The people’s Delfina

Argentina's Delfina Narella Pignatiello won her second silver on the closing night of the swimming competitions at Buenos Aires 2018, but she will take home much more than her two medals. Her next goal is Tokyo 2020.


"Why don’t we all just come together and take a group photo?" Pignatiello asked her fans, adding that she wants to go have dinner with her family.

At 18 years old, she is young but experienced, or at least experienced enough to calm her excited fans. She has just been competing in the water, but she still manages to stay composed and a smile never leaves her face, even for the last of a slew of selfies after her swim. After all, that’s the most important thing: Argentine swimmer Delfina Pignatiello is smiling again, only days after breaking down in tears when she won her first medal at Buenos Aires 2018.

Her parents Paula and German helped the young swimmer to stay afloat this week during an emotional slump caused by the recent death of her grandmother. "The ‘Delfi’ that everyone saw today is the one that I know. She was under a lot of pressure the other day and that played against her," said her mother, the person who took her to a pool for the first time when she was a child.

She knows that her daughter is already an icon: "I like that people enjoy seeing her and, more than anything, that she enjoys it too."

Pablo Elias/Buenos Aires 2018

Pignatiello is still a young athlete. Better put, she was. Because of her age, this was her final competition in the junior category, and she said goodbye with high honours. She reached second place in the 400m freestyle on Friday, behind Hungary’s Ajna Kesely, just as she had done earlier in the 800m event on Tuesday.

"I've learned my lesson," she told her mother after pictures of her bursting into tears at her first Youth Olympic Games victory ceremony travelled throughout the country, making it to the covers of Argentine newspapers.

Paula believes that her daughter has already put all the stress behind her. Pignatiello felt a lot of pressure being Argentina’s main medal hope and the most recognised face in the local delegation.

The Argentine swimmer has possibly grown more in the past two weeks than in the whole year. Certainly in an emotional sense, but as a sportswoman as well. She was set to play a great role, but it was a hard one too. She had to compete as the local public’s favourite in a tournament of global prestige, facing top rivals at Buenos Aires 2018 with equally suffocating support and pressure.

For Pignatiello, her coach and her parents, the next goal is clear: to get an Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020. There are still two years to go until that and there is a lot of work to be done. For the time being, her first Olympic experience has made her a stronger athlete, and she is now enjoying it once again, like she did when she went into the water for the first time.