A champion of beach volleyball, there are a few things Mariafe Artacho del Solar wants you to know about the sport. We chatted with her ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
When tennis superstar Naomi Osaka recently talked about struggles with her mental health, armchair warriors may have been quick to criticise, but most of the professional athlete community rallied around her.
Performing is stressful enough, let alone having to reflect on your failures every time a reporter asks, “What went wrong today?”.
For Mariafe Artacho del Solar, the Australian beach volleyball champion competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games next month, there’s something she wishes the public would understand about the world of professional sport: We’re all still human.
“No one is trying to fail on purpose; everyone, being an athlete, parent, child, sister or brother is always trying to succeed at whatever they do so we have to keep encouraging them to get back up whenever they fall down,” she tells Body+Soul.
“At the end of the day, we are all humans and can always be supportive of one and other.”
On gameday, Artacho del Solar is flanked by her teammate Taliqua Clancy. The pair have just completed a successful pre-Olympics campaign, taking gold at the third and final Beach Volleyball World Tour in Cancun which qualifies them for Tokyo 2020 (delayed a year, of course, due to the pandemic).
In comparison to individual sports or those of a large team, Clancy and Artacho Del Solar’s comes with a unique dynamic.
“We respect each other’s space if we need it, but we also enjoy doing things together and growing as a team,” says Artacho Del Solar.
Artacho Del Solar’s day begins with a 10-minute meditation in the morning, followed by breakfast which is comprised of “either a protein-packed smoothie with my favourite YoPRO flavours or if it’s cold I love a good warm porridge with vanilla YoPRO on top.”
She hits the gym at 9am for an hour and a half and if there’s no team meeting after that, she’ll have lunch at home before a session on the sand (yes, even if it’s raining. “We only stop if it’s lightning. Otherwise play on!” she says) followed by physio or a massage.
“In between all of that, I try to fit in the usual life admin stuff, grocery shopping, playing with my dog and cat, appointments, etc,” she says.
“At the end of the day when I’m at home I love to cook, so making dinner for my husband and I while watching tv is the perfect way to finish the day.”
Mental recovery is crucial and so is self-love, says Artacho Del Solar, which for her take the form of pampering, like a facial or a mani/pedi.
She says: “Getting to enjoy your own company is super important and taking care of yourself first so you can be a better person for others.”