Amina Lanaya: La Petite Reine

Amina Lanaya, the Director General of the Union Cycliste Internationale since 2018 and second in command to President David Lappartient, talks about determination and change at cycling’s world governing body in Issue 121: Close the Gap

This is an extract from the Amina Lanaya article published in Issue 121: Close the Gap. To read the full article, subscribe to Rouleur and receive your edition in print or sign up via the Rouleur app to read the issue digitally. 

“We are quite busy and excited about Glasgow,” says Amina Lanaya as she emerges  from a meeting. The Union Cycliste Internationale is in full flow finalising the preparations for the inaugural ‘super’ World Championships in August, the culmination of years of work bringing to fruition a vision that UCI President David Lappartient had in his manifesto for election in 2017. 

The 2023 Worlds will bring together as many as 10 different cycling disciplines simultaneously at the same venue. “It’s like a mini Olympic games for cycling and so nobody really knows what it will look like,” says Lanaya. “It’ll be a massive logistical operation. We just want to make sure it’s a success.” It will be a significant challenge, but Lanaya, second in command at cycling’s world governing body, heading up a team of 120 officials, has never been afraid of overcoming hurdles.

Working from her office at Aigle, near the sumptuous surroundings of Lake Geneva, Lanaya has come a long way from her upbringing in the suburbs of Dijon, France. It wasn’t particularly her childhood dream to work for an international sports federation, though she was attracted to law as a means of making changes in society. As a young girl growing up in eastern France it was all about working hard and moving upwards from the council estate in Chenôve, on the edge of Dijon, where she lived with her seven elder siblings. Her parents, Moroccan immigrants, instilled in their children the importance of studying, and how academic success would be the key to opening doors in life.  

“My father always told the ladies in the family that you have to be self-confident,” she says. “That you have to do things for yourself. Never be dependent on a man; you never know what could happen. It’s true. I still remember everything.”  

Through her hard work, Lanaya obtained a Masters in Law from the University of Dijon, before working for an international law firm in Paris. Then she found herself in Lausanne. Lanaya explains, “I moved to Switzerland for personal reasons, because my boyfriend at the time was offered a job with Nestlé in Vevey, so I followed him. My dad advised me not to follow him, but for once I didn’t listen to him. Actually, I was right to do so!”

Her father, a blue-collar worker for SNCF, the French national railway company, wanted the best for her, but Lanaya feels vindicated, because she would eventually meet her future husband in Switzerland, and is now married with two children.  Despite having flown the nest and her country of birth, the French-Moroccan still feels  firmly grounded in her North African roots and speaks fluent Arabic as well as French and English.

In Lausanne, Lanaya worked for an international law firm, but was not able to practise law within a court setting due to her French degree not being transferable to Switzerland. However, being astute, the young legal professional saw that she could put her qualifications to good use at one of the many international sports federations or the International Olympic Committee. She landed a role within the legal services department of the UCI, where she worked on doping cases, an area that is still important for her today.

To read the full article, subscribe to Rouleur and receive your edition of Rouleur 121: Close the Gap.

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