Polo players often start with a background on riding horses, as it’s the primary foundation when playing on the saddle with a mallet on hand. However, there are always exceptions—and one of them is Julia Klimenko.
When she entered the wonderful world of polo three years ago, everything was a first to her—including hopping on top of a pony. “My polo journey started in Polo Club de Chantilly. One of my friends organized beginner lessons with polo player Stéphane Macaire, who reached the highest handicap in French polo history. It was not only my first time to play polo; it’s also my first time on a horse,” she begins her story. “It was challenging to learn both at the same time. But my passion helped me to improve with every lesson.”
It was one of the biggest challenges she experienced, she admits. But her passion and faith in herself helped her conquer and thrive. Now, Julia is a regular in the field, hitting penalties with her teammates whenever she gets the chance.
“I overcame these challenges the same as in any field—by believing in myself. There is nothing impossible,” the polo player shares.
She isn’t foreign to horses, though. Revealing her attraction towards horses at a young age, Julia tells POLO LADY how owning a horse is one of her biggest childhood dreams. But instead of a real one, her parents gifted her with a wooden version of it.
“I was always impressed by the grace, power, and elegance of horses. When I moved from Moscow to France, a country where horses are spread on fields from Aix-en-Provence to Bretagne, my dream came true,” she says.
The feeling of freedom and unity with a horse is also why Julia stuck with polo. Describing the activity as a sort of therapy, the sport of kings makes her feel empowered every time she steps out of the field. It’s its magic working on her, the shot of much-needed adrenaline to face another week in a corporate job.
She juggles her active lifestyle with her role in public relations. About the same time she got hooked on polo, Julia entered the fashion industry as a PR professional. Her day job is intense, building a good reputation for a client on the market through the best strategy, being creative, and finding the right contacts. Despite long weekday hours, the polo lady knew that she had to make time for herself. Thus, scheduling polo during the weekend.
Julia mentions that polo weekends out of Paris with her favorite polo friends feels like magic. “While spending time in the polo club, I met so many wonderful people. We all have different backgrounds and come from various countries, but polo unites us. We all share the same passion,” she muses.
“I love the atmosphere on the field, the speed, and the encouragement we give to each other. Also, the ‘after polo’ time in front of the fireplace in winter or picnics in the sun surrounded by horses in summer.”
While practice sessions are lovely, she couldn’t miss out on gushing about tournaments, too. Julia clearly remembers one of her career highlights on the polo field playing in Polo Club d’Ampurdan in Spain. “We had the smallest handicap compared to other teams, but we managed to win. I still remember the adrenaline and the excitement once we marked our last penalty!” Julia remarks.
In the future, she looks into playing in more matches, playing side by side with professional players, and raising her handicap. But her goals aren’t just personal—Julia also dreams of developing polo in Europe.
With more and more women participating in it, she feels motivated and highly encouraged to push for this vision. “Diversity in every sphere is important. The fact that women can play along with men in polo not only makes the sport more beautiful but also brings new vision and new business opportunities,” the passionate sportswoman relates.
What started as a small dream turned into something bigger. Fuelled with high hopes, big dreams, and persevering nature, Julia is proof that anything is possible. As long as inspiration is there to keep your spirit on fire, there’s nothing that can stop you from keeping it alive and burning—just like this fiery, passionate polo lady.
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.