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Fighting the odds: A woman’s solo journey in the male-dominated world of Polo

Rinaa’s unwavering passion transformed her into a symbol of empowerment, motivating aspiring female athletes throughout India. Her story goes beyond mastering a sport; it symbolizes the triumph of grit over prejudice. Her groundbreaking achievement not only made her a pioneer but also uplifted women athletes nationwide, leaving an indelible imprint on India’s sports landscape. Rinaa’s […]

Rinaa’s unwavering passion transformed her into a symbol of empowerment, motivating aspiring female athletes throughout India. Her story goes beyond mastering a sport; it symbolizes the triumph of grit over prejudice. Her groundbreaking achievement not only made her a pioneer but also uplifted women athletes nationwide, leaving an indelible imprint on India’s sports landscape. Rinaa’s legacy continues, inspiring generations and highlighting the significance of self-belief in overcoming challenges.
Excerpts
Q. Can you tell us about your journey into the world of polo? How did you first become interested in the sport?
A. I have been a shoe designer with my brand RINALDI designs for 17 years and polo came to my life unexpectedly in 2010 when I went to watch a game with a friend. Fell in love with the sport and the majestic horses and decided to learn riding. Soon after I went to the USA, Argentina and the UK to learn Polo.
Q. Being India’s first woman polo player is a remarkable achievement. What inspired you to break through this gender barrier in the sport?
A. When I go in I did not think of women or men I was passionate and wanted to play the sport without thinking of how make dominated it was but I did not care and took it on without people helping me as I knew it was not only a male dominated but I had to do it alone as there was no proper Polo school in India. No one supported me as I was a woman who was 38 and they thought I would fail. But I was not going to quit and took the challenge and had to keep the woman’s name up for all the young girls behind me .
Q. Polo is often seen as a male-dominated sport. What were some of the challenges you faced as a woman trying to establish yourself in the field?
A. It’s not good at all because we don’t even have a Polo school . That’s why I had to go abroad to train and that’s why no women are playing . Hopefully I can change that too someday . But the cost of the polo school is very high and as it is a budding sport so nobody was to invest in that. There were many challenges but of course I learned every step of that and I had made up my mind that I was going to change that and become an inspiration to the young women around me . After me there are 3-4 women who are playing and I am very happy about it . Growing and learning has always been a part of me and I never let age or gender come in between .
Q. What advice would you give to young women who aspire to follow in your footsteps and pursue a career in polo or any male-dominated field?
A.I think riding is basic. Girls who are already riding would definitely try the sport as it’s one of the best things in the world; The feeling is just the best adrenaline . But parents don’t allow the girls as it’s dangerous and injuries are brutal . But seeing a few people who have already got in gives me hope and will soon be introducing a team under 30 to help them get motivated .
Q. What do you think is the future of women’s polo in India? How has it evolved since you started playing?
A. I think women can do better, they have better concentration and they are willing to work hard and keep going girls . India needs that and don’t quit even if you have to fight for it against your family . One life does what makes you happy and sports is the best thing that can happen to a human .
Q. In addition to your polo career, have you been involved in any initiatives or activities to promote the sport, especially among women and girls?
A. I have just started a team called Rinaldi under 30 which will help youngsters to play the game and participate much more. Being a polo player for a DECADE now has made me realise how close this sport is to my heart, and I want to help and see this sport flourish and support youngsters who hold the passion to experience that energy and adrenaline like a POLO player does. Team RINALDI focuses on uplifting the sport and pushing the young players to be out there and follow their passion.
Q. How has your cultural background and Indian heritage influenced your approach to polo, both on and off the field?
A. On the field, Indian polo has its own unique style and traditions, influenced by the horsemanship and tactics developed over generations. Indian polo players have made significant contributions to the sport, and the country has produced many top polo players who have excelled on the international stage. Off the field, Indian culture has contributed to the overall ethos and character of polo. The sport is often associated with luxury, elegance, and a sense of tradition, all of which are values that can be traced back to the Indian aristocratic heritage of polo. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in polo in India, with the sport gaining popularity among a wider range of people. This has led to the development of a more inclusive and diverse polo community that reflects the changing dynamics of Indian society.

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