Delfina Pignatiello, with an open heart: “They even called me a fucking failure and the worst thing is that I believed it”

Delfina Pignatiello, with an open heart: “They even called me a fucking failure and the worst thing is that I believed it”

Before turning 20, the swimmer Delfina Pignatiello became a reference point for Argentine sports. Even with pressure, she achieved medals and achieved good marks in the various preliminary tournaments that raised expectations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

However, the young woman from San Isidro had to carry a very heavy backpack for her young age and this He ended up playing against him.

Delfina could not get any medal and her goals were far from what she had set herself. This did not seem like a problem, since it was his first participation in the highest event in sport. But it was not like that for everyone, because from the other side of the world he had to deal with an unknown facet until now.

In social networks, “haters” (users who attack and mock with the intention of generating a negative impact on a person) appeared and this affected her. For this reason, she made the final decision to close all her accounts.

After a time of silence, little by little she reappeared and even, in the last hours, she was encouraged to take part in a talk at TEDxRiodelaPlata, where she opened her heart and revealed all her feelings from those days in Tokyo. She also told what the learning was and what she took from all that difficult situation.

“After 9,000 hours of training, more than 3,000 dives, hundreds of races, several gold medals, I hit the wall in Tokyo 2020 and I realize that I did not do the time I wanted or finished in the position I dreamed of and the only thing I thought at that moment, what were they going to tell me on social media How could it be that what mattered most to me was going to be the gaze of a lot of people I didn’t know?”, she began.

“There I registered how far my exposure went and the comfort with which people and the media thought about me, about what I did or did not do, about my dreams and goals, taking them as theirs and I was their slave,” she added.

“Do you know how much your name weighs for months on the front page of the media ‘promising a medal’? It seemed that the only thing that worked was for him to train and win a medal, that the rest did not work. The worst thing is that I had begun to believe that I did not deserve it, that I could enjoy being there, that I had stopped listening to my own desires,” she revealed.

There came a time when Delfina experienced a turning point together with other colleagues who suffered the maximum pressure and some references went in depth with a burning topic, mental health:

“I felt alone until I realized that the same thing happened to them. other athletes. In Tokyo 2020 they began to raise their voices, to talk about hidden issues such as mental health and also to break that taboo that we were super heroes without fail. Do you know how meaningful it was for me to listen to Simone Biles, the face of the Olympics, talk about the pressure of the competition? She was also alone and there I learned the importance of having a strong head to be good with oneself and with others. There I began to heal”, she highlighted.

Delfina reopened her social networks where she has 790 thousand followers on Instagram and 118 thousand on Twitter. However, at the time she was very aware of them before the Olympic event.

“The exposure on the networks grew and the likes were transformed into a kind of social acceptance and I was looking for them. The first brushes with fame were fun and without being massive I could control them. I even realized that I could motivate other people. I also realized that during the pandemic I could help people not feel lonely or discouraged,” she acknowledged.

However, she later confessed: “While my friends were preparing the graduate trip, I got up at five in the morning to go to training before school. When my grandmother passed away, hours before the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, I couldn’t fire her, the duel suspended for representing my country. And when I finally got to my dream, to an Olympic Game, I ended up immersed in a war on social networks where they attacked me without impunity behind an Internet profile (broken voice), where they told me fucking unsuccessful and the worst thing is that I believed it”.

Once her participation in Tokyo 2020 ended, there was a moment of reflection for Delfina, who had just achieved in the Lima 2019 Pan American Games the gold medal in 400, 800 and 1500 freestyle meters, thus becoming the first Argentine swimmer to get three such medals in said competition. The other reference was in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, with silver medals in 400 and 800 freestyle.

On how she went ahead, a process that has not yet finished, she said:

“I learned on my own, facing the blows, surfing practically alone, always surrounded by my family and other people who were not specialists in what I needed. I had to learn how to give notes. What to say or not on social media, how to deal with a wave of hate (hate), to understand that social networks were an artificial issue, that later in real life those things did not happen to me and I suffered those attacks. This for me was a great find. Like other athletes, I had to learn to cope with the pressures and expectations of others.

And she assured: “I think that what happened to me and others is not inevitable. I believe that it is possible to create better containment barriers with professionals from different fields to help the person behind the high-performance athlete”.

Finally, by way of reflection, she indicated: “It’s a matter of looking where it really needs to be done and that’s what I’m trying to do. See the person Delfi, not just the athlete. To be able to value both, to realize that when I dive into the water and follow the black line at the bottom of the pool, I have to try to swim as best I can, but when that final wall approaches, when the time comes to touch it and take my head out of the water, the only thing I have to look at is my family, my friends, my grandmother and the little Delfi who just wants to play and to run off to jump into the water again”.

Ben Oakley
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