Over 200 people including personalities from sport, business, politics, local authorities and education accepted an invitation to attend the Monaco Sport Academy’s first event Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body held 14th June at the Yacht Club de Monaco. Twenty centuries on and the Roman poet Juvenal’s expression has never seemed more apt.  At a time when sporting achievement knows no bounds; where the competition is increasingly tough; and where excellence has become for some a philosophy of life, it is more important than ever to support the next generation in their personal race to the highest level.

It was under the presidency of HSH Prince Albert II, alongside YCM General Secretary Bernard d’Alessandri and the man behind the project, YCM board member Philippe Ghanem, that the Monaco Sport Academy was launched in December 2018 at the YCM Awards.

“We need to give these young athletes a hand to take them to the highest level,” said Philippe Ghanem.

Compered by the former international French footballer David Ginola, the event was an opportunity to present the project to an informed public of high profile personalities. “For talented young people, turning your passion into your career is one of the best things in the world that could happen,” said David Ginola.

Sport and its associated values were top of the agenda in a day that started on the water with demonstrations by the Academy’s first intake in their various disciplines. At the same time as they were putting on a show in the bay of Monaco, the front-runners in the 67th Rolex Giraglia race were crossing the finish line. It is the second time the Principality has hosted the end of this legendary offshore race, an amazing setting for guests to see for themselves the potential of the young Monegasque athletes.

The afternoon was dedicated to workshops run by men and women who have reached the top of their game. Silvio Arrivabene, involved in numerous editions of the America’s Cup, and Yohann Taberlet, French Paralympic skier, Team World Champion and bronze in the super-combined, were among those taking part in the first session ‘Success stories from athletes competing at the highest level and their training centre history’. Silvio Arrivabene summed it up: “Having a structure like the MSA is fantastic, as it is the future of sailing.”

Others who added their vision were Maxime Nocher, 11-time kiteboarding World Champion, and Claire Tétard, member of France’s national sailing team. An engineer at Thalès, Claire is one of those champions who has managed to pursue success in sport at the same time as carving out a career: “One of the keys to success is knowing the objectives, prioritising them and working out how to attain them.”

After the break, ‘Anticipation, perseverance, investment, frustrations, failures, entourage influence: the importance of mental as well as physical strength to win medals’ was the focus for the second session.  Stefano Tirelli, mental coach behind the Complementary Sport Techniques method, who has worked with many well-known teams and individual athletes, opened the debate.

His opinions were shared by Lisa Mashal, another mental coach with a different approach based on neuro-hypnotic relaxation to re-programme the mind in a positive way.  A sine qua non to success in sport, mental strength is nothing without perseverance, a nuance explained by Hülya Biren, former professional basketball player in Turkey’s national women’s team.

A very constructive afternoon ended on the much anticipated workshop entitled ‘The Sport Academy – a tool for success by encouraging transmission of a universal language focused on excellence’. Hülya Biren kicked off by highlighting the link between sporting and academic success at school. Now the Premium Customer Relationship Manager at SBM (Société des Bains de Mer), in her youth she captained the national women’s basketball team in Turkey, illustrating how her career success was possible because she reached a certain academic level at school. “This aspect of an athlete’s life is essential,” said Ravy Truchot, founder of the Paris Saint Germain Academy Florida and the man behind the first International Centre of European Football.

The Monaco Sport Academy was keen to emphasise the ongoing year-on-year investment required to lead future generations towards a committed and active life, where they draw on all their resources attained from the values that top-level sport brings. As Yohann Taberlet concluded: “It is important to achieve your goals, but the most important thing is the journey as a whole that we make, for it is that which makes the man.”

A concept also championed by Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli, a sports doctor and founder of Formulamedicine that specialises in 360° psychological support. Initially applied to F1 drivers, the method is now being used by other disciplines. Psychological pressure, stress management and brain function are key elements for high-level mental preparation to achieve excellence.

The arrival of YCM President, HSH Prince Albert II, signalled a change in atmosphere with a cocktail around the pool to close a memorable event.  Monaco’s synchronised swimming champion, Sophie Potel, produced a superb demonstration of her discipline, and the festivities continued late into the evening.