Lauren Billys accepted the award for 2015 Female Puerto Rican Equestrian of the Year last week in San Juan, and she's very kindly shared her thoughts on this achievement in a blog for EN. Many thanks to Athletux Equine for partnering with us on this blog series, and congrats to Lauren. Viva Puerto Rico!
Sitting atop a rooftop in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, the temperature and humidity feel like a light blanket wrapping around me. To my right are alumni to the Puerto Rican Olympic team with medals from the Central American, Pan American and Olympic Games hanging in their homes.
I sit in a group of athletes, each put forward by their sport’s federation, and collectively we sit as the best athletes in Puerto Rico for the year of 2015. In front of me is the Puerto Rican and Olympic flags, and the anthems of Puerto Rico and the Olympics begin to play. It is in that moment that I think, “How in the heck did I get here?”
The answers to this question, however, are sitting just next to me, too. To my far left, my grandmother and Puerto Rican family members sit: the people who gave me the heritage to make this possible and the encouragement to reach for what they knew this opportunity could offer.
Closer to me sits the president and the chef d’equipe for the Puerto Rican Equestrian Federation: the two women who tirelessly work behind the scenes to make these possibilities and daily practice materialize into international competitions and recognition. Sitting closest to me is my teammate, who rides dressage, believes in this system and makes the dreams of his family, owners and himself into a reality through vigorous commitment and hard work.
And in that moment I realize that the final piece of this dream lies within me, intertwined with the will and ambition of my parents and the training from my coaches. This dream vibrates within my core, reminding me that we all have one chance at this life, one chance to seize THIS day, THIS opportunity. I never want to look back and regret that I didn’t try hard enough. And it hits me that my dreams are coming true on an unpredictable and unplanned path.
This moment feels different than anything I imagined as a little girl dreaming of attending an event like this. Riding for Puerto Rico is a completely distinctive experience and is the greatest gift I have ever received. I have learned more about myself here than any other facet of my life; I know why I have an affinity for red lipstick, where that sass comes from and my love for spicy food.
And, my team is unlike any other country’s team. It lives within a team of athletes from all sports who aspire and have achieved their dreams of attending the most prestigious competitions in the world to represent Puerto Rico with pride. We are boxers, soccer players, judo fighters, shooters, tennis players — athletes all held tight by the cord of sportsmanship and a dream bigger than ourselves. We are Puerto Rico. This is my team.
At this award ceremony, I received the coveted award of the female Puerto Rican Equestrian of the Year from the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee. This award is the most humbling award of my life and has encouraged me. I realize my dreams are possible, even for a girl who grew up riding bareback through rivers and orchards, for someone who only went Preliminary when she was 21 years old.
None of this would be possible without my sponsors, family, syndicate and friends for talking horses, being my support system and giving me my dreams. There is no doubt that I am changed by this experience. Where this journey leads is yet to be known, but I am inspired to move forward with my team, competing alongside athletes who dream big in all fields of play. Viva Puerto Rico!