­ne and at UTC and whether they can rec­on­cile sport and stud­ies. We some­times advise stu­dents against com­ing to the UTC if the sport they are prac­tis­ing requires them to trav­el a long way, for exam­ple. Once the Par­cour­sup”* selec­tions have been made, I ask them to con­tact me to con­firm whether they are still inter­est­ed in UTC,» he explains.(* Par­cour­sup is the French semi-auto­mat­ed HE admis­sion on-line appli­ca­tion system.) 

But his role doesn’t stop there. Arnaud Van­i­cat­te admits that for kids just out of high school, arriv­ing at a uni­ver­si­ty where they are com­plete­ly on their own can be desta­bil­is­ing. «The first thing is to reas­sure them. Study­ing is dif­fi­cult and they may nat­u­ral­ly won­der whether they will be able to cope with their two projects at the same time. Next, it’s my job to organ­ise their stud­ies, i.e. to work with them to put togeth­er a timetable that’s com­pat­i­ble not only in terms of fol­low­ing cours­es but also sports train­ing and com­pe­ti­tions. For com­pe­ti­tions, which are usu­al­ly held at week­ends and often far from Com­pieg­ne, they need to be able to get to their train­ing ses­sions in time. 

In order to meet the expec­ta­tions of high-lev­el sports stu­dents, UTC has cre­at­ed a spe­cial struc­ture called : “UTC Sports élite”. This struc­ture wel­comes very high-lev­el sports­men and women, some­times at inter­na­tion­al lev­el, but also very young peo­ple with sport­ing poten­tial, by set­ting up indi­vid­u­alised edu­ca­tion­al sup­port in con­sul­ta­tion with the university’s edu­ca­tion­al course man­agers to enable them to con­tin­ue com­pet­ing. «This can involve set­ting up dis­tance learn­ing cours­es. This is the case for row­ers such as Liam Bris­son, who had to be in Lyon with the French row­ing team. Of course, they some­times have to extend their years of study. Some com­plete their degree in 11 semes­ters, oth­ers in up to 14 semes­ters. They can also take sab­bat­i­cal semes­ters, like one of our stu­dents who want­ed to devote the next semes­ter to prepar­ing for the Olympic Games,» explains Arnaud Van­i­cat­te. Both the man­age­ment and teach­ing staff are very aware of the UTC’s top-lev­el sports pol­i­cy, which enables tal­ent­ed stu­dents to flour­ish, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rug­by, fenc­ing, cycling, row­ing and aerobatics.

Louise-Esther Fabre, 22 years old, captain of the Stade Français Women’s Rugby FFR

«I’m a com­put­er engi­neer­ing stu­dent in my semes­ter 5 and I’ve been play­ing rug­by since the age of 13. I start­ed play­ing rug­by in Etam­pes, at a small local club where I was spot­ted. I went on to play for a depart­men­tal team, then a region­al team, before join­ing the region­al train­ing cen­tre in Brétigny­sur- Orge as a board­er. There were ten girls my age, thir­ty in all, and we trained twice a day for a total of ten hours a week, not count­ing the match­es every week­end. When I arrived at UTC, I asked for spe­cial arrange­ments, but they were refused because I had to prove myself in terms of my stud­ies first. So I joined a 1st divi­sion club in Bobigny, but as I couldn’t attend all the train­ing ses­sions dur­ing the week, I only played in the reserve team. In my 3rd year, I was giv­en spe­cial arrange­ments and joined the Stade Français, a club that had just dropped down to the 2nd divi­sion and whose aim was to climb back into the top ech­e­lon. In 2022, we achieved our goal and were also we con­se­crat­ed as French cham­pi­ons. I’ll get my UTC diplo­ma in five and a half years instead of five,» says Louise-Esther Fabre.

Liam Brisson, 24, rowing, Prix Destremau 2023

«I came to UTC in 2017 to study mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing and the Uni­ver­si­ty allowed me to com­plete my degree in sev­en years instead of five. In fact, I took few­er sub­jects per semes­ter so that I could take part in train­ing cours­es with the French team in the run-up to the 2024 Olympic Games. I was entire­ly sec­ond­ed to the Olympic cen­tre in Lyon, where the nation­al team trained for 28 hours a week, and I fol­lowed my lessons by video. The great thing about UTC and its teach­ing staff is that they do every­thing they can to ensure that you can com­bine top-lev­el sport with your stud­ies. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, a nasty injury recent­ly shat­tered my dreams of tak­ing part in the 2024 Olympics. I did receive a small con­so­la­tion though, in 2023 when I was cho­sen for the Gérard Destremau Prize, in mem­o­ry of the Roland- Gar­ros cham­pi­on, award­ed once a year by the Académie des sci­ences morales et poli­tiques to a top lev­el sports­man or woman», explains Liam Brisson.

