Walking down the red carpet wearing floor-length designer gowns decked out in jewels worth millions seemed like a more realistic childhood dream for international actress Alena Chekhova. But on the contrary, all she could ever dream about is riding horses. As much as she wanted to do it, she had to put it on hold until she was 21.
“My mom forbade me because she thought my legs would be crooked. So when I became an adult, I decided just to do it and go for my dreams!” Alena shares.
A couple of years into riding, she caught herself staring at a woman in a magazine playing snow polo. Even though she doesn’t know anything about polo at that time, she just felt very interested and attracted to the picture, so she cut it out and pasted it on her dream board.
A few years later, the 27-year-old Russian star has manifested her polo dream. She started playing at the Moscow Polo Club in 2015 and competed in her first tournament, the British Polo Day, in the same year. She admits she had a bit of fear because a player injured herself just 30 seconds into the game, but she chose to enjoy her time and do her best to help her team.
“It’s still a very memorable tournament for me. The event itself was amazing, even if it felt super fast,” she recalls.
To keep on improving, this unstoppable polo lady plays in all seasons. Whether it’s hot or freezing, she practices three times a week with their Argentine coaches at the club. She would also stick and ball alone when she has the time. Their team would play up to three tournaments with the Switzerland team come winter season.
“In Russia, we usually play snow polo for two months because we have lots of snow. Women love playing in the snow. This year, we have so many beginners [at the club] and they are all women,” she reveals.
Alena has already been part of countless grass tournaments and more than eight snow polo tournaments. She fondly narrated how she played one of her snow polo tournaments while jet-lagged.
“After coming back from the US, I learned that we have a tournament the next day and I have to play. I couldn’t get some sleep that night because I have yet to adjust to the timezone, so I had an interesting conversation with my neighbor. But on the day of the tournament, instead of playing just four chukkers, I played eight! Another team asked me to play in their team because the other player had an emergency. I thought I would be exhausted because I did not get any sleep, but I’ve shown my best performance ever,” she recounts, noting that she scored 13 goals and received the Best Player award.
The sport’s uniqueness makes it exciting and special for this persistent champ. There are not a lot of activities one can do for entertainment in the winter, and while skiing and snowboarding sounds fun, nothing comes close to the thrill snow polo makes her feel. “I’m at my happiest at full gallop. Polo makes me feel alive,” she claims.
Playing in the grass and snow is quite different for her. The game’s speed is the biggest factor because you cannot speed up too much on ice or the horse might slip, even if they’re wearing special shoes. Snow polo fields are typically smaller, too. The horses also get cold, which might make them behave strangely. On a positive note, it’s easier to score a goal. She also jested that snow polo balls don’t hurt as much as regular polo balls, making her feel more at ease.
Alena’s preparation for snow polo tournaments doesn’t differ much from her usual training. Besides riding, she focuses on improving her stick and balling skills because accuracy is very important. Falling doesn’t bother her because it’s snow, and it feels softer than grass. Apart from that, she prepares clothes that stick well to the body so that it wouldn’t affect her mobility and warm leggings to make sure that she feels toasty the entire day.
With this kind of dedication to polo, nobody would think that this icon is actually allergic to horses. It only goes to show that nothing can stop someone once they set their heart and mind into something. “I think in life, we think too much. Polo taught me to be in the moment. It’s the most important thing for me, just being in the moment and enjoying life,” she shares.
Full of passion, love, and freedom—this is how Alena describes her polo journey. But still, she has a long way to go and many goals that she wants to achieve. This includes playing in the Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz and the Women’s Pacific Coast Open in Santa Barbara.
Her advice to the polo ladies who are just at the beginning of their polo journey: “Do not let your own doubts scare you. Just keep on going and enjoy the process.”