Insep, the Olympic champion factory

Updated on 29/05/2024
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An athlete performs a high jump in a gymnasium.
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Insep, the "Institut national du sport, de l'expertise et de la performance", is where French athletes earn their stripes and enhance their careers.
The Insep institution is the flagship of elite sport in France. In the heart of the Bois de Vincennes (12th arrondissement), on a vast 28-hectare site, Insep has been guiding athletes and federations towards Olympic gold since 1965. Founded after the failure of the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome (five medals, no golds!), it is constantly being modernized and is a veritable champion's village with living quarters to the north and training facilities to the south. 450 athletes live here year-round, including 150 youth prospects.

A sports and education project

Insep is a public building that acts under the authority of the French Ministry of Sports, and serves the country's sports federations. Every year, each federation draws up a list of top-level athletes, based on its own criteria and the medal potential of its athletes. It forwards this list to the Ministry of Sports, which then selects a certain number of athletes according to the number of places available at the institution and the government's performance priorities.
Those who come here are potential European, world or Olympic medalists. They can arrive as early as secondary school and follow a dual curriculum, as the Insep has a dual educational and sports project. Students can also stay beyond the baccalaureate, thanks to flexible timetables and partnerships between the center and universities or grandes écoles. On a typical day, athletes alternate between lessons with training sessions.

Elite facilities

The facilities allow athletes from all sports to train there: boxing, archery and shooting sports, badminton, basketball, a huge hall dedicated to athletics with an indoor velodrome, an aquatic center inaugurated in 2016 with a 50-meter pool and diving boards, table tennis, judo, fencing, artistic gymnastics, etc. Each sports hall also has its own workout room.
Insep also has a medical service with 80 medical staff (from general practitioners to physiotherapists and podiatrists, as well as gynecologists and dentists). An entire department is also dedicated to research, where coaches and athletes work on projects to improve performance.
Three hundred people work on the site's administration team, but Insep also has a national network of some twenty regional centers to which federations can send their athletes.

Training Olympic medalists

Teddy Riner (judo) and Tony Yoka (boxing) have trained here, among others. Tony Parker (basketball), three-time Olympic champion Marie-Josée Perec (running) and Clarisse Agbegnenou (judo) have also trained at the center. Of the 42 French Olympic medallists at Rio 2016, 21 trained at Insep.
For Astrid Guyart, French Olympic fencer (foil), "Insep is an excellence and high performance center for French athletes, it's the envy of the world. It's a real opportunity for us. It needs to be promoted and shown to the general public, so that when an graduating athletes leaving the Insep can be recognized as elite sportsmen and women".
In our series on the Olympic Games: