What is it like to be a high-performance athlete and have diabetes?

Valentina Kogan and Felipe Del Mestre share more than life dedicated to sports, both were diagnosed with diabetes at the age of nine and 13. The symptoms were the same: weight loss and dehydration. That led to them being hospitalized to regularize their blood glucose values ​​and since then, everything has changed.

“It was a summer when I felt weird, he was decompensated, vomiting, he was very thirsty. I was on vacation with my family and I always asked my old man for money to drink something, he thought it was for a smoothie, a coke, but he drank 2-liter bottles of water, “said the Los Pumas Seven wing.

From the Mestre He assured that he tended to be bigger physically than his peers and suddenly became the smallest because of this disease: “Even my role on the team had changed.”

-Did this change affect your self-esteem?

-I think not because I always had a quality to adapt a lot, understand what is happening and accept it as it is. It greatly modified the way I take things and accept my role. I always fought her from behind, so when I started to play better and take a more leading role in the club, it was something of a surprise. It also helped me in the game because I can adapt to different roles and because I can learn different ways, it served as a survival method.

Del Mestre said that his family was the fundamental pillar to take the pathology as something natural. So much so that many people who know him do not know that he has diabetes: “I did not count much but the medal gave me the floor to go out and talk about this, to show that it can be done. For five years I have been a high-performance player, and it is true that you have an extra because you have to measure yourself and be attentive to your sugar levels before training and playing, but it also organizes and predisposes you. You have to take the meter, have the insulin where it goes and have something sweet to eat because of the hypoglycemia. It is not easy, but you have to find the best way for each one ”.

-Have you never been frustrated with the disease?

-And the truth is that I never understood it like that. When I was 13 years old, I started to work with what was my turn. It is difficult to control yourself but the day-to-day habits are forging your will. You can also choose when to eat something that you like a lot. I think that made me a very disciplined athlete. It’s obviously not the same as having nothing, but my family made it very easy for me to take it that way.

The road to Tokyo

Felipe Del Mestre was very close to being left out of the squad that traveled to the Olympic Games. Why? He spent almost a year training only in Mar del Plata since, considering it a population at risk for the coronavirus, the doctors of the Argentine Rugby Union could not let him return to training.

“I have never felt different about having diabetes, this was the first time I felt that way. They let me go back five months before Tokyo and I had to start over to earn my place. They saw me very well on the tour to Dubai in April and cutting nails I got into the team. They traveled 14 and played 13 and in the squad we were between 20 and 25. I wanted to leave with the feeling that I had left everything to be there, “said the wing who won the bronze medal with Los Pumas Seven last July.

Valentina kogan, who traveled to Tokyo as a member of the Athletes Commission, also told about his experience in adapting to this disease: “At the time I experienced it traumatically, why is it happening to me, why is this happening to me. I remember learning to inject myself with a needle with which we practiced with an orange because they said that citrus peel was similar to human skin ”.

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His history in handball began suddenly. “I will federate at 18 at the German Gymnastics Society of Los Polvorines and in two months they summoned me to the Argentine youth team. That it was like this helped me to have no idea where I was ”, confessed the executive director of the Club de Corredores.

-How did you deal with the issue of diabetes in the National Team?

-In the beginning I did not say it to my teammates or to the coaches. I went through an internal debate, a pressure that I had never had, I thought that I could be left out of a list for that. I took the first steps with that dilemma, that fear that later I was able to overcome, they were my own prejudices that it was going to play against me.

-What was it like to tell?

-I remember that the girls asked me all the time, they were attentive and the coach told me to tell him what he needed. And what bothers me to this day is that they tell you what you can do and what not, that they want to be more careful than I am.

Valentina Kogan in full celebration.

-How did diabetes influence your personality?

-Diabetes built me ​​up. It gave me self-knowledge, personal security and learning many things from an early age that gave me a very important degree of maturity. It allowed me to make choices about my lifestyle, sports and diet. Somehow it helped me to overcome myself, it took away my fear and I learned not to listen to external comments.

In 2011 the former goalkeeper of the National Handball Team created Team D with his partner Carolina Rieger. Team D was born as a training group for people with diabetes that later became a civil association to help the treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases aimed at people with diabetes, in which sport is the main pillar along with food and medication.

In 2019 Kogan presented a project to a program of the International Olympic Committee and was selected to receive a grant to develop an application that helps people with this pathology start physical activity. The Team D app will be out in the next few weeks. “It will be a solution to break down barriers and impediments that keep people with diabetes away from sports activity. They are technological tools so that people can do it without fear. The application consists of monitoring measurements, recording before and after the exercise and it will also have a community in case you go on a trip and need to contact you, for example, to exchange medications, ”said the Olympian in Rio 2016.


How will the Team D App work? (Press @ Somos.teamd)

Users must register and provide some relevant information about their diabetes.

They can annotate a trusted person to be notified, with a message and geolocation, every time they start and finish their training. The latter, with the aim that they exercise feeling safer and without worries.

Before exercising, the user will record their carbohydrate intake, as well as the amount of insulin applied. Despite having started training, you can pause the clock in case you need to measure yourself or eat something; same that can also be noted in this recess.

After you have finished, you will see a curve with the information recorded before, during and after the session, data that you can easily access.

All the information can be downloaded to share with the doctor, coach and / or nutritionist, and together see possible changes in the treatment of diabetes.

In addition, you can use filters to download the sessions according to the information that most interests the user: type of activity, period of time, hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic. With each of these functions, what TeamD seeks is to help the person with diabetes know and understand how their blood glucose behaves according to the physical activity they perform.

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