Liz Ngelebeya at the world’s major judo events

Liz Ngelebeya (18 yrs old), a judoka currently completing sports studies at INSEP, the Paris Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance, and a student at the University of Bordeaux, has taken part in the European Championships, the Youth Olympics Festival and the World Championships, all in 2020!

  • 29/01/2021

Liz Ngelebeya © International Judo Federation Liz Ngelebeya © International Judo Federation

As a first-year student in Law at the University of Bordeaux and high-level judoka, Liz Ngelebeya has succeeded in adapting her studies to accommodate an intensive level of training in judo. “I decided to split my degree course over 2 years” she explains.

Despite the solid support of the university throughout her first year and with her sports training, Liz is looking to change the course of her studies along with the invaluable help of a careers advisor. The young woman is now interested in a career with the RAID unit (Search, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence) of the French Police Force.

Combining studies and at the same time maintaining a high-level sporting performance is not always an easy task, but Liz appears to have developed a particular philosophy: “You have to just go for it”. With two to three training sessions per day, it is difficult to follow a correspondence course and also carry out individual work in the evenings. The judoka assures us that everything is meticulously organized, “you must stay very focused, because it isn’t easy at all”.

Unfailing determination

At this time, as she considers her future academic prospects, Liz Ngelebeya takes a look back at her sporting career. Having started at the age of four, Liz has fourteen years of judo under her belt. “My parents enrolled me in judo as a way to channel my energy and today I am at INSEP, the largest judo training center in the country and home to the Olympic team”, says Liz, who is originally from Bordeaux.

Far from being a family vocation, Liz is the only athlete in her close circle! She also tried her hand at tennis and rugby, but judo is the sport she has “never given up”. From an early age, judo is the passion to which she has remained true.

Driven by a competitive spirit, Liz takes to the mat “alone against [her] opponent”. As an individual sport, judo is particularly appealing to her. The determination and desire to surpass herself took her to INSEP, which has produced some of the most famous names in judo, such as Teddy Riner. For Liz Ngelebeya, “it's a great opportunity to be here. What makes INSEP different is the excellent level of your opponents”, she tells us.

On the mat, you face your opponent, but also yourself.

Liz has taken part in the major competitions of 2020, with the European Championships, the Youth Olympics Festival and the World Championships. To prepare for these high-level events, she went abroad to take part in intensive 10-day training sessions. Despite the stress of such key steps in her sporting career, Liz has adopted a simple mindset. “It’s stressful, but you have to push on. You don’t have a choice, you train every day to perform in major competitions, so you give it all you’ve got and you make or break it”, she explains with a great deal of conviction. If you fail, “you find other techniques so you can improve” she adds adamantly.

Her ultimate goal is the Olympic Games. “I’m training for this, but I know it won’t be easy”, she admits. Despite the numerous steps she still has to make towards that goal, Liz has demonstrated from an early age that nothing discourages her. “When I was 11” she tells us, “I was in the under 63kg category and I was the only girl there. So, they put me with the boys...and I won! I began to feel embarrassed about beating them, because people told me it wasn’t normal for a girl. Many an athlete has stopped because of that! However, one day my mother said to me that it wasn’t because I was a girl that I should belittle myself or be embarrassed about beating a boy.” she laughs, concluding with that sound advice on equality and self-confidence.