A digital meeting, like the ones COVID has accustomed us, to be enchanted by the gorgeous gaze of Eclair Chen, a Chinese Polo champion and an example for many young people.
She was spending her quarantine in England, waiting to return to Cambridge where she is attending an MBA, and granted us a video chat.
She was back from Italy where she had competed in the Snow Polo competitions, in Cortina d 'Ampezzo where at the same time, the World Ski Championships were taking place. To be specific, she was competing at the Italy Polo Challenge. Needless to say, as a testament to her skills, her team won and she distinguished herself as a team captain by scoring with two free kicks.
What immediately struck us was the serenity and depth of the gaze, perhaps also given by the cut of the eyes that reveals an origin from the north-west of the Country, in a region where men have lived with horses for centuries and share with them their fate.
Eclair moved with her family to Canada when she was 13 and her siblings were the first to practice polo. She followed them shortly after, attracted by the fact that there is not only the building of a relationship with the horse, but also with an entire team.
Polo is something that allows you to learn the teamplay. While in dressage or jumping is a single soul’s unique relationship with its horses, in polo one must relate to his or her horses and other players. It is necessary to go beyond your personal sphere to enter that of others.
We ask her to tell us something more about her upbringing. It is not easy to find athletes who have achieved excellent sports and university results at the same time. Looking at Chinese websites, we read that Eclair was a PhD candidate in anthropology in China.
"How do you know all this?" she kindly tells us “I have studied in various parts of the world, Canada, UK and China and I have always been passionate about cultures and histories. (Last year I completed my PhD research, but in the end of course the ceremony was postponed due to COVID, and I hope to attend in the near future.)".
Eclair also tells us how sport helped her in her research. She conducted anthropological research in Morocco, Thailand and the UAE. When she met the locals in the formal settings, it takes longer process to build up the deep connections to get to know more about the local cultures.
But when she met local polo players on the competition fields, she can immediate established a deeper and relaxed connection with players. This informal way of relating strengthen the team play, and enhanced her regional research work.
We know that Winter Polo will be admitted to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games for the first time, so we asked Eclair about the development of this sport in China.
“Polo was born in the Persian regions as a way to train soldiers to prepare for wars, but there is no doubt that in China it has taken on unique connotations, that are perhaps closer to the Polo sport we know today.
It was also played as a ladies court game in Tang dynasty. It was more of a social and sporting event, rather than a military one. And for this reason, we can say that those equestrian shows in ancient China were the beginning of modern sporting competitions. "
Eclair is right, we have already published articles by Chinese historians who, for example, told of the 'fashion brands and companies' that worked on the uniforms of polo sportsmen during the Tang dynasty (618-907). And fashion immediately brings us to Italy, where we have to ask some questions to Eclair, about our country.
Eclair loves Italy very much and we were surprised to see how deep her knowledge is: "you are a country that was born from the union of many small states and in every region you can find and discover stories, tastes and people who really are special. Travelling around Italy from north to south, you can't get bored, on the contrary, you can only get richer."
She enchanted us with this statement, but it could not be otherwise for this sporty woman, who has made culture as a point of reference for her.
We couldn't leave her until we asked her about children and our Foundation.
“The horse is very important for the growth and development of children, it is a bridge with nature and it is essential when a child has difficulties. It can help him to cope with the situation. I witnessed few cases that equestrian sports improved the Autistic and Asperger children’s condition".
Eclair finds our Foundation 'amazing' and is attracted by the history of the collection and how we can use the horse to bring children closer to art and history. "If I can do anything for you let me know, I will be happy to be a testimonial for the children!".
We thank her for this proposal, and we will immediately start working on some ideas for 2022, the Year of Culture and Tourism between Italy and China.