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An Amazing Outburst Of Women’s Polo in Brazil

An Amazing Outburst Of Women’s Polo in Brazil

Polo Lady chats with the organizers of the women’s tournament in Brazil.

 

Firstly, what inspired you to inaugurate Women’s Polo in Brazil and in what year?

“Actually, Women’s Polo in Brazil was something of a slow progression between women. It came little by little from the influence of some pioneers. Patricia Warwick Parker was the very first woman who influenced women’s polo in Brazil. Around 1920, she was here with some British players who came to Brazil at that time. Kristie Hanburry was another great influence—she was the first woman to put together an actual women’s polo team in Brazil. The team was active for a short period of time, but Kristie still manages to make some appearances with the objective of bringing polo and women’s polo to other areas of Brazil, considering we have such a huge country. We can quote others such as Rosa Junqueira, Alice Meirelles, and Marion Knithworth.”

What is the history behind it?

“Women’s polo actually started around 2006, when we could see some isolated women’s polo games in between men’s polo tournaments, some women’s polo exhibitions, but nothing like a tournament yet. The first actual women’s polo tournament was in São Paulo in 2008 at the Helvetia Polo Country Club. The number of women playing polo in Brazil was still really small, but the girls have managed to make the tournament happen.”

Was it solely your idea?

“As I’m telling you through this interview, women’s polo did not start with the initiative of only one woman, but it developed along the years and gained strength gradually with lots of different girls, mostly by the influence of family members.”

It must have been difficult at the beginning. What challenges did you face and what obstacles did you have to overcome?

“It still is. Polo itself is not a traditional sport in Brazil like soccer, for example. That being said, it was already difficult for men’s polo to grow in Brazil. There are still some regions which have no idea of what Polo is. That partially happens because Brazil is such a huge country. Polo here is played mostly in the southeast region, in the south region, and some in the center-west region (most recently) as well. São Paulo is now the state where everything happens in Brazilian polo. So considering all that, for women to play is still really hard, especially because we are scattered through these three regions. There are women playing polo in at least five different states, so to get them all together is the first challenge. Not all women here have Polo horses, and from the ones that do have horses, not all can have their horses transported from one place to another easily. Polo is a really expensive sport in Brazil. The difficulties are many—getting people to borrow or rent their horses, getting a polo club to be the host of women tournaments, getting sponsors, and many other obstacles.”

How did you put together your team and who plays in it?

“In Brazil, there isn’t an actual women’s polo team. There are a few girls here that go by themselves to other countries, in other tournaments, to play. In most of our women tournaments, we call women from all over the country and mix the girls in teams according to their experience in polo to make the teams balanced. In September 2014, there was an International Women’s Polo Tournament in São Paulo with teams from Brazil, Chile, United States, England, and Argentina. But in this tournament, the girls from the teams were chosen by Lucia Junqueira, who was the one who accomplished making the tournament happen in every detail. The Brazilian team, at the time, was Lucia Junqueira, Silvia Costa, Marion Klinthworth, and Betina Hoffmann. These are some of the most experienced girls playing polo in Brazil, but we surely have other less experienced girls who could make up part of a team to represent Brazil just as easily, considering their strong skills.”

If women’s handicaps have been introduced, what are the handicaps of your team members?

“Women’s polo in Brazil still needs further growth to create an actual women’s handicap. For now, we mostly know how the majority of the girls play, because those who are regular players in the women’s tournaments know each other well by now, which enables us to create a balance in the teams.”

How many years have you been playing (you or as a team)?

“There is a variety of experience in women’s polo. Most of the girls have been playing for about three to five years, but there are some who have eight to 12 years of experience, or even more than that. Sure, there are some with one year of experience or less as well. Here, as in many other countries, most of the women come to polo from another equestrian sport, such as show jumping, dressage, eventing, and others, so that makes it easier for most women to learn polo really quickly.”

Do you play in mixed tournaments?

“Men in Brazil sometimes are a little reluctant about women in polo, but we are, little by little, standing our ground and gaining respect. In 2015, there were a great number of women never seen before entering tournaments in men’s teams. We never have had so many girls participating in men’s tournaments. That shows that women’s polo is actually growing in Brazil.”

Was it hard finding enough women players as polo is not a traditional sport in your country?

“At first, it was really hard. Now, there are more and more girls initiating in the sport every day. And the great thing is that some girls are so enthusiastic about it that they are pushing other women to play polo more and more.”

Who has helped you along the way?

