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Lake Garda - Sport & outdoor

How to Train the GAN Optimist Team – Part 1

Interview with Marcello Meringolo - GAN Optimist Coach

Welcome Marcello on our Blog! It is a pleasure to have you in our section dedicated to sailing experts and champions with this interview. Now it’s your turn – you have been following the athletic training of the GAN teams for a long time now.

Would you like to tell us about you, explaining where you come from, what prompted you to move to Riva del Garda, and what is your role in Italian sailing? 

It was a long journey that began in a small Tuscan club, which allowed me to gain a lot of experience. In 2005, Fraglia Vela Riva invited me to work with them until, in October 2012, I was offered to coach the national teams – 8 years of intense work that led us to win 3 consecutive individual world championships, 1 team world championship, 3 male and 2 female European championships. All results of the highest level.

For some years, our Residence has been lucky enough to work with you by hosting the GAN. Can you explain us what it means, and what is its importance for the sailing youth sector?

GAN stands for Gruppo Agonistico Nazionale (National Competitive Group), a project that until 2009 was run by the federation. At the end of 2012, it was decided to pick a team that could follow the entire training course over the years. The choice fell on me and on Riccardo Di Paco, then also on Michele Ricci and Andrea Madaffari.

All this was supported by a winning collaboration between Aico and the clubs that joined the project. Many coaches have been involved over the years, and this has meant that the best Italians could meet during the autumn/winter season.

In the pre-pandemic period, we travelled around all of Italy for training. Later, however, we decided to focus our activities in on Riva del Garda thanks to the Residence Centro Vela who made it possible to organize training camps by supporting us with services tailored to our needs, from accommodation to dinner, in a moment in which hotels and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, because we were able to carry out the 3 training camps as scheduled in a period when it was extremely hard to organize similar activities.

vela optimist lago di garda
allenamento vela optimist

What is the role of sailing for the growth of children? What do you think are the advantages of this sport over others in the development of autonomy, safety, ability to manage problems?

Individual and outdoor sports are safe sports. In recent months, all we did was in compliance of a strict protocol, and we focused on outdoor activities.

Specifically, sailing is a full-on sport that requires a lot of responsibility: children are in charge of a very expensive boat and they have to take care of it, while facing a challenge with themselves and with nature.

When we decided to work differently, we added more athletic training that allowed us to progress much more compared to the previous national group.

We gave our children precise indications on workouts to be carried out at home during lockdown, and this was another winning point. Then, when it was time to get back on the water, we were definitely ahead of those who totally stopped.

From small children to the Olympic athletes: everyone takes advantage of athletic training. I also recommend that during the developmental path of this sport, children also do other things. Motor and team activities are transversal elements that shape the growth of young people.

In 2020 we managed to make the Italian championships and also to participate in a European championship that seemed impossible, given all the protocols. Incidentally, Italy won both titles last year. So it was another good season anyway.

In the next interview we continue our journey by talking about the “typical day” of the young GAN sailors, as well as future appointments for our athletes.

If you want to read more interviews with Diego Romero and sailing, read here:

Sailboat training on Lake Garda

Athletic preparation for the sailing Olympics

Sailing on Lake Garda


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