Meet Carl Aitkaci, a swimmer with outstanding dual credentials!

Thursday, 15 september 2022

Becoming an engineer while simultaneously pursuing a career as an elite athlete… is possible! Carl Aitkaci tells us about his experience on the dual Sport/Preparatory class study program at the Ecole Diagonale.

Carl Aitkaci, a French 50m and 100m breaststroke champion, studied at the Ecole Diagonale, a school supported by Groupe BPCE, which offers high-level athletes an opportunity to pursue their studies into higher education. This institution was exactly what he was looking for to the extent that it enabled him to continue training with the French national team while simultaneously allowing him to study for the competitive entrance exams to the elite French schools of engineering.

The dual project, a well-balanced approach for athletes

The Ecole Diagonale is an elite academy at the heart of Paris’ Latin Quarter, a school attended by young athletes unwilling to abandon their studies just because they also happen to be gifted in a sport. This was the case for Carl Aitkaci, 21, a member of the French national swimming team, who for nothing in the world would have abandoned his dream of becoming an engineer. “Sport is something vital for me,” he explains, “but my studies are just as important especially considering the transitory nature of success in high-level sport.” This is undoubtedly true… yet Carl is still only at the very beginning of a highly promising career.

He is, in fact, one of the great hopes for the future of French swimming, the champion of France in the 50 and 100m breaststroke events. But swimming is undoubtedly one of the toughest sports there is. You need to be immensely committed and determined to reach the highest levels in this discipline considering the strict discipline, hard work and sacrifices it demands. For those who have the determination and energy it takes to pursue two distinct goals – continuing their studies while simultaneously training in this particularly difficult discipline – this dual project represents a providential solution: it provides an outlet for frustration and offers a source of equilibrium. “I need to be a high-level athlete at 100% and a student at 100%,” says Carl. “When I’m disappointed with my swimming, I have my classes to make up for it, and when the lessons are difficult, I have my swimming to fall back on… So the two disciplines really provide me with the equilibrium I need to progress in both areas.” This enabled Carl to take part in the world championships for the first time this summer. “I learned a great deal, gained a lot of experience. It will be like this every year if I want to reach the higher levels.” Until, of course, the Olympic Games Paris 2024, for which he’ll also be preparing as he pursues his dual sport/academic project. But to be successful in this, he needs a suitable framework.

Elite sport and preparatory classes, similar qualities required

This is the goal and very essence of the Ecole Diagonale, an institution offering young athletes the opportunity to pursue advanced studies while simultaneously practicing sport at a high level with other athletes in other disciplines. “The teachers are very understanding about the practice of high-level sport,” says the young swimmer. “They’re very flexible about training. We can also have catch-up classes when we take part in a competition. Everything is done to boost our performance. And, ultimately, we enjoy doing both. It is certainly a really hectic life but it allows us to share our values. We can learn from other athletes doing different sports, we can see how they train, how they manage their project.” It’s a question of mutual enrichment and a way to support each other in this pursuit of excellence. Because this is what is special about Carl! In both areas, he has joined a pathway to excellence: the national French swimming team in sport, and scientific preparatory classes for his academic career.

These two activities call for similar qualities: commitment, discipline, and an immense appetite for work… and this is how Carl has managed to succeed in these two areas considering that he took part in his first world championships this summer and, at the same time, was offered a place at the Leonard de Vinci school of engineering. He’s starting his first courses there this September and his future prospects are outstanding: a degree in engineering in five years’ time and, between then and now (as we hope most wholeheartedly!), a place at the Olympic Games Paris 2024…