Delfina Pignatiello, an elite swimmer who got fed up with media pressure | The USA Print

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The Argentine Delfina Pignatiello, in Lima 2019.
The Argentine Delfina Pignatiello, in Lima 2019.Buddha Mendes (Getty Images)

The career of the Argentine swimmer Delfina Pignatiello, 22, was as explosive as it was fleeting. Before turning 20, she won three gold medals at the 2019 Pan American Games and became the first athlete from the South American country to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The young promise was one of the great hopes of Argentina. But the dream turned into a nightmare when the swimmer last touched the wall of the pool in the Japanese capital. Her marks in 800 meters and 1,500 meters were far from those obtained by her rivals and even from her own. The personal blow for the disqualification was aggravated by the harsh criticism received through social networks. It was a breaking moment that did not come out the same. Less than a year after she stumbled at the Olympics, Pignatiello has announced that she is leaving the competitions until further notice.

“In my heart the pride, joy and honor of having represented our blue and white these years with so much passion will remain forever. Now I would like to tell you that a few months ago I made the decision to step aside from high performance and competition”, starts the note that went up on Friday to your Instagram account accompanied by a photograph on the podium of Lima 2019, his greatest sporting success. Pignatiello announced that sport has become part of his life in a different way from the last decade, focused on competition. “I’m still swimming and being in the water will always be my place in the world,” he added.

The athlete has made the decision after thinking about it for months. In Tokyo, after her elimination, Pignatello was hurt, but willing to continue fighting. “It is a long race. This is neither a before nor an after. There is nothing so important and nothing so terrible in life. And I want to learn from that,” she said then.

However, later she confessed that the first thing that came to her mind was what they were going to tell her on social networks, where she was already an influencer with tens of thousands of followers. “How could it be that what mattered most to me was the look of a bunch of people she didn’t know? There I recorded how far my exposure had come and the comfort with which others and the media thought of me, of what I did or did not do, of my dreams and goals, taking them as their own. And I am a slave to that”, the swimmer reflected aloud in a TEDx talk.

Pignatiello, like other athletes, identified with the American gymnast Simon Biles, who unexpectedly withdrew from some events at the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health problems. For the same reason, the Argentine swimmer chose to remove social networks from her cell phone, unsubscribe from some of her accounts and delete content from others. She has now taken a radical step, moving away from competitive sports to start a new life and encourages her followers to be encouraged “to kick boards and start a new game”.

“I bought a camera and embarked on an artistic path that I am exploring with great curiosity, desire to learn and continue to grow,” he wrote in his last Instagram message. In a post made a couple of months ago, she is seen with that camera, proud to be one of the photographers of the Lollapalooza festival.

In the history of Argentine swimming will remain the national and South American records broken by Pignatiello in the 800 and 1,500 meter freestyle, his specialty, and the medals obtained in youth and South American competitions. Instead, she will have to wait for the sports project that the country expected the swimmer to lead, frightened by a pressure that she no longer wanted to bear.

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