On your marks, get set, Karlen Manzala!

A year ago, the SBW House of Learning launched an integration project called 'Coubertin meets Dunant' at the Talent-Campus Bodensee, a private school for young refugees with an affinity for sport. Let's take a look at one of the participants in this project: Karlen Manzala, a 15-year-old aspiring top athlete.

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Karlen Manzala at the Talent-Campus Bodensee

Karlen Manzala is strong, lithe, full of energy with impressive lightness. This morning, she is training with six other athletes of roughly the same age in Dreispitz school's sports hall. At the end of the training session, her coach, Sarah Weber, takes the young Angolan aside to give her some feedback. "It's very rewarding to work together. Karlen is both calm and bubbly – and she's very determined," says the experienced coach full of praise.

Karlen is one of 15 young migrants with sporting skills who is being given the chance to develop their potential in the next few years at the Talent-Campus Bodensee. The 'Coubertin meets Dunant' programme is primarily supported by the Federal Office of Sport and the State Secretariat for Migration. Young athletes like Karlen help set an example and contribute to the integration of refugees in Switzerland.

She grew up in Roggwil (Thurgau), the daughter of an Angolan father and a Congolese mother. Since spring 2023, she has been attending the Talent-Campus Bodensee. "My forte is sprinting," says Karlen. "This year, I want to get to the final of the Swiss Championships in my category." For coach Sarah Weber, it is important that Karlen not only develops athletically, but also becomes independent and can lead a self-determined life.

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Karlen talking to her coach, Sarah Weber

The new 'Coubertin meets Dunant' programme aims to serve as a springboard to achieve this. This nationwide programme increases the future prospects and integration of young refugees with sporting talent who live in Switzerland. "We are committed to helping refugees to integrate here through their strengths and talents," says CEO and President of the Board Reto Ammann. In the long term, Karlen hopes to qualify for the Olympic Games with the Refugee Olympic Team and participate in the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar in 2024. "The most important thing is that she develops personally and lives her passion," says Mr Ammann. "We stand at the start of a career with our commitment and we want to contribute one small piece of the mosaic, so that these young people can fully exploit their potential and talent.S

After training, it’s school. Karlen Manzala is aware that her academic development is equally as important as her sporting development. "I know that the road is long. But I want to get ahead in life and I'm willing to work hard for it."

"Maths isn’t really my thing…"

During our visit to Kreuzlingen, we ask Karlen Manzala to play 'This or that?'

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Funge or Fondue? Pfeil nach unten

"Funge is my favourite dish. It's a traditional Angolan recipe. You mix cassava flour with water to a consistency of mashed potato. Cheese, on the other hand, isn't really my thing."

School or sport? Pfeil nach unten

"School, because I also want to go far in my studies. For me, school comes before sport – 51% to 49%..."

Lakes or mountains? Pfeil nach unten

"I prefer lakes because they make me think of summer."

Early bird or night owl? Pfeil nach unten

"I don't have a preference, although I do sometimes struggle in the morning. But I'm always raring to go at my training sessions."

Kreuzlingen or Roggwil? Pfeil nach unten

"Roggwil is my home village. It's where my friends and family live. Kreuzlingen is still a bit new to me."

Sparkling or still water? Pfeil nach unten

"I prefer tap water; it tastes the best."

Maths or French? Pfeil nach unten

"Definitely French – maths isn't really my thing."

Kizomba or accordion? Pfeil nach unten

"Kizomba, because I like to dance to this type of music."

Sprint or long-distance running? Pfeil nach unten

"I love to sprint. Putting all my energy into a 10-second run is a wonderful feeling – it's like flying."

Reading or Netflix? Pfeil nach unten

"Both. I love reading, but I also like to watch a drama series or a film now and again."

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Warming up for training in the Dreispitz school sports hall