Olympic gymnast Marta Pagnini wants to encourage women to be comfortable with their bodies and did a naked interview to draw attention.
Wearing no clothes, the Italian admitted to the Olympic Channel Podcast to having fears about her figure when she was competing.
“I often looked at myself in the mirror and always found something that wasn’t as perfect as I wanted,” she said.
Pagnini took bronze from London 2012 and fourth at Rio 2016 in rhythmic gymnastics group all-around.
The retired 27-year-old is now comfortable with her post-career body.
“I’m confident with my body and I shouldn’t be judged for my body, I should be judged for my performance as an athlete. And from what I do as a woman, not for my body.”
What is your relationship with your body?
I have a good relationship with my body. But my relationship has changed throughout the years. When I was a gymnast, I had a completely different relationship with my body. I looked like a little girl for a long time. (When) I was 24 or 25 and I still looked like was 15 or 16.
I know this felt like a compliment for them. But not (really) for me.
Sometimes, I didn’t feel like a woman. I didn’t have the shapes of a woman.
After you retired, how did the relationship with your body change?
The most important thing is that some things remain the same. For example, my boyfriend. He loved me when I was a gymnast when I had that body and he loves me now. I am not the only judge of myself – let’s say that. I know other people look at me. I know fans, gymnasts, coaches, from all around the world… they see me on the social networks… I know they noticed the change. This is also a judgement. Not (always) a bad judgement – maybe a good one - but still a judgement.
What about your body back when you were competing? Did it have to perfect back then?
I never felt perfect. I was very lucky because I had a body that gave me the possibility to eat normally and still look good. I wasn’t constantly on a diet as many gymnasts are… but still I never felt perfect. A gymnast always looks for perfection.
I often looked at myself in the mirror and always found something that wasn’t as perfect as I wanted them to be.
What kind of problems have you seen?
Gymnasts usually don’t like their body. They always feel fat. Maybe the gymnast next to you is thinner than you are so you feel like you want to be like her. I think some girls don’t see themselves as they really are. They have a different vision of their figure. In the mirror – they see someone else. With this comes other troubles – psychological troubles – sometimes they become attached to this thought all day. And they can’t even (train) well because they still think about their weight or their form or how they look.
People in general go through problems like anorexia and bulimia - is it something gymnasts also have?
The problem could be more that one of the bulimia. Because we know since we are young that we don’t have to eat in front of the coach. We don’t eat because then we will gain weight. So, it’s difficult for us when we grow up because our body changes and we have to accept that. But sometimes we don’t. So, we continue thinking that we won’t eat but we want to.
I think that these are serious problems. I don’t think that a friend, a family, or a coach can deal with these problems. When they are these problems, psychological help is the best things a girl can get. I had psychological help - not for diet problems. And it helped me so much. I think that a psychologist in your sporting career is fundamental.
And you, literally, have changed your body at the Olympics by having a tattoo after you took a bronze medal at London 2012…
I was that kind of person, "No, I won’t ever get a tattoo." But then I started thinking, "OK, if I ever get to participate at the Olympics, I’ll make sure to get a tattoo about the Olympics." Because, you know, that dream sometimes seems to fade away. I was so happy and so proud of myself (after London 2012) that I said to myself, "OK, I have to do that tattoo.”
And so, this five Olympic rings printed on my back are the best memory of the Olympics, I think. It’s a sign for me. It’s a mark. It’s something that reminds me that I was there, and especially, something that reminds me what I did to be there.
Before we finish, I just want to ask – as we are still naked – how are you feeling?
I feel great. I’m confident with my body and I shouldn’t be judged for my body, I should be judged for my performance as an athlete. And from what I do as a woman, not for my body. So a body is your home, it will always be with you so just be confident and don’t worry about that because nobody is perfect in this world.
Marta Pagnini was this week’s big interview on the Olympic Channel Podcast. Each Wednesday we find someone Olympic to go in deep about the biggest talking points.
The interview and questions were shortened to make them easier to read. Ekaterina Kuznetsova was the reporter.