Q&A WITH… IRENE SIRAGUSA

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Country: Italy

Profession: Athlete – 100m/200m             

  • 2020 Olympian
  • 3x World Championships team
  • 2021 World Relays 4×100m relay gold medallist
  • 2017 Summer Universiade 200m gold medallist & 100m silver medallist
  • 2013 European U23 Championships 4x100m relay bronze medallist
  • 2011 European U23 Championships 4x100m relay silver medallist
  • 2011 European Junior Championships 4x100m relay silver medallist

What were some of the lessons you had to learn as you transitioned from junior athlete to a professional athlete?

It was a tough transition as I moved from being a junior to a professional where I needed to compete against athletes much older and more experienced than me. As the youngest in my group, I sometimes battled to understand the inner workings of the group, especially because as a junior, things are more fun and playful, but at the professional level there is a lot more pressure.

The relay exchanges can be tough – can you explain to those of us that haven’t done it before what makes for a great relay exchange?

It is very difficult to explain in words. As a team we work very hard and during the meetings we try doing it a thousand times at every possible level of speed.

But I think the most important thing in a relay is the trust that you have in your team and your teammate that takes the baton from your hand. I am very lucky I still work with girls that I have known since I was 16 years old (and some even before that), so we know each other like the back of our hands.

How do you manage to embrace and deal with the pressures of competing at an elite level?

This is a great question. I think at the beginning of my career I didn’t understand or really feel the pressure. But as time went by, I started to have more goals and more expectations from myself and worried more about what the others thought. When you became a pro athlete you have to argue with your peers, coach, parents and federation. Everyone expects more from you, and this is really tiring. You don’t have the space to make mistakes. To pass all these things I try to stay focused on myself and also do meditation.

Figure roller skating sounds fascinating – can you tell us more about it, and what made you make the switch to athletics?

Figure roller skating was my first love. I started it during the elementary school with my best friend. I liked the bodysuits, hairstyles, glitter and the movements that the athletes did! I tried to improve every time in the jumps and spins and was very happy because I did what I really loved – it really was my first source of happiness. When I was in middle school, I started competing in athletics during the school competitions and I was really good at it, especially in the long jump and in the 60m. In my first long jump competition I jumped further than everyone, even further than the children older than me! I continued with both sports, but when I got to U18 my athletics coach asked me to choose, and since in roller skating you can’t go to the Olympic Games… I chose athletics!

What inspired you to start @irene.experiences?

In 2019 I took a Master in Communication and Advertisement and we had a course in Social Media. Thanks to that course I understood that you need to share content that your community wants to see, not necessarily what you just like. My personal profile is all about athletics and sport, so when I post a photo unrelated to this, I don’t get very much engagement as people don’t seem as interested in it. After the Olympics I started thinking about my journey and all my experiences, and in a world where social media is everything, especially at my age, I thought to open another profile about myself and what I really like – travel and discovering new places. So in @irene.experiences I can post anything I like😊

What is your most treasured travel memory?

Maybe the 2017 University Games in Taipei. I won 2 medals there but the thing that impressed me most was the warmth and the hospitality that the people of Taipei offered to us. Every volunteer was very kind and gave us presents. At the end of the week of competition we went out of the village to explore the city – it was magical. Everyone needs to visit Taipei at least once.

Your studies sound very interesting, can you tell us what made you want to study Linguistic Mediation? 

I always thought that studying is very important in order to grow. I have known since I was eight that I wanted to study languages because I wanted to understand what the other people said, then in high school I started to study different languages and I fell in love with Spanish. I started at University with Linguistic Mediation focusing on Spanish and Arabic (we could choose 2 languages). After that, I did a Masters Degree in Textual Competences in Touristic Entrepreneurship, studying English and Spanish. In 2019 I did another Master in Communication and Advertising. For my Master’s Degree thesis I wrote about the importance of the languages and translation in Athletic Championships, and I am very proud that I have been the first one that wrote about this argument. 

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