Perched atop Tessa, one of her eight ponies, Kimberly Marian Pacita Lofgren is a sight to behold. Of Filipino-Swedish heritage, Kim looks every inch the occasional model she is. More than that, the 21 year old is one of the country’s budding female polo players.
Born in Manila and raised in Cebu, Kim began walking horses when she was 11. Her father, a polo player who has competed in the Philippines and abroad, built a polo field in their property in Cebu. In 2009, she and her brother were taught the basics of the “game of kings.” The siblings also flew to New Zealand where they were taught by a professional polo player and played their first polo practice game.
As a high school student in Bright Academy in Cebu City, Kim played a lot of other sports—golf, soccer, and volleyball—but she was especially drawn to polo.
“I enjoy it very much,” she says. “It’s different, too, because not everyone plays polo. It’s unique.”
She has competed in the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, she aims to travel to more countries in the future to play the sport.
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The rare woman
While Kim admits that polo is a dominated by men, she notes the rise of Nina Clarkin and Sunny Hale, two of the top female polo players in the world. Both attribute their success to polo’s two-tier system where women can compete in mixed games with and against men, as well as in women-only games.
“It’s nice to know that you can beat a man when you do beat a man,” she laughs. “It’d be nice if more women can play polo.”
Just like Uneku Atawodi, the Nigerian player known as the only black woman who plays the sport professionally.
“There are only a few women who become polo players here in the Philippines,” she reveals. “There’s normally one in the teams of four; but, sometimes, there’d be none.”
The industrial engineering major from De La Salle University Dasmariñas thinks of polo as an addiction.
“They actually say that there’s a thing called a ‘polo drug,’” she shares. “Once you start, you can’t stop. When you run with a horse, when you hit the ball—it’s just awesome.”
As a -1 handicap (her rank in polo), she is often positioned either number one or number three to play offense for her team, which includes scoring goals and covering the opposing team’s defense.
“Of course, the best moments are when I make goals. Polo, however, is not a one-man sport, so teamwork is very important. It’s not fun when one player has the ball all the time. When I’m on the field, my aim is to win, of course, but also to do my best and have fun.”
“The great thing about polo is that it’s a very social sport—you get to travel the world, meet new people, and try new experiences.”
As one of the younger players who competes in the sport, Kim often teams up with more experienced players, who advice her on hitting and defending.
She also makes sure she’s in the right frame of mind. “I always tell myself to just enjoy the game because I’ve noticed that a person in a bad mood tends to play bad, too.”
One of the most important things she learned about the game came from her father. “He taught me not to always go for the ball,” she says. “If a teammate has the ball and I see another player coming for him, I’d defend him instead of going for it myself.”
Making her mark
As polo has become a family sport (except for her mom who acts as cheerleader and photographer), Kim says they play well as a team because they know each other’s style and tactics. She also has clear goals when it comes to the sport.
“Someday, I want to be a +1 handicap. Since I don’t want to do this professionally, that’s the highest rank I want to reach,” she reveals.
The perks aren’t bad, either. “The great thing about polo is that it’s a very social sport,” she says. “You get to travel the world, meet new people, and try new experiences. I just want to keep on doing this for fun. I definitely see myself playing this sport in the long run as a hobby.”
And even if she doesn’t change her mind about playing professionally, she’s already made her mark on Philippine polo by being the rare woman on the field.
Kim’s top five goals
1. To become a +1 goaler.
2. To play in Argentina and England.
3. To get lessons from Adolfo Cambiaso.
4. To play with Nacho Figueras and Prince Harry.
5. To own a polo farm with my own field, and a fleet of horses.
Her top polo destinations
1. Argentina: “Because it’s the polo capital. I used to think that everyone in Argentina was a player, because the best in the world come from here. Plus, there are so many beautiful fields. There is almost an unlimited (number) of horses, too. A lot of players really go there to learn more and experience Argentine polo.”
2. England: “I heard that fields there are nice and the people are nice.”
3. “Somewhere with snow—I’d like to experience something like snow polo!”
Photographer: Ian Castañares Stylist: Bianca Sing Makeup Artist: Leia Guttierez Hair Stylist: Cristine Ofrecio
This story first appeared on Vault Magazine Isuue 15 No 3 2014.