Sunday, September 19

“They did not prepare me neither to manage the success nor the retirement”


After breaking the world record of 50 butterflies and winning two bronzes at the 2009 World Cup in Rome, he was seized by a depression that made him on the verge of suicide twice. At 32, and after five years retired, he demands more aid so that swimmers do not feel shipwrecked

Rafa muñoz he’s an outgoing guy, brimming with energy, confident. No one would say that he attempted suicide twice after suffering from depression at the height of his career. The great hope of Spanish swimming, which had broken the world record of 50 butterflies, looked with surprise at the World Cup bronzes he had won in Rome-2009 and wondered: “what is this for?” “No one had prepared me for either success or retirement.”

She hung up her swimsuit at 27 and has had to seek life ever since. At 32, with two children, he got up at five in the morning to work in the logistics department of a multinational sports company. Adviser in the manufacture of swimming swimsuits. “I know something about that, at least put them on.” He would have been grateful if someone had given him some professional guidance for the day after hanging up his swimsuit. “They prepare you for training, to compete, but they neither train you on a mental or emotional level to assimilate a good or bad situation nor do they help you to have a job tomorrow,” he laments.

He spent two decades dedicating more than 40 hours a week to swimming and found himself at 27 without training or work experience and with his first child on the way. “This is not football. It is a sport that is humble, it requires a lot of effort: 7 or 8 hours a day of training seven days a week to compete then less than 30 seconds. Does it compensate? Many times not. In the end you do what you want. you like it and you don’t think about the economic thing. But when you retire you think ‘well, I wish it was more valued, or that they helped me a little in my retirement, or that they had directed me. There is no support for reintegration into work’ “.

At the age of 16, he left his native Córdoba to dedicate himself to swimming. “I never had a talk with someone who told me: ‘watch out, sport is not all pretty. There are things that are not so pretty that you are really going to learn about.’ When everything goes well, it’s like when the car goes downhill and You don’t have to accelerate or change gears. The bitch is when you have to go out on the ramp: there you have to play with more things, hit more keys and nobody shows you. ” When he found success and the pressure that comes with it, he felt emptiness. “Talking about depression should be the most normal thing in the world. In my case, I didn’t even feel like getting up, just being with my eyes closed or drinking to forget myself. Twice I was on the verge of committing suicide. He could have made it very fat, ”he says. “People want to see the pretty face, the medal, what shines, they don’t want to hear penalties. You win the medal and you say ‘what now? I keep training for what?’. That’s when you ask yourself who do I go to?” .

With the help of Jose Carlos Jaenes, going for three months every Friday to Seville from Córdoba to speak with the psychologist offered by the Andalusian federation, he came out afloat and regained his taste for swimming. “There were no psychologists then in the concentrations or in the competitions and there still are not. There has to be in the day to day so that you can train and compete better. A psychologist is like a nutritionist, you don’t go one day and pay for your diet Instead, he follows you up. A psychologist does not fix you in a day, but granite by granite. ”

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Jaenes was key not only to recover Rafa emotionally, but also to make FINA understand why he had been missing when the world anti-doping agency looked for him to give him a surprise test. He still arrived in time to hang a continental gold in 50 butterfly in the European of 2010. He would achieve another in 2012 and a gold and a silver in the short pool of that year before retiring after the World Cup in Kazan-15, with 27 years, to start from scratch. He did a master’s degree in sports management and two chiro massage courses and for three years he has been getting up at five in the morning to work in a sports equipment company, in addition to giving some motivational talks. He would have liked the federation to offer him to take advantage of his sporting and personal experience to train new swimmers, something he believes would also be useful for many clubs. “I feel like I have something in there that I haven’t exploited. If I have contributed as an athlete, how can I not contribute on a human level? The issue is who and in what way ”.


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