Delfina Pignatiello Trains Through COVID-19 Infection But Finds Online Abuse The Bigger Sickness

Delfina Pignatiello - Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Delfina Pignatiello, Argentina’s Pan American Games champion over 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle last year, is training on home-alone in isolation during quarantine following positive COVID-19 but the virus is the lesser sickness. The Argentine ace has hit back at online abuse of late in lockdown.

Breaker of national records of 4:06.61, 8:24.33 and 15:51.68 over 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle on Mare Nostrum tour in Europe to secure her ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Pignatiello, 20, was recently subjected to sexual harassment during a live stream of her current training regime at home. The live stream was in partnership with others in the swimming community, including “some American coaches”.

During the broadcast, several Internet users left offensive and abusive remarks in comments while watching the swimmer train.

Pignatiello, San Isidro, could not respond at the time but later took to social media to send a strong response to the trolls. She Tweeted:

“Enduring jokes and hate on the networks is one thing, but sexualization must be stopped. There is a limit.”

On Instagram, she is known for fun and endearing engagement with fans, in one post giggling through many an outtake when attempting to deliver a message:

But a few days ago, she was treated to the rough side of the web. Said Pignatiello in a post soon after enduring the abuse:

“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.) It’s a disgrace and I am disappointed. I do not know if I will continue doing live [broadcasts of her training]. Thanks to all who … support me always. Since the quarantine started, I’ve been posting videos of my workouts, but then I started doing live videos to get closer to my followers. It was a healthy environment.”


The many faces of Delfina Pagnietello – Photo Courtesy: Delfina Pignatiello Instagram

Those who left insulting messages were blocked – but it didn’t stop the abuse. In a podcast with reporter Nicolás Laprovittola that can be watched and heard at the website, Delfina Pignatiello, affectionately known to her fans as “Delfi”,  explains:

“What happened with sexualization hurt me a lot. It was during a live broadcast with coaches from the United States. When I saw the comments later, I was outraged. They were totally inappropriate. My grandmother asked me if I knew the people who had written that stuff and my face fell with shame.”

As in the water when training for her three gold medals at Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, last year – over 400, 800 and 1500m free – and two silvers, over 400 and 800m freestyle at a home 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Pignatiello showed her fighting spirit in her response to the trolls, stating that she was neither going to look away nor condone bad behavior:

“You have to stop those comments. There is no need to normalize that kind of behavior on social networks. That would be a mistake. What’s offensive needs punishing. I felt like I couldn’t let it go. As a public figure downloading a message, it seemed wise to intervene. If only one of those people who wrote this things that day had done so, I would still have reflected and concluded ‘I’m done with this’.  I insist: aggressiveness shouldn’t be normalized.” 

Distraction Not For The Likes Of Delfina Pignatiello


Delfina Pignatiello – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Delfina Pignatiello also admitted to being aware of just how distracting such things can be. She said: “I try not to get into my head the issue of being a reference in my discipline. Because at one point, two years ago, I felt that it was happening to me, like I was a little disconnected when I was swimming and had the attention put in other things that weren’t a priority.”

Her attitude also reflects a touch of the spirit of the man who helps to guide her in world waters, Australian guru Bill Sweetenham, who once said to swimmers he thought were becoming too distracted by commercial activities outside the pool: “There’ll be lots of time, the rest of your life in fact, to do all that – once you’ve got the medal round your neck. Whatever goal you’ve set yourself, no compromise …  don’t let anything take your eye off the prize.” Pignatiello’s version:

“The priority for me is to train. I had to get back on track. Fame brings me nothing. What I am interested in is contributing to the spread of swimming and leaving an inspiring message. I’ll be satisfied with that.”

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  1. avatar
    John Griffin

    Delfi, be strong and don’t back down.

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