The one who was the best water polo player in the world returns to compete at the age of 37, 6 after announcing her retirement
A cancer, a sanction and a depression marked his career: “The moment of retirement was the hardest thing I have lived in my life”
Blanca Gil was the best water polo player in the world in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. But the turbulence began to appear a year later: he suffered uterine cancer in 2009, received a two-year sanction in Italy for a problem in his transfer and resigned from the 2012 Games for a depression and ended up retiring at the age of 31 in 2015. After a fleeting return of four games in Greece in 2018, he is now returning at 37 and with a huge smile to help Mallorca to move up to First Division tomorrow.
«For 2 or 3 years it was something that I missed. And it’s weird because when I said to retire and then I went to Greece to help a team I thought I would never play again. But not like this, it seems that this hooks a lot. If I have learned something with sport, it is that each moment has to be enjoyed », says ‘Blanchi’, excited about this new and unexpected encore.
I don’t care what it was. The satisfaction that I have of being able to be here, helping these girls who have a spectacular illusion for me fills me more than anything else right now. Being at the Mallorca Waterpolo Club is a golden opportunity ». After spending half her life playing in Italy and Greece, this player, born in Vinaròs but who moved to Mallorca as a child, will be able to compete without having further transfers. “I am very happy, it is a luxury, because all my life I have been out of my house competing.”
A difficult moment
All started when Patricia del soto, a former teammate and a close friend, encouraged her to return to the water together to help Echeyde de Tenerife up. “It caught me at a difficult time in my life: I have two children and I got divorced less than a year ago and I think a challenge and something different would suit me. And I told her that yes, I was delighted to be able to repeat spectacular moments that I lived with her above all ». Blanca has been working as a nutritionist at Palma Futsal since February and when the team found out that she was planning to play again, they convinced her to do so at the Mallorca Waterpolo Club, taking advantage of the union of both clubs through the Palma Futsal Foundation.
After the withdrawal, the top scorer from the 2007 and 2011 World Cups had not returned to swim, but with their separation half a year ago she decided to dive into a pool again. “Sport has helped me overcome difficult times.” Difficult times like the ones you experienced when you were detected uterine cancer. «I think that at the time of the cancer I was not aware we were concentrating with the national team. They operated on me and they told me: ‘you won’t be able to go to the World Cup’. And I said I’m going to stick out my tongue or whatever. I was recovering for a month, I had two weeks to go and when I came back they operated on me again. I rested for a month and went back to playing with the Italian team where I played. But this on a mental level is after it comes out. At the moment you think ‘I’m strong, I can take it all’. Then little by little the armor weakens. It is not in the moment. That’s when the mental stick hit me as a whole ».
A mental stick to which was added the mess of her transfer from Orizzonte Catania (with which she had been European champion twice) to Pro Recco, which caused her to be sanctioned for two years without being able to play in the Italian league. He went to Greece, where all the accumulated pressure ended up coming to the surface. Captain of the Spanish water polo team (with which she was European silver in 2008), she resigned from the London 2021 Games because she did not see herself psychologically whole. «You can be moderately well physically, but if mentally you are not accompanied by strength and determination …». «Each obstacle has been an effort to improve. I’ve been very bad for three days, four, a week in ruins. But a day comes and I say: that’s it. You have to remove that sadness, anger, injustice. We are human and if you are bad you have to remove the sadness. Because if not then what do we do? Medicate us with pills? I tried to be the latter and avoided it. And every day I set a goal to find something that would make what happened to me disappear. I tried to think about what was best for me and tried to overcome it with a smile. Either that or I stay crying on the couch »
The day after
Three years later, the buoy announced that the swimsuit was hanging. “The moment of withdrawal was the hardest thing I have experienced in my life,” he assures. It is one of the things that has cost me the most to overcome. You have only done that in your life since you were little, you think you are only worth doing that and it generates helplessness and a feeling of brutal failure. Instead of opening up a new life, it seems like the doors are closing on you. There have been many times that I have wanted to throw in the towel and say: now what do I do, where do I go? It’s complicated”.
At this point, he regrets that the institutions do not prepare elite athletes for their new life after goodbye. «I would have appreciated help to prepare for the day after. There should be a program to help the withdrawal because it is very hard and many unfortunately fall into a tremendous depression. I because I had a son and then another and that seems to have diverted me a bit. But I was pretty bad, yes.
He had not told his children much about his sports career and they have discovered it with the announcement of his return. ‘”A teacher said to the elder. ‘Your mother has been in the press.’ I have told them that next Sunday the mother is going to play and the oldest says to me: ‘mother is a champion’ ». His new companions also hallucinate. «When I go to train they all look at me, especially the smallest ones, and say things like ‘you have seen what happens, you have seen that kick’ still waiting for what I am going to do. I physically feel super good, better than I thought and I am going to fight, I am going to die in each training as if the world were ending. Not for them anymore but for me. I want to help them get up to First Division and continue playing next year now that I feel like it again ».
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.