An iron will in a boxing glove: Meet Fatia Benmessahel
Tell Fatia Benmessahel that she can't do something and she will prove you wrong. "Stubborn" is the first word Fatia uses to describe herself. She is an engineer at Atos and a high-level boxing athlete. Every set back she faced has fueled her motivation to challenge herself and accomplish great things, in her education as well as in competitions.
A late entry into the ring
After trying her hand at rugby, handball, triathlon and athletics, Fatia discovered boxing at the age of 15 thanks to her uncle. Upset that the boys in her sports association felt punished when they had to compete against her, Fatia channeled her frustration to progress quickly and win competitions. Holding the title of French Junior Champion in 2016 and 2017 in the under 60 kilos division, she became the European Junior Champion in 2017 before making it to the senior category.
Throughout high school, she combined academics and boxing, but after graduation, she needed to make a choice. She was advised to opt for university in order to have a more flexible schedule. However, her stubbornness came through again. "If I can do great things in my sport by being at the top level, I can do great things in my studies," she says.
With her scientific background, she entered the French engineering Grande Ecole ESIEE to pursue her twin ambitions. By specializing in industrial engineering (the design, organization and deployment of industrial and logistical processes), she had the opportunity to pursue a field that is broad enough to keep all doors open. Fatia also began an apprenticeship at Atos in 2019, and signed a permanent contract in September 2022.
Organization as her best sparring partner
At work, Fatia leverages the skills she acquired on the ring: autonomy, discipline and drive. In order to juggle training sessions, internships, competitions and her job, Fatia relies on her high-level organization skills and a healthy lifestyle that leaves no room for deviation.
“Boxing is a demanding sport where we train with individuals from a rich diversity of backgrounds. In combat, you have to be ready to adapt to each opponent, to each boxing style, to each body type. Just as in project management, agility and efficiency are required.”
Convinced that sport can develop skills that are transferrable to the professional world, Fatia is also a sponsor of the French Job'Odyssée charitable initiative, which promotes professional integration through sport-employment recruitment events.
From the boxing ring to the Olympic rings
As the 2021 French champion in under 64 kilos, and the 2022 French champion in the under 66 kilo category, Fatia is now aiming for the 2023 European Games (June 21 - July 2) to try to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
"Competing in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games would be the culmination of all the sacrifices and hard work of the past few years," she said.
With the intention of finishing her career at the Olympic Games, she dreams of the gold medal: an achievement that would show how she succeeded in carrying out all her fights, and that she was right to invest herself to do everything in full. Even if she doesn't bring home a medal, she hopes to inspire the young people of Seine Saint-Denis — the area near Paris where she grew up and still lives — by showing them that it is possible to study hard and practice top-level sports.
Between boxing and engineering, Fatia chose two paths that might seem unusual for women. "I want to feminize everything that is masculine," she says. She admits that nothing is easy, but when you want something enough, you can achieve it. Fatia is committed to breaking stereotypes on a daily basis, and she is not short of resources. As an engineer, sponsor of a charity, and a high-level athlete, she wears all these hats with pride and determination.