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Why can business learn from elite athletes?

Top level sports and the business world are closely linked through shared values. Excellence, discipline, stress management, teamwork... Elite athletes have great potential due to the many qualities that are inherent to their performance.

Whether through a career choice or following retraining, sportsmen and women are an asset for the company. This is proven by Muriel Hurtis, a former elite athlete who now works at the Alpes Provence regional bank, and Christophe Lavigne, CA Payment Services employee and top rower.

Illustration of elite athletes

“Sport teaches you what you don’t learn in school - to organise your performance.”


Portrait de Muriel Hurtis Muriel Hurtis, world champion in the 4×100 m relay in 2003, is now an ambassador for the “SPORTS as a VALUE” programme in the Communications and CSR department at Crédit Agricole Alpes Provence. She explains how she went from being a top athlete to working for the Group and how her former career in elite sports makes her more effective in her new role.

Q1: Tell us about your career as an athlete
After 16 years in the French athletics team, I retired in 2014 as European champion in the 4x400 m relay. During my career I won two world championships, five European championships and an Olympic and European bronze medal. I was fortunate because my coaches inspired me to find satisfaction in hard work and encouraged me to always do my best.

Q2: How did you go from being a professional sprinter to working for Crédit Agricole Group? What values are shared by these two very different worlds? What motivated you to make the move?
Crédit Agricole Alpes Provence invited me to be the ambassador for the “Sports as a Value” programme it set up in 2015. I had just qualified as a physical therapist and was looking for a position in this area. When I received the bank’s proposal, I was attracted by the responsibilities of this role, which was to promote the educational values of sports across the region. That’s how I joined the Group.
I have come across many values I encountered during my career as an athlete, for example team spirit, commitment, a focus on effectiveness and rising to challenges.

Q3: To get to the top of your chosen sport you had to repeat the same movements and apply the same methods over and over. How do you reproduce this in your new career?
When I was an athlete, I sought perfection in everything I did. I could adapt to difficulty, learn fast and repeat what I was shown or asked to do. Now I apply the same mindset to everything I do - I listen and watch so I can do my best at all times.

Q4: What gives you your strength?
My strength comes from believing in myself and being able to handle my emotions in tough situations because I believe that there is a solution for every problem. It’s better to have your wits about you instead of letting your emotions take over! I have a positive attitude and try to pass it on.

Q5: What advice can you give us to improve our performance? What small detail makes a champion?
The advice I would give to improve performance is to clearly set your goals and give them meaning.
The small detail that makes a champion is that even when they win, a champion will always challenge themselves further. They will seek new ways of doing better next time, even if they won, instead of resting on their laurels, because what worked today might not work tomorrow. This ability to anticipate is what makes the difference with a real champion. 


› To find out more about Muriel Hurtis, listen to her “Sportraits” podcast: https://youtu.be/nvGU2DTC4gg



Christophe Lavigne en aviron In contrast, Christophe Lavigne, who has worked for Crédit Agricole Group for 24 years, became a top athlete not long ago. Christophe is mad about rowing and has practised para-rowing at the Boulogne-Billancourt rowing club since 2014. He was due to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which have been postponed because of the health crisis. 

He tells us what drove him to this level of performance and how Crédit Agricole Group has encouraged him to succeed.


Q1: Tell us about your background

I joined Crédit Agricole Group in 1996, two years after losing both my legs in an accident.
As an occasional sportsman I was looking for a sport that would give me a cardio workout. In 2013, quite by chance I was watching a report on TV and learned that rowing could be practised as a para-sport. This led me to sign up with the Boulogne rowing club. I soon became hooked and have reached a level I never thought possible.
When I started out, I trained for about 2½ hours a week. But that wasn’t enough, so I added more sessions and now train for between 3 and 4 hours per week, including at the weekend.

Q2: How did you become a top athlete so quickly and reach a level allowing you to prepare for the Olympics this year? What drove you to reach this level?
I hadn’t planned to do elite sports. After my accident in 1994, my priority was not to do sport but to find a balance in my personal and professional life. I was 42 when I started rowing and it all went very quickly as I achieved good results.
I have always liked rising to a challenge and excelling in what I do. This is what drives me and what led me to try my luck in the Paralympic Games.

Q3: What points are there in common between your job and your sport? How did the company help you face this challenge?
I joined Crédit Agricole Payment Services as a Sourcing Coordinator in 2015. I am now an IT sourcing manager in the Finance division. I try to approach my sport like an IT project and do what it takes to deliver the best possible result on the date set.
In sport and at work the same investment is needed to achieve results - discipline and courage. I strive for satisfaction in my sport and at work, and this means being effective and enjoying what I do.
I was extremely lucky to have my employer’s support. Everyone at CAPS supported my plans right from the start, both in HR and Executive Management. I have adjusted my working hours to my training schedule.

Q4: What next?

Unfortunately, my participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was compromised due to the health crisis. So I am now training for the next event - the French championships in March 2021. This will be followed by several international competitions next spring then preparations for the ultimate challenge: the Paralympic Rowing event on 29 August 2021.

› To find out more about Christope Lavigne, listen to his “Sportraits” podcast: https://ca-sportecoledevie.fr/podcast/christophe-lavigne/

Logo Le Sport comme école de la vie Sport as a training ground for life

- Crédit Agricole Group places great importance on sports and actively supports sportsmen and women across France.

- For the past three years, the Group has made sports part of its commitment to society.

- By promoting sports and the values they embody, the Group believes it is working in the interest of people and society. All its commitments are driven by a common thread: “Sport as a training ground for life”, and Teddy Riner is the Group's ambassador.

› To find out more, visit:

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