Joana Desbordes

Joana Desbordes

Student in biology-geosciences-chemistry and top-level swimmer

For me, sports gives a balance to my life. I've always been swimming in parallel with my education. I didn't see myself stopping either one.

Diving into the deep end at the age of two, Joana doesn't remember her first swimming exploits as a baby, but she has heard about them. "Every time my parents put me in the water, I would scream and struggle. A disgrace for swimmers! "she says. The daughter of Jacqueline Delord, a three-time Olympic butterfly competitor, and a swimming teacher, Joana soon returned to the family profession. At the age of five, after learning to swim in just a few hours, she joined a swimming club and quickly developed a taste for competition.

"When I was six years old, I was the first in my group. Then it all happened very quickly: the departmental and regional championships, and then at twelve, the national level," recalls the student.

Boosted by the adrenaline of the competitions, one by one she climbed the steps of the podiums and this year won the bronze medal at the French championships in the 200m and 400m freestyle.

Joana was a student in Biology, Geosciences and Chemistry during her first year at Sorbonne University. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in science with honours, she chose to study life and earth sciences while pursuing her career in sports at Insep, the national institute of sport, expertise and performance.

"David Izidore, in charge of high-level sport, came to introduce us to Sorbonne University. He spoke to us about the support system for high-level sports students," explains Joana. “I immediately wanted to study there. For me, sports means life balance. I've always been involved in swimming while I was at school. I didn't see myself stopping either one.

After joining Insep last September, the pace has intensified and thanks to the University arrangement, Joana can pass her year classes over two years.
"Without these adjusted schedules, I wouldn't have been able to attend university and complete my double course," adds the sportswoman.

Her best freestyle times

100m : 56"08
200m : 1'59"43
400m: 4'14"90

Joana Desbordes © KMSP/Stéphane Kempinaire

Joana Desbordes

From Monday to Saturday, Joana trains tirelessly from 6:45 to 9:00 am and then from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Any time not spent in the water she devotes to her studies. Every morning, she goes to the Pierre and Marie Curie campus to follow the practical work and tutorials that she conscientiously works on before going to bed.

"In partnership with Insep, chemistry professors from Sorbonne University come directly to our training site to teach us during the first semester. This saved me a lot of travelling and a lot of fatigue", Joana says, delighted.

Every minute gained is precious and her hours of sleep are essential. She, who during one trimester used to cycle more than 50 minutes several times a week to get to Insep, is now taking advantage of her situation as a boarder.

With the help of Windia Eliezer, who accompanies her in the physical and sports activities department, Joana can organise her exams according to her competition schedule. "For the French championships, I was able to take my regular tests before the sports events," she says. She would like to eventually teach life and earth sciences and she obtained excellent marks in the first semester.

"In the second semester, as the competitions and training intensified, it became more complicated to work regularly, but I passed all my exams with the support of my parents, my coach and the University," says Joana.

One year from qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games, she knows that this year is decisive and that there is still a lot of work to be done. In June, she will travel to Chartres and then Rome before joining the France A premium team this summer at Stanford.