I’m Just an Athlete
Today, we give the floor to a woman, an athlete, a rider, a passionate, relentless woman.
Our new ambassador, Olivia Minicucci, shares with us about achievement, ambition and the virtues of sport through a motivating article that perfectly reflects the enthusiasm, dynamism and joie de vivre of the young Canadian.
In middle school, I decided to try out for the boys’ football team. On the first day of practice, I scurried onto the field in my oversized equipment, only to be surrounded by dozens of my male classmates. As the only one with ill-fitting equipment and a ponytail hanging out the back of their helmet, I seemingly did not belong. In fact, many teammates, opponents, and parents had opinions about my presence on the field. But, what may have been words of concern were seemingly more sentiments of disapproval. A girl playing on the boys’ football team? Ugh. While my rebellion to be included on the boys’ team was not unprecedented, it was far from appreciated. That entire season, I was known as the “girl player.”
But, was this label any different from every other sport I have played? I have been: a female soccer player, a female basketball player, a female runner, and a female weight lifter. In reality, I have always been differentiated as a female athlete, a notion that was significantly validated by my tiny uniforms. But the equestrian world has ultimately stripped me of my label. For the fist time, I am simply just an athlete.
For once, my skills and ability are not automatically assumed to be inferior to male athletes. For once, we are not divided due to physiological differences. For once, I am not undermined for trying to participate in a sport that is “too dangerous for girls.” For once, I am an equal.
As the only gender neutral sport in the Olympics, equestrians push boundaries in the athletic world. It is a sport that requires the grace of a ballerina, yet the strength of a football player. To be a rider, it takes hard work, determination, perseverance, and grit, which are not differentiated by gender. I am proud to be part of the equestrian community, which acknowledges that talent goes beyond biological parameters.
As I walk my course, with my fellow male and female competitors, I think about my upcoming strategy. Inside turns. Removing strides. Open canter. The possibilities are endless. It is not gender that defines success. It is the split second efforts, the reflexes, and the communication with your horse that make the difference between winning and losing. And, for once, I am in a uniform that is not defined by gender, but rather built for sport.
Since being in the equestrian world, I no longer strive to be the best female athlete. I’m just an athlete. Plain and simple.