Meeting the two loves of your life right at the same time seems like an odd thing to experience. But for Brazilian athlete Ana Cardoso, she found exactly what she wanted when she moved to Uruguaiana years ago. She both started building a life with her husband and discovered her passion for polo.
The horsewoman began her affinity for horses in showjumping and eventing. However, when she decided to travel down south with her husband after meeting in 2011, there were little to no opportunities for showjumpers. The city was more polo-focused, and her husband had been playing the sport since he was little. As one may have guessed, Ana was introduced to the game, and there was no looking back.
It was with Centro de Treinamento de Polo Feminino where Ana found a home that welcomed her and supported her passion for polo through the years. Three years into playing, she got a call from the organization inviting her to play an exhibition match for the first time. “They provided the horses and everything else, so it was just about showing up and playing,” she recalls. “It was really a push-up for me and my evolution as a polo player.”
Later on, the adrenaline-inducing nature of polo that the lady athlete fell in love with still keeps her going. “It’s so magnificent and thrilling,” she describes. “Once you hit that ball right and start to understand the game, it becomes addictive.”
Fortunately for Ana, her time as a wife and mother in her family and her sport is easy to balance. Even her son enjoys it as much as she and her husband do. “In my case, polo and family can work together!” she gushes. “We are always in the polo environment, which we love.”
While these two aspects of her life are seamless, Ana’s professional career is a separate area. As a veterinarian for the Ministry of Agriculture in Brazil, she knows that “public service comes first.” While her work for the government doesn’t let her interact with horses as much, Ana still ensures that she gets her regular dose of polo. “I manage my time to stick and ball and train in polo whenever I can,” she says. “That’s usually about four to five times a week.”
There’s no wonder why this polo lady chooses to keep her love for polo alive despite the challenge of balancing her time and energy. For a female player like her, the sense of community alone is a precious aspect of the sport that will surely make one stay. “It’s truly like a big family. You know everyone, and we all cheer for each other,” she muses.
Finding friends within Brazil’s female polo community comes naturally. There are approximately 50 women playing the sport in the country. And, as Ana puts it, polo is not just an avenue for competition in Brazil. “It’s to gather, chat, laugh, and have fun, really,” she tells POLO LADY. “I really think that any woman who comes to play in Brazil will have a lot of fun for sure.”
They’re putting a project together that aims to bring in more foreign players to Brazil, so they can get to know and learn from other equally competent women from across the globe.
Speaking of competent players, Ana also finds inspiration in the greats such as Hazel Jackson, Lia Salvo, and Nina Clarkin. “When I see what they do, I go to my horses with those moves on my mind and try to repeat that in my game.”
Just like the women she admires, there’s no doubt that Ana, too, runs in the big leagues. When asked about her most significant achievement yet, she says it’s “quickly being in the same handicap as players that have much more years of experience ahead of me in Brazil.” This alone is already a true testament to her polo prowess.
But while climbing the ranks is a mark of one’s success in the sport, she has learned that it’s not all about being the most competitive player on the field. She confesses that there was a point in her career that she took the sport too seriously. Now, she’s managed to let loose and appreciate the “many other beautiful things we have in life.” She adds, “Thank God I have a totally different vision now. That has helped me to play better and have more fun playing.”
Aiming to play outside of her country soon, Ana is gearing up for bigger things ahead. “Hopefully, I get to travel to Argentina and the United States. That is something I have postponed enough, so it’s about time,” she shares. With her ever-present zest for life, love, and polo, we can only bet that the world beyond Brazil is in for a delightful treat.
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Madel Asuncion is a staff writer at POLO LADY Magazine.