Léonie Leroux, 17 years old, a cycling “espoir”

«I have just been admit­ted to UTC in of the core cur­ricu­lum and right from the start I was giv­en a choice of cours­es and timeta­bles. I also have access to a “weights” room ded­i­cat­ed to top-lev­el ath­letes so that I can do my train­ing, espe­cial­ly in win­ter when it’s impor­tant in cycling. For bike train­ing, I try to find peo­ple to ride with me around Com­pieg­ne, oth­er­wise I go once a week to train with my Parisian club, the women’s Sprint­er Club, based in Saint-Quentin-en-Yve­lines. I’ve been cycling for five years, train­ing 15 hours a week, exclud­ing weight train­ing, gen­er­al phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion and com­pe­ti­tions. I cur­rent­ly ride on the road and on the track, but my sport­ing objec­tives are on the road. This year, for exam­ple, my nation­al divi­sion 2 team won the French Cup,» says Léonie Leroux.

Romain Bel, 22 years old, fencing, objective: Olympics 2028

 «Just before the covid in 2019, I was admit­ted to the core cur­ricu­lum at UTC, the uni­ver­si­ty I chose for its ‘Sport Elite’ pro­gramme. You have to realise that I train in Paris for around fif­teen hours a week, and that means I need to have time to trav­el back and forth. The UTC has giv­en me that. But it’s not just the train­ing sched­ule that’s impor­tant, there can also be organ­i­sa­tion­al prob­lems dur­ing com­pe­ti­tions, for exam­ple, and in that respect Mr Vanicatte’s role is irre­place­able. In the begin­ning, Covid allowed me to col­lect UVs, but since I start­ed in the major branch, I’ve been doing 4/5 UVs per semes­ter instead of 6/7. I’m cur­rent­ly in my 3rd year of Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing and I’ll be doing the engi­neer­ing course in five and a half years, which is one semes­ter longer than the nor­mal course. I start­ed fenc­ing at the age of 6, as my father was a fenc­ing teacher. I start­ed com­pet­ing quite ear­ly on, first at depart­men­tal lev­el in Paris, then region­al­ly, then nation­al­ly and now a lit­tle inter­na­tion­al­ly. Today, I’m 1st in the Ile de France region, 23rd nation­al­ly and 214th inter­na­tion­al­ly. My aim now is to keep improv­ing so that I can join the French team for the 2028 Olympics,» explains Romain Bel.

Adrien Picard, 24 years old, with the 2024 European Aerobatics Championships as the target

 « I per­son­al­ly fol­lowed a slight­ly dif­fer­ent route com­pared with my fel­low stu­dents. I first did a DUT before join­ing UTC in 2019 to do my licence pro (pro­fes­sion­al degree) and then, in 2020, was admit­ted to the Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing major branch. To start aer­o­bat­ics, you need a Pri­vate Pilot Licence (PPL), which I got in 2017 when I was 17. At the same time, I start­ed a two-year aer­o­bat­ics train­ing course in Amiens before start­ing to com­pete in 2020. One of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of aer­o­bat­ics is that the flights take place main­ly in the spring, main­ly for cli­mat­ic rea­sons. This requires spe­cial organ­i­sa­tion. So, the autumn semes­ter includes the adapt­ed cours­es so that I can have time to look for spon­sors but also be able to hon­our the oblig­a­tions we have towards them, par­tic­u­lar­ly in terms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. This takes up a lot of time but doesn’t pose any par­tic­u­lar con­straints because you can do it from home. In the spring, how­ev­er, things are dif­fer­ent. Per­son­al­ly, I train in Caen. A two-day week­end is very tir­ing in this dis­ci­pline. So I asked for an extra day on either Mon­day or Fri­day, depend­ing on the weath­er fore­cast, which was grant­ed, allow­ing me to sched­ule my lessons over four days. My ulti­mate goal , at this time, is to be cho­sen for the French squad com­pet­ing in the Euro­pean Aer­o­bat­ics Cham­pi­onships in 2024,» says Adrien Picard.

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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