Gianni Ghidini’s name is recently bound to two first class athletes of the middle-distance world: Wilfred Bungei (Olympic gold at Beijing 2008) and Amel Tuka (bronze at Beijing World Championship in 2015).
Coaching in succession such athletes, specialized in the same distance, and bringing them up to such achievements can’t be put down to luck. In fact, Gianni’s story has its roots in the perfect eighties and nineties of Italian athletics, when incredible things happened. Winning is always an athlete’s merit, but the correlation to a coach is never casual.
The more specialized forums, such as letsrun.com, reports Bungei’s training logs treating this information with reverence and important articles by Gianni can be read on Atleticastudi magazine. Results speak for themselves and the specialists know Gianni, although athletics seem to live in an oblivion outside the Olympics and this fact leaves great personalities totally unknown to the big public.
Gianni works as a coach in the small city of Bussolengo, close to Verona, Italy. It recent news the Italian Athletics Federation nominated him consultant for its junior middle distance sector.
M. Gianni, how your career as a coach started?
G. I’d say by chance. Until I was 16 I only played soccer, then I started playing soccer in winter and running in summer. I quit at 19. Then, when I was 23, two friends who were coaches themselves asked me to coach a women’s middle distance junior team of Verona called the “Scala Azzurra”. Following this first experience I became coach of Gaac the men’s team, specialized in road racing, cross, and mountain running: there I met Loris Pimazzoni, who succeeded in winning the Italian Championship more times and was 10° in the world in the 1 hour on track with 20,467 Km, and Gelindo Bordin, who in his future career would win the European Championship in 1986 and the Olympics in 1988.
M. How today’s big names as Tuka and Bungei? Do you remember the day you met them?
G. Wilfred Bungei arrived in 1999, under indication of the athletes’ representative De Madonna, because in recent times I succeeded in guiding Andrea Benvenuti to reach the 5th place at the Barcelona ’92 Olympics and then to win the Helsinki European Championship in 1994. Amel Tuka arrived in 2013 thanks to another athletes’ representative: Chiara Davini.
Bungei was eager to learn European training methods and immediately gave me full trust. He was very enthusiastic and he had great numbers.
Amel Tuka practiced Karate until 18 years old. He was eager to learn new and fruitful training method. So, he began with living 20 days per month in Bussolengo: in 2014 he placed 6th at the Zurich European Championship and then 3rd at the Worlds in Beijing.
M. How’s the interaction between your athletes? How the stars relate to the others?
G. Any athlete is unique and anyone has its own way of relating to others. The stars live together the others and they must respect the rules imposed by a coexistence: they have to collaborate in all the team life, during training and racing. Between them the mood is cheerful and full of expectations and hope for the future. The training team is now composed of guys from 21 to 26 years old.
M. Among the athletes you met in your career, do you remember one that had the gift but didn’t manage to succeed?
G. Yes, I remember two cases. Loris Pimazzoni, with a 2hours13minutes p.b. in the marathon and Vittorio Formenti, finalist at the Salbury (Canada) Junior Worlds in 1988. They were too emotional and they couldn’t cope with pressure.
M. How’s a champion’s life after retirement?
G. Anyone follows its own opportunities. Some of them work within the sport like Stefano Baldini (technical manager of the National team) or Gelindo Bordin, who is now a manager at Diadora. The Olympic champion Bungei opened a hotel in Kenia and Yampoi (bronze at Helsinki worlds) is now chief of the President of Kenia security service!
M. Right now running is very fashionable, but the vast majority of runners live it differently from the top-class athletes. Long distances are very popular: how do you see this?
G. Thousands of people are involved and they practice enthusiastically marathon running, trail running, Triathlon or even Iron Man. It’s a good moment for long distances: I like that.
Naturally, I recommend people going for the distance are in good shape and follow a balanced lifestyle. I think following a diet and trust professionals for training and health issues is crucial.