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Marta Pagnini, the complaint of the former captain of the “Butterflies”: “Offended and mocked for my scoliosis”

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Marta Pagnini, the complaint of the former captain of the “Butterflies”: “Offended and mocked for my scoliosis”
Written by aquitodovale



Insults, body shaming, harassment of girls who are often minors. The complaints of psychological abuse presented in recent days by some athletes of rhythmic gymnastics shake the world of sport. The “farfalle”, as the gymnasts of the Italian national team are called in the jargon by the media, have long been led by Marta Pagnini from Prato (born in Florence). Today thirty-one – international judge of this sport and a passion for mental coaching – Pagnini was twice World Gold and bronze at the London 2012 Olympics. “I was very sorry to read those stories, I am close to the girls who have suffered humiliation, if I don’t know them ». The former athlete does not want to dwell on specific cases: “I can however speak of a necessary and ongoing revolution in this sport.” And he explains what happened to her, in a time that now seems distant to her.

She was captain of the national team until 2016. Is it new for you to hear these kinds of stories?


“Personally, I did not suffer from eating disorders, but I had difficulties in other areas. I do not deny that there were negative figures, for me, in that environment, as I have already had the opportunity to tell in a book. I was told unpleasant things, but then the perpetrators of those misconduct were removed from the team. At a certain point in my career I personally turned to the psychologist, but I know that later, a specialist, joined the team as a professional: it is absolutely the right path ».

The complaints of these hours, however, suggest that there are still several problems to be solved. What do you think?

“Absolutely yes. A cultural revolution is needed in our sport, but I can assure you that this is underway. Also thanks to other countries – such as the Anglo-Saxon ones, where some cases had already emerged in the past – the International Federation has set up a protection body to which everyone can turn. Consequently, the Italian Federation has created its own ».

I ask her to rethink herself as an athlete. She entered the national team at a very young age: what climate do you find? What obstacles did you face?

«I joined the team in 2008, I stayed there for eight years, until December 2016. I immediately found myself training through physical work different from what I was normally used to doing, with power and explosiveness. More intense. This was the biggest obstacle for me: simple things, for example you had to run for a few minutes and I couldn’t do it. This aspect was taken by some of the staff as negligence, as little desire to do on my part ».

How was this situation represented to you?

«Even with personal offenses. One of them in particular stuck with me. She made fun of me, she said I was spoiled, that I didn’t want to achieve my goals. I understand in retrospect that perhaps it was an attitude to encourage me to bring out the best in myself. But it is wrong ».

What, in your opinion, generated this bitterness?

«Even for a coach, this sport involves sacrifices and sacrifices. All those who do it dream of going to the Olympics, the pressure is high… ».

Were you a victim of body shaming during that time?

“I was 18. This person was teasing me about my back, my scoliosis was a problem. At a certain point I put the bust on and she said to me “You don’t want to move more even with plaster!” ».

Now you see this sport through the eyes of the international judge: how do you notice that the change – as you explain – is already underway?

«It’s a global revolution, just look at the gymnasts on the podium: 10 years were all the same, very thin and shapeless. Today there is a bit of everything: height, shapes. If the model is not unique, things change. The introduction of a psychologist and a nutritionist into the team are essential “.

When she was captain, however, these figures were not there. How did she do it?

«In 2013 I was the greatest of the team. I felt uncomfortable, I couldn’t share anything. I talked to my mom about it and we decided it would be okay to go to a psychologist. She helped me a lot, I continued to go there even when I stopped ».

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November 3, 2022 | 17:40

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