Azzurri disaster in Rio 2016, sports psychologist speaks

ISAF SAILING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - SANTANDER 8-21 SEPTEMBER 2014As we wrote yesterday, Rio 2016 for Italian sailors was a real cold shower. Zero medals, lots of bitterness. But let’s leave aside for a moment the admittedly legitimate controversy over the failed Croce management in these two four-year terms, in terms of Olympic results. We were all disappointed by the psychological breakdown of our boys. But from here, from the “head,” we need to start again. So we tried to understand what can push an Olympic sailor toward the abyss during the queen of competitions, the Olympics, and how he can come out of it: to do so, we asked Elisa Deponte for help, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist and sports psychologist, a member of AIPPS (International Association of Sport Psychology and Psychoanalysis), an IVF sailing instructor and psychologist for XV and II Zone.

Elisa Deponte, psychologist for the 15th and 2nd IVF Zones.
Elisa Deponte, psychologist for the 15th and 2nd IVF Zones.

Rio 2016. Many are the names of Italian sailing talent. Undisputed. Formidable feats in which they have been featured. Not in this Rio 2016 Olympic adventure.. A missed medal, cannot make one lose awareness of self and one’s abilities and resources. It’s a hard lesson to digest, for sure. For them, for those who trained them. For all of us, who followed them enthusiastically.

Being an athlete also means being able to integrate into the imaginative scenario of the self a situation of “liberation from the thought of winning.” Leaving aside the omnipotence that on the one hand charges and sustains unimaginable feats, on the other hand, sometimes leads into the abyss of an illusion that one does not want to leave. A chasm that speaks of extreme attempts to succeed (extreme edges), losing sight of what one knows, even very well, and what one knows and can do.

The subject’s intrapsychic communication with self plays its own game. The ability to overcome mistakes and move forward, to manage emotional states, anxiety, anger, and to be at our best focused, is supported by how we talk to each other. Who knows what our athletes were saying to each other, how the thoughts that emerged in their minds were formulated? And again, could they not think?

The race courses that were the stage for the important Olympic challenges were also the scene of wind holes, air channels and significant wind drops. Difficult conditions, which every racer knows well. The fatigue of standing in the uncertainty of a race to be done based on fleet and gusts. Cold blood and tactics. And it is, also, here that the “head” puts that extra oomph on you to add to the speed of conducting that you know how to do, at your best, as we also saw from tracking.

The hope is that people will use this bitter experience to understand something about themselves as athletes, sailors and men. Alibis aside; that does not support and motivate our athletes but creates Don Quixotes before windmills. It is hard to say what happened on those race courses; certainly there is a sense that the talents are unquestionable, the skills also. So what could be done differently in order to improve? This is the extra gear of an athlete, compared to an amateur.

Elisa Deponte



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read the latest issue

Are you already a subscriber?

Latest announcements
Our socials

You may also be interested

Scroll to Top