Series20 Feb 2019

Advice to my younger self: Elena Vallortigara


(© Philippe Fitte)

Italian high jumper Elena Vallortigara, who last year leapt an outstanding 2.02m, pens a letter to the 12-year-old girl she once was.


Dear Elena,

You are an active child, always on the move looking for the next challenge. I genuinely admire your persistent and tenacious nature and your highly competitive streak, which makes you who you are.

Little Elena, you are a girl with the Midas touch, who can seemingly overcome all of life’s challenges with ease. Remember that time when your dad offered to buy that pair of jeans you long desired and you just knew with all your heart you would set that PB? Well, Little Elena, I have a stark and uncomfortable truth to give you: life is not always going to be so easy.

Be prepared that to achieve your future goals you will have to work hard for success. Sport and life will become much tougher. You’ll have to build resilience in order to survive those more challenging times.

I also know you are a stubborn child who isn’t always the best at taking advice. Well, stubbornness is not always a bad thing but remember those that love you are only stating their views because they care for you.

I know your father can be annoying for endlessly banging on about developing those abdominals, but he is right and as you develop into a future international athlete, this is a very good piece of advice.

Also you are a shy girl reluctant to share your sporting success. Your medals are never visible, your victories never celebrated. I see what you are doing, little Elena. You are trying to separate Elena the athlete from Elena the person. You are embarrassed by your success. But you know, one day you will learn to be proud of what you have achieved. You will be overcome with joy at how hard you worked to win your first national senior title and you will cherish all your future victories.

So acknowledge your finest qualities, Elena. You are a great athlete and a very special person.

Steve Landells for the IAAF