By announcing her withdrawal from some events at the Tokyo Olympics, American gymnast Simone Biles put mental health on the sport’s global agenda. Delfina Pignatiello, one of the great promises of Argentine swimming, has brought the debate to this South American country. Last Thursday, Pignatiello was last in the third qualifying round of the 800 meters freestyle held in the Japanese capital. He had been in the same position in the 1,500-meter freestyle test. The swimmer made self-criticism in front of the television cameras, but could not cope with the numerous verbal attacks received from social networks, where she was very active. “People are very cruel and no matter how much they ignore, I want to take care of my mental health above all things,” Pignatiello wrote the weekend before deleting some of his digital accounts – such as Twitter, YouTube and Twitch – and deleting content from others. .
The 21-year-old swimmer won three gold medals at the 2019 Pan American Games. However, she could not maintain her training routine for Tokyo: the closure of the pools during the extensive quarantine decreed by COVID-19 forced her to train in the garden of his house, in San Isidro, on the northern outskirts of Buenos Aires. During those months he received numerous aggressive comments. At first he let them pass or used humor as a response, but at the insistence he got tired and threatened to leave social networks. “Banking the jokes and the hate (hatred) in the networks is one thing, but sexualization must be stopped. There is a limit, “he wrote in May 2020.” I received a lot of offensive comments on live today. There were also live comments sexualizing me and I don’t deserve it. (I couldn’t block them at the time because I was training.) A disgrace and I am disappointed. I do not know if I will continue doing alive and less training. Thanks to all those who support me and always support me ”, he added.
On that occasion, as now, tennis player Nadia Podoroska came to her defense. This Monday, Podoroska published a letter in which he asked for respect for athletes. “Please, before writing something about any athlete in a social network, think that we are people who feel and suffer things like the rest, and that we do our best to give our best, because nobody but us suffers the consequences of a bad Outcome. Hate messages on social networks cause a lot of damage and have no justification, ”said Podoroska.
“From the sport that I play professionally, Naomi Osaka put the issue of mental health on the table,” the tennis player continued. “In # Tokyo2020 the whole world could hear a star like Simone Biles. In Argentina we have a luxury athlete like Delfina Pignatiello who is suffering constant attacks. Why? Sport has the incredible ability to unite us and train healthy people for society. Let’s not destroy it! ”.
The case of Pignatiello is the one that has gained more relevance in Argentina during these Games, due to the hopes placed in her by her compatriots. However, other athletes have also been victims of hate attacks on social networks and have asked for them to stop, such as the shooter Fernanda Russo. “I wanted to call you to reflection for a minute as Argentines. Just as we have received many messages of love that I am grateful for, we have also received messages of hatred and many unjustified attacks on the networks, ”said the 21-year-old athlete. “Let’s be a little more careful with the things we write on the screen. First of all, we are human. Athletes too, “added Russo after his participation in Tokyo. The shooter, a silver medal in the 2015 Pan American Games in Canada and a bronze medal in the Lima 2019 Pan American Games, was far from her best marks in the Olympics. In the air rifle test at 10 meters he was ranked 40th and in the air rifle at 10 meters in mixed teams together with Alexis Eberhardt they were twenty-seventh.
Despite the bad times he is going through, Pignatiello was confident to leave him behind for the next Olympic event, just as he overcame his personal problems and injuries in 2018. “I had a shoulder injury, I had cut with my partner. I was very lost. It came from boom of the tournament and saw everything very empty. I took two weeks off to get my shoulder back and it was really bad. And there I began to be attentive to mental health, to be more positive, to change a lot of things. To change the head, to mature. This was in 2018 and in 2019 I achieved my best times and I won the Pan American golds. And I took that as I could get ahead. And that in the future, if I am like this again, I can have that memory. That motivates me to get ahead, “said the swimmer in an interview with the Filo News portal.
After spending a week away from the competition, the American Biles returned on Tuesday and hung a bronze medal around her neck in the barbell event. The Mexican Alexa Moreno, who in 2016 was a victim of bullying because of her physique, this time was fourth in horse jumping. Pignatiello hopes to arrive in Paris in 2024 “with a different head, with another training session and better prepared.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.