Life is Not a Problem to be Solved, it’s a Reality to Experience
Emanuel Mini is a member of Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes professional cycling team. Every athlete on the team competes with Type 1 diabetes and against the best cyclists in the world. Emanuel recently talked to Beyond Type 1 about his experience and what it’s like being the first and only Latin American cyclist on the team.
BT1: Can you talk about your background and life with Type 1?
EM: In 2007, I graduated from University, where I was studying to become a broker and auctioneer. I have two places I call home: I live with my girlfriend Maricel in an apartment in my hometown in Argentina, where my whole family is. My other home is in Alicante, Spain, where I am during competition season. My favorite hobbies are hiking in the mountains and playing football, which is my favorite sport aside from biking.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in August 2012, after going through a few months where I didn’t feel well. I was tired after every activity, drinking a lot of water and I was always very hungry, symptoms which I now know are classic warning signs of Type 1 diabetes. After my diagnosis, the first thing I thought was that I had to learn quickly what diabetes was and above all, I had to learn how to continue with my life. There were many changes, but I think adapting is part of life. In my case, it was adapting to diabetes, but others adapt to new jobs, places of residence, etc.
My parents’ reaction to my diagnosis was difficult because they had a harder time accepting my situation. I think parents want the best for their children, and having to go through these moments would be hard on anyone. After a while, they started learning with me, accepting the situation, adopting changes, and the most important thing: always providing unconditional support. My girlfriend Maricel met me when I already had diabetes, so she had no choice but to accept me (haha).
How did you become involved with Team Novo Nordisk?
I have been part of the Team Novo family since 2015. My arrival at Team Novo Nordisk USA is a very strange story. An Argentinian nurse named Claudio Rufini was living and working in Italy, at a clinic where the team’s professional cyclists perform their monthly check-ups. He learned of a worldwide group of cyclists working towards the preparation and integration of the team and headquartered in the city of Atlanta. Claudio searched online for riders with diabetes in Argentina, and found the Team Type One page, where he contacted Andrés Pardo, the creator of the group. With several emails in between, Andrés later called to tell me to check my mailbox where he’d sent me a story.
When I read it, the first thing I did was cry of joy. I thought to myself that things do happen for a reason in life and that problems are only those that have no solution. After I’d received that invitation to participate in that camp in the US, I started training with a single goal: to do my absolute best during those days.
What was the training camp like?
My arrival in the US was exclusively to participate in a five-day training camp, and to get more education about T1D and professional sports ethics. I stayed at the University of Georgia the entire team, and met riders from all over the world. From the first moment with the representative of Team Novo Nordisk, I realized the professionalism and the responsibility that I had to display.
The first day was very hard because I went from training with a temperature of 10°C (50°F) in Merlo, to what felt like 44°C (111°F) in Atlanta, but my desire and all the collaboration of the medical team made my time easier. On the second day, I already felt at home.
After five days of training, it was time to officially compete for the Novo Nordisk Team. Everything came so fast that I didn’t have time to get nervous, I didn’t even realize where I was. It became apparent when in the middle of the competition, I had to speak with my German partner, who spoke zero Spanish and little English and I did not speak English or German. But when you are riding, there are no languages, it’s all the same, it feels the same and with a look or sign you can understand what to do. The result of the competition was very good, I got 10th place in the Pro 1/2 category.
How does it feel to be the first and only Latin American rider on Team Novo Nordisk?
The truth is that I am very proud to be the first and only Latin American rider on the team. Whenever I can, I try to make this part of the world known, because not many know what there is to offer and how we live. It sounds strange, but it is a reality. One of my dreams is in the future to have more than one rider on the team from this part of the world. Whenever I can, I contact and help riders who could make it, but it is difficult. We live in social and economic situations that are very different and sometimes they are a barrier.
What is riding like with T1D?
Food: The medical team prepares a specific diet for each day of training, and then over time, you learn what to eat and when. I always like to emphasize that we can eat everything, but the important thing is how much and when.
Technology and management: I do blood glucose checks daily, before, during and after exercise. Also, before and after meals. Currently on Team Novo Nordisk, we use Dexcom continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). This system allows us to be monitored 24 hours a day and it makes it very easy for us while we are on our bikes.
T1D Management during races: I believe that in both racing and everyday life, the most important thing is the management and the treatment process. In our case, we must stay within the ranges established by the medical team to allow us to be in the possible best shape, and to recover after physical activity and be ready for the next day.
What would you tell others with a passion for biking? What’s next for you?
My personal message to all my friends who like riding in one way or another, is that the most important thing is to enjoy it, knowing from the start that nothing is impossible. Each person with diabetes has their personal goals to meet and must work to achieve them. The perseverance, effort, sacrifices, responsibility, self-assessment with the support of the family are key tools to achieve them.
One of my personal goals is to learn everything I can about diabetes and riding, to be able to share my experience with all the people who practice this great sport in my country, and that every day everything is easier for them. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING WITH DIABETES. You only need management, perseverance and discipline!
At the moment, my plans for this year are to finish my preparation at the Training Camp that I am doing in Andorra, and then compete in Belgium or Denmark. I want to arrive in the best shape for competitions in China so I can get good results for the team and personally.
This piece originally appeared on Beyond Type 1 en Español and was translated from Spanish.