May 03, 2024 5:23 PM

Cristina Fernandez and Lola
Cristina Fernandez and Lola

Polo has been a central and continuous thread in every era of my life. I originally grew up in Washington, D.C., spending time with my parents in Maryland and Virginia. During summers and holidays, I visited my dad, Daniel Fernandez, who played professionally across the country. My mother Theresa King also played, competing extensively on the international women’s circuit. Despite having access to horses and growing up riding and grooming for my parents, it was not until high school that my spark for the sport developed.

I began my polo career at Garrison Forest School, an all-girls boarding school in Maryland, that I attended for four years. Starting as a beginner, I went on to win the Girls’ National Interscholastic Championship. I continued my polo career at the University of Virginia, captaining my team to a national championship in 2009.

After graduation, with a B.A. in Spanish and Latin American Studies, I applied for and was accepted to the inaugural Team USPA class. Out of the 20 members, I was one of only three women, allowing me to gain invaluable insights into the importance of representation and diversity in the sport. Similarly, having been involved in almost every USPA program and facet of the industry in some capacity from junior polo to high goal, I am passionate about representing the sport in a way that resonates with the polo community.

I am proud to have joined the Association eight years ago, during a period of growth, when I saw an opportunity to contribute and make a meaningful impact to the sport I love in a new capacity. Managing communications for both the USPA and National Polo Center has been both fulfilling and challenging. From capturing historic moments on the sidelines of a U.S. Open win to navigating the intricacies of marketing a venue, each day presents unique opportunities to showcase the sport. It is rewarding to play a role in preserving the sport’s rich history by documenting the wins, while also contributing to its growth and accessibility.

Communications at the USPA is a fast-paced environment and balancing the demands of social media, overseeing the e-newsletter “This Week in Polo,” acquiring horse lists, facilitating interviews, managing photography, coordinating graphic design projects and other responsibilities, can be daunting at times. Yet, I thrive knowing that every task contributes to shaping the larger polo narrative.

People may be surprised to know that my grandmother was an opera singer and I sang opera as a teenager. I was part of the Washington Opera’s children’s chorus that performed at the Kennedy Center. I also play the acoustic guitar and used to write my own music and perform at open mic nights.

Aside from the occasional set or stick-and-ball session, I do not play or ride as much as I would like. However, I stay connected to the sport through my work, cheering on friends and showcasing players and events field side. My role as a board member of Virginia Polo also allows me to give back to an institution that played a pivotal role in my polo journey.

My puggle, Lola, celebrated her 14th birthday this year and has been my partner in crime since my first winter season grooming in Wellington, Florida. She flies around the country with me during the summer on work trips and is often seen following me field side on the livestream when she is not busy scouring the sidelines for tasty treats.

Outside of polo, I play tennis and relish traveling adventures off-the beaten track, often venturing to hike remote waterfalls. Most recently, I explored Patagonia in both Argentina and Chile. In the future, I look forward to crossing items off on my bucket list, such as trekking the W trail in Torres del Paine, experiencing the beauty of the aurora borealis and hopefully exploring on an African riding safari.