Polo has long been considered a man’s domain, but Rina Shah is working towards changing that notion — she is the first woman polo player in India.
Rina Shah with Raj Kundra and Shamita Shetty. Pics/Sameer Markande
Born with an adventurous streak, as a kid she used to be glued to soccer and basketball matches on TV and had always dreamt of landing in the sports circuit. At the age of 21, she completed her degree in Bharatnatyam and Kathak and took formal training in Fashion Design in New York followed by an Executive course in Business Management from Harvard. Post her education, she launched her fashion label in 1997, Rinaldi Designs, that catered to premium high fashion footwear for women and kids. A pioneer in bridal footwear, the brand had its share of top celebrity clientele such as Naomi Campbell, Natalie Portman, Goldie Hawn, Rekha, Shilpa Shetty and Kareena Kapoor Khan.
From tennis and squash to sky diving and car racing, Rina always had a flair for activities that gave her an adrenaline rush. Despite tasting success as a fashion designer, Rina had strong aspirations to practice a sport professionally.
Rina during a tournament
It all started around 2010 when she went for a polo match with a friend. She couldn’t take her eyes off the galloping horses and the men having all the pride riding them. That’s when she decided to take up polo. However, the transition wasn’t easy. Despite her friends and family not being sure about the decision, Rina could see her future in the sport and was determined to take up the challenge. In 2011, she started training for polo at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai. She then trained in Argentina and UK and on returning, earned accolades by winning two beginner polo tournaments in Jodhpur in a short span of time. In the last two years, Rina has been consistent in the polo circuit playing back-to-back tournaments across India. Last year saw her launching her own polo team, Rinaldi Polo, that features India’s top names including Arjuna Award winner Samir Suhag, Chirag Parekh, Gaurav Sehgal and herself.
Maharaja Gaj Singhji Jodhpur with Rina
Horse polo, now an integral part of her life, has started to impact her career and inspire her designs. She recently launched an equestrian fashion line as an ode to horsemanship (available at rinaldipolo.com).
She played for the Umaid Bhavan Polo Cup, the International Ladies tournament and won the HERMES cup in December 2015 in Jodhpur.
Rinaldi Polo plays from March 7-12 in Mumbai with players like Simran, Shyam, Sunny Patel and Rina herself.
The player firmly believes that this walk of her life is actually the unwavering power of a woman who is not afraid to set wings to her passion and achieve the impossible. She truly wishes to encourage more Indian women to take up polo and help them pursue anything they are passionate about.