Emma Piffaretti, a promising young Swiss athlete, talks about herself and explains how she manages to reconcile her studies and athletics.
Emma, Silver medallist at the U18 European Championships in 2018 and Swiss U18 and U20 record holder in the long jump, will be competing in the U20 European Championships in Tallinn this weekend, ready to cheer her on?
The interview was conducted in April 2021 and reviewed in the first half of July 2021.
Good morning Emma, could you introduce yourself to our runners?
I’m Emma, I’m 19 years old and I’ve just successfully completed my baccalaureate at the diocesan high school. The bishop who was present at the closing ceremony told us that maturity and morning, in Latin, have the same root… and so from parallel to parallel I am at the morning of my life. A new path to be drawn just as in the morning there is a day to be faced and drawn. In this new day, I see a lot of sport, travel, studies and opportunities to enrich myself in terms of sport, training and as a person in general. As for the precise plans, I would like to leave everything shrouded in mystery for the moment. I know for sure that wherever I am I will bring the good energy that growing up in Ticino has given me.
When did you approach athletics?
Athletics came into my life a bit by chance, even though I could already breathe the air of sport at home. In third grade, when I was nine years old, I wanted to take part at all costs in the “Fastest boy in Mendrisiotto”, an event open to all children of a certain age group. So I joined an athletics association a month before the event to prepare myself for this competition. I have never left athletics since.
When did you join US Ascona?
It was in 2018 between the end of February and the beginning of March, I have always felt at home in this club. In the past, thanks to the invitation of the Vetterli family, I had the chance to do some summer camps together with their children and the club, they had all been very welcoming, nice and I liked the atmosphere among the athletes. When the need to change arose it was automatic: ‘I really like their philosophy and so I would like to join their club’. Also the welcome and today the treatment they give me is really good.
What did you mean when you said there was already an air of sport in the house?
My mum did athletics, but I never saw her compete. It was probably an unconscious influence, but the idea of taking part in the ‘Fastest boy in Mendrisiotto’ was born of a desire I had, and also because it was an event that was also promoted at primary school level. During the gymnastics lessons we would run, and if a boy was particularly fast, it could happen that the teacher would say ‘maybe you could try to take part in the Fastest Boy’. So this desire of mine to enter the world of athletics is more related to the outside environment than a home influence.
What is your discipline?
I love long jump, sprint and the hurdles. I consider the heptathlon a great complementary discipline and a school for exploring different disciplines and for variety. Many disciplines in athletics have a connection with each other. However, in first place is the long jump, followed by sprinting and hurdles.
Will you continue with the heptathlon, or will you concentrate on these disciplines?
I will devote myself more and more to these three disciplines, particularly the sprint and long jump.
Do you train in Ticino or in inland Switzerland?
It depends on the period, now that I am no longer tied to school I am in French-speaking Switzerland.
When did you have your first successes and when did you decide to take up competitive sport?
When I started athletics, I immediately decided to commit to what I was doing. The small and big results were the reward and motivation to keep competing and training.
Was there a particular win or competition that motivated you to continue with athletics?
I was and still am driven by great motivation and passion. If I have to think of a particular win or moment that motivated me further, I remember the period between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, when I had my first experience with the U18 national team and won my first medal at international level (silver in the long jump, at the European Championships in Hungary in 2018, ed.). This victory and the experience of representing Switzerland and Ticino was wonderful, they are experiences that give an indescribable emotion.
Congratulations, it was also an individual experience….
Individual, but I’d say also collective, in the group I went to Hungary with we were very united. It was an individual effort but at the same time a group effort.
Were there other athletes from Ticino?
There were four of us: Tessa Tedeschi, Mara Moser, Christian Reboldi and myself.
Did you encounter any difficulties?
More than difficulties, I would say that it was important to get clear with myself and with others, in the sense of school, music, etc. I wanted to dedicate some quality time to athletics. I wanted to devote quality time to athletics. Already in fifth grade, athletics played an important role for me and this aspect was not always taken into account. After that, I always managed to combine school and sport in the best conditions.
Is there any other event that has impressed you?
Sport, athletics, is a rainbow of emotions and everything becomes an indescribable feeling. Among the most interesting lessons for me is the notion of fairplay.
Are there any memories related to fairplay?
Yes, of course. When I was 11/12 years old, I was competing in a competition, and it was so hot. The tartan was burning so hot. I was at the starting blocks but I couldn’t keep my hands and knees on the ground because it was so hot. At one point, a coach came up with a water bottle and said to me, ‘get up fast’ and sprayed water on the specific support points on the tartan and then said, ‘you can go now’. I didn’t realise at first what was going on, but then I said, “thank you, how nice!” (laughs). This gesture saved me, it simplified my race: I was able to lean on the ground at the starting block! What struck me was the fact that he wasn’t my coach or part of my club. It was also fairplay. He wanted me to be in the best condition to get a good result. It is an episode that I will always carry with me.
The second and final part of the interview will be published in the second half of August.