“The Brazilian Army actually was of great help. In 2011, there was the Tournament of the Nations, a women-only polo tournament that took place in an army facility. They lent us all the horses, the judges, and the Polo fields to make the tournament happen. Lígia Jansen was the one who organized it back then and got all the support from the army. Lígia is actually one of our great encouragers—she was the person responsible for three Women’s Polo tournaments in Brazil, and she says she is not going to stop there. The Brazilian Army support actually happened because polo is a popular sport among men in the army, and many of the women who play polo in Brazil have family members in the army, such as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, husbands, and others. Those women who were related to the men in the army managed to arrange for them to lend us the horses and the fields. The army has actually been one of our greatest supporters in most of the women’s tournaments and exhibitions since 2010 up to present.

“The Tournament of the Nations has four editions so far: 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, all held in the same army facility and with the same support.

“It has been mentioned that we would have the fifth edition of that women’s tournament in 2016. As you can see, we have a lot to thank the Brazilian Army for.”

Has there been anyone who has tried to block the development of women’s polo in Brazil?

“Not really. We have had some reluctant men about women in polo, but I guess that happens in other countries as well. We are actually surprised that those are in the minority, especially today. Women actually have to be more conscious of the need to unite with others. Some women here are more independent when it comes to polo. They have to realize that the growth of women’s polo depends on a united effort by all women polo players. Thankfully, these independent ones are a minority as well—most of us are always encouraging others to get into the sport and to improve. I believe that is the most beautiful part of it all.”

Now you have established women’s polo in Brazil, can you tell us about your ladies tournaments and what dates they are taking place?

“Our women tournaments do not have dates yet as previously established. We are making exhibitions and tournaments take place as far as we can. 2013 was the year with most women’s polo tournaments; there were three in that year.

“One of them was in the Arumbeva Polo Club, in the city of Viamão (state of Rio Grande do Sul), in March. There were four teams and we counted with Stephanie Haverhals from the UK and Marianela Lagomarsino from Argentina participating and lending us some of their experience. The tournament was organized by Gabriela Vasquez, Ingrid Araújo, and Laura Penter.

“The other one in 2013 was the third edition of the traditional Tournament of The Nations in Regiment Dragões da Independência in the city of Brasilia. There were four teams, some of which came from outside of Brazil, with Catriona Brown from Mexico and Freya Howard from England. The organizer of this tournament was Verônica Chagas.

“The last tournament of 2013 was the Interstate Women Tournament, taking place in AMAN (Military Academy of Agulhas Negras), in the city of Resende. There were four teams from four different states. The organizers of the tournament were Lígia Jansen and Ana Cardoso.

“In 2014, Lúcia Junqueira, carrying the name of Women Polo Training Center, managed to make a lot of women stage polo exhibitions all over the state of São Paulo.

“All women tournaments and exhibitions in Brazil have the same system: horses, fields, and judges, and all materials are lent to most of the girls free of charge.”

How have you managed to secure sponsors? If so, who are they? Are you looking for further sponsorship?

“There are no secured sponsors yet, but we manage to get new sponsors for almost every new tournament we have. That is one of the greatest difficulties we have, actually. There are a lot of companies who we have tried to get sponsorships from, who sponsor men in Polo, but that is always a real battle. The good thing is that women here do not really care that much about the prizes for now—we are more interested in playing polo, no matter what! Of course, the prizes are a way to highlight and reward the effort, but most importantly, we do need the field and the horses to play, and it is not always easy to get people to lend their horses to us.”

Where is your club based? Tell us about the clubhouse, stables, and fields. What facilities do you provide?

“There is the Women Polo Training Center in Ribeirão Preto in the state of São Paulo. It was the initiative from Lúcia Junqueira, a player from a traditional polo family. The center was created in 2014, and some of the women have been there to train. There were also some Women’s Polo exhibitions but no tournaments have been hosted there yet. This center is the only place available with the idea of bringing women to polo, but most women play polo in different polo clubs around the country.”

What are your plans for further development of this women’s sport in the next twelve months?

“The women’s polo tournaments are always initiatives from the girls who play here and the results come from the willpower of these girls to not just play, but to make women’s polo happen and grow more and more each year.”

Would you like to tell our readers if you need further support and promotion? If so, in what areas? Please tell us how we can help you.

“We actually have great players in Brazil, hidden by the lack of sponsors. It would be great to get secure sponsors to establish not one, not three, but lots of annual women’s polo tournaments, and even maybe the opportunity to show Brazilian polo in other countries around the world. Even with no tradition in the sport, we do have great players who have surprised many people here with their fast learning skills.”

 

Finally, please tell us what you think of our magazine?

“We think it’s a great initiative to have a magazine that cannot only bring all the news from Women’s Polo around the world, but also unite all of us women polo players.”

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